7 Questions to Ask Yourself When Looking for Meaningful Work

As the dust of the pandemic begins to settle in the US nearly two years after its onset, aftershocks of its impact continue to surface. Related challenges include the politicization of public health measures, the distrust of authority and the political establishment, the great problem with childcare, major disruption to education, supply chain issues, and a labor shortage across industries. Some of that shortage has been caused by the Great Resignation. Throughout 2021 there were record-breaking amounts of “quits.” And in August of 2021, more people quit jobs than any month previously on record

The reasons for all of the resignations are varied. Some people are quitting jobs in which they don’t feel safe. Others lost jobs during lockdown and realized they could find employment elsewhere that pays more with better working conditions. Many mothers have left the workforce to care for loved ones. Homeschooling numbers are up. Some people, when faced with a mandatory return to the office, would rather quit and hang their own shingle than return to a soul-crushing commute.

And others have quit because after being reminded of their mortality on a daily basis for two years, they realize life is too short to work every day in a job that doesn’t feel meaningful. 

If you find yourself in a job that doesn’t feel meaningful to you, but you’re not sure what move to make next, reflecting and getting clarity on a few of your preferences and tendencies will help you determine what your next move should be. Answer these seven questions to help you move on to a role that feels more meaningful. 

7 Questions to Ask Yourself When Looking for Meaningful Work

  1. What are you passionate about? What gets you fired up? What are you always ready to have a conversation about? What do you like to do whether or not you’re getting paid for it? Pay attention to your hobbies, the topics that you naturally gravitate toward reading about, and the topics you feel strongly opinionated about. All of these are clues that you can use as you look for a new, more meaningful role. 
  2. What are your values? When researching potential companies, determine if they line up with your values. What is the good you want to be a part of in this world? Your values may push you toward an association, nonprofit, or a sector that is new to you. 
  3. What kind of impact do you want to make? Do you find more meaning as a part of a small team or a big team? Does the hustle and bustle of working in a large city feel significant to you or would you prefer a slower pace where you know most folks in town? Determine if you find more satisfaction being a small part of a big operation or a big part of a smaller one. 
  4. What are your natural tendencies? What kind of projects get you most energized? Are you buzzing after a brainstorming session? Do you like presenting? Do you get into a state of flow when creating something new or solving a problem? Look back on the moments and projects that have felt more elevated than the rest. Think about your top 5 career highlights. What did you enjoy most about them? 
  5. What core aspects of a job matter most to you? These details really matter when it comes to avoiding burnout. Is it clarity around expectations? The unspoken rules around work/life balance? What are the unspoken rules that frustrate you? What bad behavior from colleagues would ruin your work experience?
  6. What do you love doing? Within the context of work these are the types of tasks and challenges that feel fun to you. These are those talents and interests you have that other people might even say they dislike, but for you, it’s a different story. What never bores you? 
  7. What are your non-negotiables? This is a big piece of meaningful work. You need to be able to earn a living to the extent that you feel like you can pay your bills and finances won’t keep you up at night. So what is that dollar amount? Other non-negotiables may include that it has to be completely remote or that your commute is under 30 minutes. Think through those practical pieces of the day-to-day job that simply have to fall into place for it be worth it to you.

Most people spend a third of their lives working. It’s not too much to ask to have a job that feels meaningful. Start by reflecting on what “meaningful” means to you and then make changes accordingly. Henry David Thoreau said, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The questions is: what are we busy about?”

by McKinley Marketing Partners