I just got done reading an article on Forbes that says: “Meaningful work is leading people down the wrong path because it’s causing them to go after something that’s impossible or to expect too much.”
Harvard Business Review published a study saying that 9 out of 10 people would trade an average of 23% of their salary for more meaningful work.
Gallup organization published a report that claims that “What the world wants is a good job.”
Payscale.com features some of the most meaningful occupations ranging from anesthesiologists to radiation therapists.
If you’re confused, you’re not alone. There’s so much conflicting information out there about what creates more fulfilling, more desirable work:
- Is it the job?
- Is it the company?
- Is it the type of role or occupation?
- Is meaningful work really even obtainable in the first place?
The short answer is “yes,” but in reality it happens differently than what most of the world thinks it does.
We often find ourselves battling the societal status quo and the pressure to “be responsible” and comply with whatever our company tells us to do. After all:
- “We’re adults now”
- We have families to provide for, futures to plan and save for”
- “We need to be good, productive citizens of society”
Let’s go back to 2005, when the world had not yet heard of the iPhone, Hollaback girl by Gwen Stefani was one of the most popular songs on the radio, (and people still listened to radio). The dark ages right? It was that year I started studying what creates meaningful and fulfilling work, Primarily because I didn’t have it. I quickly learned that I had what Gallup organization calls a “good job”. One where I have a steady pay check, but I didn’t love it. I certainly didn’t derive purpose from it and most definitely didn’t describe it as meaningful.
I quickly learned that I wasn’t alone. There were many people just like me that were really there for the pay-check but felt like they had the potential and capability to be doing something much greater, much more impactful and that I could feel not just good but great about.
Actually, for me personally, I honestly thought that if I was going to be spending this much time working somewhere it was worth my while to find someplace that felt meaningful and paid me well.
I later learned just how rare this is. In fact, today Gallup estimates that there are only 4% of people in the entire world that have careers that fit in this category. They also estimate that over 3 billion people would like to be in this category.
For me, back in 2005, this meant I had to find and learn from those people who already felt like they had purpose and meaning in their career. What were they doing differently? What did they know that I didn’t, Was it certain kinds of jobs or roles, was it that they had some kind of spiritual awakening? Were they meditating before meditating got popular?
I just knew that I had to find the answer. I couldn’t go too many more days of soul crushing 2-3 hour commutes for a job that I didn’t believe in.
I started asking people “what makes work meaningful to you?” Sometimes, I would hear things like: “work where I’m growing and advancing.”
“I think meaningful work is making a difference to the world. And in particular, for me, it's making a difference to people's lives.”
“Meaningful work means to me is that your activities and what you're doing connects to a larger purpose.”
“When you do something, not on your own benefit, but helping someone else. And if you are helping a large amount of people, then it's even more meaningful.”
Those are all real people who have done a great job finding meaningful and fulfilling work.
THE NUMBER 1 KEY TO MEANINGFUL WORK
Since 2005, I’ve literally asked thousands of people this very same question. What makes work meaningful or fulfilling? Yes I know that sounds absurd and I’m probably the only person in the world running around asking everybody about their own personal definition of meaningful work for the last decade, but I got to learn a lot about those people and later about what creates purpose, passion, meaning and fulfillment.
The one thing that all humans need to feel in order to feel meaning and purpose became obvious right away.
Every single person needs to feel like they are helping other people.
That’s pretty simple: let’s all go get jobs helping others!
But when you start to think about it for a while, you realize that really, every single job on the planet is helping others in some way – whether you are pouring cement or curing disease, really every single job relates back to helping people in some way.
So what does this mean?
“I think the meaningful parts of my work is when I get to know that evasion story, for example, how successful was a case and the people are being treated by the products that we make, that Philips makes. So, when I think in this long chain, otherwise, I know that I’m a very little piece in this big chain. I feel glad for being part of it and for being helpful in this way.
We invest in technology that will go for that will improve healthcare. So, for example, in the part that I work in the business that I am in with Philips, it’s all about minimally invasive procedures, which really improve the patient lives. And everything here is focused on the patient. So, we are improving life of people improving treatments, saving lives… If you consider like the population is getting older and older, and each year we have more new diseases being discovered.
