I bet that if we met for coffee to talk about how to find a meaningful career, we might not even agree about that meaningful work IS.

Early in my business, I realized that clients and I didn’t have a shared understanding of meaningful work.

Instead, they were trying to follow their passion, trying to pick something that sounded virtuous, or were trying to find the elusive “work that doesn’t feel like work.” But chasing those things doesn’t mean your work will be fulfilling.

When it comes to meaningful work, you have to DEFINE it before you FIND it.

Learn the 5 elements of meaningful work, so you’ll know what you’re looking for.

#1: It allows you to contribute in a way that’s meaningful for you.

Not generic “meaningful.”

You can be at a non-profit, in healthcare, or a teacher…

You can be doing work that creates measurable, significant change…

But if YOU don’t have a personal connection to it, it won’t FEEL meaningful to you.

You have a connection to a sense of purpose that is personal. There are no absolutes. No list of “20 of the Most Rewarding Careers” or “10 Most Satisfying Jobs” is going to know that’s meaningful to you.

#2: It uses your strengths.

I want you to find a meaningful career that makes you feel good! It might even feel like you’re getting away with something. It energizes you.

But just because you’re good at something does not mean it’s a strength. We want to find those things that are so inherent to who are and how you operate that you’d do those things no matter where we put you, so let’s put you someplace where those things are going to be valued and celebrated.

We’re after doing what comes naturally to you in a way that keeps you challenged. It’s not about phoning it in, but it’s also not about choosing hard things because you think there is moral superiority in doing work that is hard for you.

Choosing struggle does not make you a better person; choosing struggle makes you an exhausted person. There is plenty of struggle in life that we can’t opt out of. Opt out of choosing work that is hard for the sake of being hard because you think it makes you more worthy of money or recognition.

Choose work that calls on the best of who you are and what you have to offer. It will change your life but it will also let you do more good in the world because you’ll spend less time struggling and more time in strength and flow.

#3: It meets your income needs.

This is pretty straightforward. You’re not after a hobby, you’re after a career.

(There are a couple exception in the video, if those interest you.)

#4: Supports the life you want to build.

Ideally, your work should be getting you closer to the life you want to create for yourself, not an obstacle to your life.

This does not happen by accident. It has to be part of the criteria you use to choose a career. You don’t choose a career based on your skills and income needs and then cross your fingers that the life stuff will work itself out. This has to be baked into your choice.

#5: It feels like home.

You get to be you. Belonging, no performance. The same person at home and work, so you don’t have to split yourself.

”This feels right” even if it doesn’t make sense to other people. Thought it probably will to those who truly know you best.

Now that we’ve DEFINED it, invite you to learn how to FIND a meaningful career.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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Career advice you haven't heard, guaranteed. Learn how to discover the meaningful work  that's right for you.