Making a Difference: How to Choose Meaningful Work

When you’re working one of the most important things is motivation. If you’re insufficiently motivated, you’ll find yourself dragging your lumpen carcass out of bed on a Monday morning, resenting every minute of your commute and sleepwalking through your day, ending up with no energy to pursue personal projects or relaxation in your leisure time.

The best motivation comes from choosing work that’s meaningful to you. Work that makes a difference, so that at the end of every day, you know the effort you’ve put in is linked to very real results – people working in medicine, in social work, in substance misuse jobs deal with people every day and despite being frequently stretched for resources and under stress, get to make genuine differences to people lives every day (for the better, crucially).

If you don’t have the skills or, in fairness, inclination to pursue a job like this you need to either reframe your attitude to your existing job to emphasise how you’re making a difference, or find an alternative career to move into that lets you feel that you’re contributing in a meaningful way. You don’t need to be an ambulance driver or brain surgeon, just find a job that you feel is worthwhile or take a fresh look at your existing role to understand your real worth within the organisation.

If you’re in a position to change your job, think before you leap. If you’re dissatisfied and leap into a new position before you’ve really thought it through, you might find yourself just as dissatisfied and needing to sit in your new job for months or years before you can change again.

Be honest with yourself, and make sure you’re reorienting yourself towards a career that you find important and meaningful, not what is, on average, expected to be. There’s no point pursuing a career as a social worker to impress your friends with your social responsibility when you simply don’t have the motivation. If your strength is in administration, then you can put that towards a meaningful job in local government. If you’re into sales at heart, becoming an estate agent allows you to put your skills into finding people homes, and while estate and lettings agents can get a bad rap, if you deal fairly with people you’ll impress them and they’ll never forget you!

If you’re not able to change your job, talk to your manager about shadowing people in other departments. This gives you an insight into how your input is valued across the company and a new commitment it.

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