And then we have Philips, on the other side, trying to invest in technology, to improve the treatments, to improve the patients’ lives, to try to treat them, to save them in a better way, with a short recovery. So, this is a meaningful work because the business here is to support saving lives, and we support physicians on doing that.”
– Thais Sabino, Communication Manager of Image Guided Therapy Systems at Philips
IT’S DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE
From my personal perspective, I think that every single one of us, as individual human beings, beat a lot of odds to get here on this planet. There’s a reason why we’re here, and our lives have a unique purpose. So, if you think about the chances of you just getting to be here on Earth, and believe that there’s a purpose to your life, meaningful work is what helps us to fulfill that purpose and live our best lives. Research suggests that there are some common threads around what drives meaning and fulfillment in the work we do.
I think the first thing is solving a problem that you actually care about in the work that you do, and solving it in a way that that’s oriented to your strengths and gives you energy. I believe that work should bring us joy. It’s our responsibility as individuals to find work that aligns to our unique sense of purpose and gives us a chance to use our strengths to serve others.
I think that meaningful work means something different to everyone. There’s a really specific reason for that: we’re unique human beings.”
– Colleen Bordeaux, Writer and Human Capital Consultant at Deloitte Consulting
YOUR PERCEPTION AFFECTS YOUR MEANINGFUL WORK
Another problem we face with meaningful work may not be the company or the work itself. Sometimes, your perception or perspective of the work affects how meaningful the work is.
For example, if you’re having concrete poured for your backyard patio – the person who shows up to put that concrete in can either view it as just making a patio and just another job, or they can view it as they are creating a place for family and friends to get together.
The same task, but one has a more meaningful purpose.
Or here’s another example we see all the time here at Happen To Your Career. We get a lot of people coming to us from companies like Google, Facebook, or Amazon. These are impressive companies and many people would love to work there. But is it meaningful work?
One person who came from Google recently told us, “I feel like my job isn’t helping people, it’s just getting more clicks.”
That same person could have taken the perspective that they’re helping many people find what’s important to them every day, every time they search on Google.
So is meaning just a switch that you need to flip in your brain? A different mental lens you can look through to see how any task you might do helps others? Or is it more about finding out what type of work is meaningful to you?
THE TWO PARTS OF FINDING MEANINGFUL WORK
OK, it’s definitely not as simple as flipping a switch in your brain, but At Happen To Your Career, when we talk about the ways we can find meaningful work, we separate them into 2 categories: internal and external.
Internally, you can practice relating meaning to any task or job that you’re doing, An easy way to do this is to consider what the end result will be:
- Who will be benefiting?
- How will they be benefiting?
- What happens if you don’t do your part?
But only doing this will just get you part of the way there. It’s only half of the recipe for meaningful work.
The other half is identifying the external context that you personally experience the most meaning and fulfillment.
This means uncovering your personal definition of what creates meaning for you. This means doing the hard work of understanding what people, causes, situations, and tasks are more or less meaningful to you. In the case of people this might mean who are the types of people who you enjoy helping. Do you get more meaning from working directly with an individual, helping groups, communities or maybe even larger impact like states or nations? The answer could be more than one, or it could be none of these and you personally derive more meaning from the way you’re helping or the type of cause you’re a part of.
When you put these two categories together, they give you the clues as to where you should look for work that is more meaningful work.
You begin to realize you have to be able to directly see and connect how you’re helping others.
Michal Balass realized that she was lacking meaning in her work and knew it was going to impact both her and her employer. So, after evaluating her needs and researching career opportunities, she found meaningful work.
“So, when I first started my job, the on-boarding was a steep learning curve, but three months into it, four months into it, I was getting my work done. And I was getting it done very quickly. And there wasn’t more for me to do. And I would create my own projects to preoccupy my time. And I acquired a lot of skills in that way. And it was very obvious that there was nowhere for me to move up. And I was a little sad about that, because I really liked the academic environment, I liked being on campus. But I also realized that if I’m going to get bored, I’m going to feel disconnected. And it’s not gonna be good for me, it’s not gonna be good for my employer. And I didn’t want to get to that point.”
OK, so it’s safe to say that Michal clearly directly sees and connects what she does for work to how it helps other people. She clearly gets meaning out of these types of challenges.
