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Who remembers the Daktari series? It was one of my favorite ones. What is it about? The vet, Dr. Tracy, runs an animal station in Africa and fights against poachers, and takes care of sick animals. For me, a dream job and a synonym for a meaningful career.

At least when I was a kid. Not everyone can take care of an animal station in Africa, and the African savannah is a bit too remote.

But what determines the meaning of work, and thus which task do we experience as meaningful? Well, the answer to this is complex, and all of us will answer it differently.

Source: CBS Television

When Do We Experience A Purposeful Job?

Most of us probably see the work as a teacher or nurse as particularly meaningful. Surprisingly, exactly these groups of people are often unhappy with their work and frequently change jobs.

First of all, it is essential to understand that purpose generally cannot be provided from the outside, actually, each person has to find it themselves. When experiencing purpose, it’s all about the question ‘why am I doing this job and what’s my contribution?’ Everyone will answer it differently.

After all, 70% of employees say their personal sense of purpose is defined by their work.

But what distinguishes people who experience purpose in their jobs from those who don’t?

How Do You Gain Purpose?

It is beneficial to look at the factors that affect whether we think our career is meaningful.

People experience purpose above all when using their abilities and strengths. We are successful whenever we do what we are good at and what we enjoy doing. Consequently, these accomplishments make us feel competent, and we experience purpose.

However, several additional characteristics affect the perception of purpose. Four factors are particularly noteworthy, and the core questions are the following:



Does my work match my abilities, interests, values, and life plan?
Can I use my strengths, and can I shape my tasks?



What benefit provides my job for individuals inside and outside of my organization?



Am I connected to the organization, and do I feel appreciated?
Do I have a personal relationship with my colleagues and superiors?
Do I identify with the company?



Is there a match between the organization’s values and norms and my personal ones?

And last but not least, environmental conditions also impact whether or not we find purpose in the job and make it more of a calling. Along with fair pay and job security, cohesion in the organization, a positive working atmosphere, and great, sustainable products also play a big part.

Nevertheless, most of us would say these aspects do not apply 100% to their work. But for some, they do. These people perceive their work as a vocation.

Job Or Calling?

Anyone ‘having just a job’ expects nothing but money. Work is just a vehicle to get an income. It does not really matter what we are doing – we’re just doing a job.

It is very different when a job becomes a calling. In this case, work is a passion because of the task itself. We can use our strengths and abilities, plus the work contributes to a higher purpose, e.g., supporting others. We don’t see the job as a burden but as a reward.

Interestingly, we can experience purpose in every job, regardless of the tasks. Every job can become a calling, and every calling can become a job. For example, a bus driver transporting children to school may see his work as meaningful because he contributes to the kids’ education.

Of course, opposing job versus calling are extreme endpoints of a scale, and most people probably rate their work somewhere in between.

But what about you? Do you have a calling or ‘just a job’? Click the button and do a short test.

Take The Purpose Test
Before taking the test, you have to register.

Overall, it’s worth doing a purpose check, acknowledging that it’s up to us to find purpose in our career. In addition to our attitudes and evaluations, we can change workplace conditions so a job becomes a calling, and we are happy at work. Because we don’t have to fit the work, it’s the work that must suit us.

Take Away

  • Whether we experience our work as meaningful depends on our subjective evaluation.

  • We find purpose in our jobs above all when:
    • you can see the result of your work and the benefits for others,
    • you can use your strengths and design your tasks and workplace,

    • you feel connected to your organization and are fond of your coworkers.

Do you have any questions or suggestions? Please send me an email.

Andrea Seekatz

I'm a trained & certified coach (ICF) and psychologist. Don't forget: Take Care of Your Self.

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