But is this enough? If you’ve done a great job with the internal side of assigning meaning and and you’re fortunate enough to work in a job that provides these for you, is this enough to create work that feels meaningful and fulfilling for you?
The short answer is no, but don’t worry, it’s not your fault, it’s our society.
SOCIETY AND THE STATUS QUO
It is rare to have a great job that is also meaningful to us.
Part of the reason is that many people and companies in our society have antiquated versions of what work should look like.
“We’re taught to think in exceptionally stale ways about work, and about the purpose of our lives. We tend to orient our lives and our understanding of work around ways that are handed to us through our education, through our culture, and through our families. We’re not taught that we can take a step back and think differently, consider what makes us unique, and where we can apply that to add value.
So, I think that’s one piece of it. And I think the second piece of it is that, in many ways, we’ve thought about jobs and designed jobs that are too small for the human spirit: they’re often focused on pixelated work, where the human beings doing the work are disconnected from how it supports the organization’s mission and how it impacts other human beings, and we’re not intentional about aligning individual strengths and passions to tasks and activities.”
– Colleen Bordeaux
Even if you already know what creates more meaning for you, there are other factors that must also be present for you to have viable meaningful work.
Some of the most important ones are that it must pay enough for you to meet your financial obligations and goals, it must be utilizing your strengths and allowing you to contribute uniquely and additionally the “how we help” others must be in alignment with the mission of the organization.
If any of these variables are missing, it can take potentially meaningful work and turn it into something far less meaningful for you in reality.
But when you have all of these in alignment, that’s where magic starts to happen.
That’s where meaning starts to intersect with purpose, passion, and fulfillment.
“When I think about what meaningful work means… means to me is really, is that your activities and what you’re doing connects to a larger purpose. And in my case, we’re all about healthcare and improving patient lives and we do it across something we call a continuum of healthcare from birth to when you might be towards the end. And I know that the activities and the things that I do and working with my team has a direct benefit to helping somebody diagnose an issue or to be treated for something, and I gain a lot of pride from that and I feel like I have a connection to something bigger.”
– Steven Tyler, Senior Manager of Development Engineering at Philips
THE RELATIONSHIP OF ORGANIZATIONS AND MEANINGFUL WORK
There’s a fascinating study out there that was debuted in the Harvard Business Review. It involved 2285 Professionals and found that over 90% of them would trade some portion of their salary for work that was more meaningful.
Maybe this sounds surprising to some, but, honestly, I was not surprised. Partially, because people usually want what they don’t have, and the reality is that most people don’t have meaningful work. But partially because we’re hardwired as human beings to try to make meaning out of nearly everything. Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister argues that this is because it helps us satisfy the need to create stability for ourselves.
What nobody is arguing about is that most companies are not focused on creating a meaningful work experience for their employees.
But, there are some organizations that are doing this very well:
- St Jude, Children’s Research hospital
- Dave Ramsey’s company Ramsey Solutions
An editors note here, We actually reached out to 15 different organizations that our team here at Happen To Your Career believes are creating a meaningful work experience for their teams. We wanted to try to chat with some of their employees and leadership team team about what it looks like from the inside, however almost all of these organizations were hesitant to give us interview access.
There was one organization who said “Yes”, and pretty much gave us cart blanche access to their team and their leadership, That organization was Philips.
“I think, if you think about what gets you out of bed in the morning to go to work, and there’s always a combination of both people need to work both from a financial perspective. But to do something meaningful means you get out of bed with a smile. And I think enjoying and having passion for what you do is extremely important.
I think, if you feel so engaged with the company direction, and know how you can make a difference, I think the results there are much better for the company.
And I think, if you ask about the byproduct of meaningful work…doing this meaningful work, improving lives through innovation, as a mission, and actually has shown that innovation gets stronger and stronger, because you are engaging people in developing the solutions with our customers or our patients. And, we have a lot of new types of businesses now, digital models in the consumer domain, digital healthcare solutions, long term strategic partnerships with customers, based on very different business models that we’ve co-created. So that sort of innovation in our blood…continues to build as you’re engaged in this direction.
And I think the other byproduct is diversity. Because, if I observe Philips as well, in the journey, we are able to attract, I think, much more diverse talent on this journey we’re on, we’re no longer a big conglomerate, where people are not sure exactly what Philips did. We’re a health company, and we’re improving lives. And that’s a very compelling journey to be part of. I see therefore, that we are attracting talent…it’s a war on finding the best people because the best business results come from great people. So being able to engage a diverse group and attract strong talent is important.
And I would say finally, the other byproduct is engagement scores. And so, people are happy and feel part of the journey we’re on and satisfied if you like us, as an employee, and we see engagement scores increasing. So, in ASEAN Pacific we’re four percentage points above last year, were actually three percentage points above the global average, too, and then that demonstrates, again, that people feel very engaged in this journey.
– Caroline Clarke, Market Leader for ASEAN Pacific at Philips
Wait a minute, those are some pretty big impacts to the business that Philips has seen coming from creating more meaningful work.
More innovation, higher diversity and more engaged employees.
Those are pretty big reasons to pay attention to creating a much more meaningful work experience for employees. But, what about the bottom line? Is there any real impact there?
I mentioned the study that was unveiled in Harvard Business Review about employees taking less salary in exchange for more meaningful work, but there’s also other studies that show evidence of the same phenomenon. So, certainly there’s a willingness for people to work cheaper for more meaningful work, but my experience is that is a short sighted way to make more profit.
Is there a link between employees experiencing more meaning and profit?
“So, I think, number one is challenging old ways of thinking and orthodoxies around what drives engagement. Old ways of thinking focused on perks, rewards and support. Those things, of course, matter. However, research suggests that in today’s working world, and looking forward, they’re mattering less compared to other factors. Focus is shifting to job fit, job design, and the ability to find fulfillment and meaning in the work that you do, and that applies to roles across the entire organization.
An MIT study showed that enterprises with top quartile employee experience achieve twice the innovation, double the actual customer satisfaction, and 25% higher profits than organizations with bottom quartile employee experience, which underscores why this topic is top of mind for organizations. A separate Deloitte study found that organizations are starting to invest in programs across industries to better improve on life at work, and are looking at the day to day experience that workers have. They’re getting beyond the idea of work life balance, and looking at how to make work more meaningful and give the human beings that work for the organization a sense of belonging, and trust and kind of a relationship with the people that they work with. And again, that plays off that bringing your full self to work”.
– Colleen Bordeaux
WHY ORGANIZATIONS HAVEN’T PAID ATTENTION TO MEANINGFUL WORK
OK, let’s review.
Organizations that focus on employee experiences create more profit. Employees want more meaningful work and work experiences and are willing to take less pay for it.
So, why haven’t companies really started paying attention to this?
Or are some organizations beginning to wake up and realize that more and more of the workforce is wanting more meaningful work?
“Well, I think if I look back in history, good companies have always done that. Have always had an interest in ensuring that their employees understand the journey they’re on and have a passion for what they do. And so, I think good companies do it,
I think what’s maybe changed is, it’s become an increasing focus, because millennials…have a different demand or stronger demand for a balance and a meaningful place to work. I think, if you look at people, they are getting married and having children later in life. So, they don’t feel that obligation or have that necessary financial responsibility to stay in one place and not take risk. I think they’re much more open to trying new things and moving companies. So, it’s very often I look at CV’s of millennials and they’ve moved companies quite a few times.
And therefore, it’s really important if we want to attract the best people and retain the best people, that we deliver a very good employer proposition, and engage them in very meaningful work, engage their hearts and minds and very much what they do. Also, ensuring that we are giving them the right development opportunities, taking even more risk, I think, with young people, to see how they flourish in different types of businesses and support them to also make a difference in the world, whether that is within their job, and also doing things outside of their job, and in terms of social programs, etc. to make a difference.”
– Caroline Clarke
Even though this is the case, very few organizations still haven’t taken significant action to create a much more meaningful experience for their employees or even considered this as an opportunity to attract new employees., However in a 2019 Deloitte Global survey of CXOs, 73 percent said their organizations had changed or developed products or services in the past year to generate positive societal impact.
I think it has a lot to do with just be a sign of the times. And, I think in today’s society, where in many cases, a lot of the basic needs of people are being fulfilled, people are looking for other means of getting to the top of the Maslow’s pyramid… And are looking for ways and means of giving sense and purpose to their lives. It’s a very much a generational thing, I think, where people want to make sure that whatever they do, is not only yielding into a good salary for themselves, or a nice leased car, but that they spent their lives in a meaningful fashion.
You need to differentiate though, because, if you look around the globe, and you look at the state of the economy, in the maturity levels of society in terms of social development, you see quite some differentiation in terms of the importance that here to meaningful work.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. But at the end of the day, I believe that people are generally motivated by having an impact whatever that impact is. And it can be big, as I said in the beginning, and it can be small. But that even if you work in a company or in an enterprise, that doesn’t have a big audacious goal that resonates in terms of driving societal impact, you can still in a very small scale have impact by enabling people to realize their own dreams and unlock their own potential. I think that is what you increasingly see across the entire society.
– Ronald de Jong
So, generally speaking, people have their basic needs met and are looking and needing their deeper needs met. This means that people are really needing to feel fulfillment in their lives and that what they do actually means something more than just survival. People want to make an impact. Organizations can help people by providing meaningful work, and this is something that needs to be in the culture of the organization.
HOW ORGANIZATIONS CAN START PROVIDING MORE MEANINGFUL WORK
“The way I have experienced our company is that, historically, and that’s deep down in the culture and in the DNA of the company, it’s a very…socially driven and people-focused company. And that goes back to our founding fathers. But, we have stayed relevant though for more than a century by reinventing ourselves multiple times, without losing sight of that focus on people and on society, in which we are part of.
I’ve also experienced Philips as a bunch of very talented people with part some resources to start with the brands, but also our intellectual property and financial means and resources. And the interesting thing is that we have a culture and a climate where you can create your own opportunities.
[In the Philips Foundation] by now we have more than 150 projects around the globe, a committed team that is work on reducing health inequality and providing access to care. And it was just an opportunity we could create by tapping into all the resources of the company. And by leveraging this focus on being socially responsible and having a strong interest and genuine interest in people. It’s an example on how, in big enterprises, where you have a lot of resources, if you take the initiative and you show ownership, you can create and shape your own future and take initiatives that give meaning not only for yourself, but for the rest of the organization and probably many that are impacted by it.”
-Ronald de Jong
It’s clear that organizations taking the time and energy to create a much more meaningful work experience is good for business. But that reasoning alone isn’t enough for many organizations to make substantial changes to really do meaningful work well.
So, can every single person, especially the leaders in your organization articulate the impact of the work they are doing and how they’re helping? When they do, is it vague or even non-existent? If not, you can rest assured that most of your employees aren’t feeling the meaning.
“In Philips, we talk about our mission being to improve the lives of 3 billion people. And first of all, I can break that down into even my own region. So, in the first quarter, globally Philips improved 1.55 billion people’s lives. And as I’m specific accounted for 139 million of those.
But I think it’s great to get up and go to work every day knowing that you can make a difference. And in the region, we have some great examples that range from consumer products like the air fryer, where we’re educating families on eating healthily and not frying with oil…through to specific healthcare solutions that we are really designing with our customers and co-creating with our customers.
So, we have some nice examples in Australia. We partner with the Royal Perth hospital and a company called Emory Healthcare to remotely monitor intensive care units. And they are based in Perth monitoring intensive care units in Atlanta in the US, which is really interesting, because it’s 12-hour time difference. And so, if we remotely monitor from Perth, with our algorithms, we can direct then the intensivist in Atlanta, to the patient that needs him or her most. And we’ve seen results around 26% improvement in mortality rates.”
– Caroline Clarke
Do those same leaders/teams seem driven by this impact?
Does it appear that the company is focused on hiring other people that are driven by this type of impact?
Is there evidence that they focus on the employee experience?
Not just the normal pay and benefits, but how are they harnessing every interaction as opportunity?
This is likely beyond the norm.
“One of the things we do is that we are trying to reinforce the notion that in each and every team meeting, and those meetings take place on a daily basis. We don’t only spend time on the content in the agenda, but we reserve at the end of the meeting, 15, 20, 25 minutes to also reflect upon how the meeting went in terms of process. The behaviors we have observed and the interventions that we liked; and also some of the behaviors that we didn’t consider to be that productive. That takes quite some effort. Because in the beginning, you see that the intent is there. But after three meetings, we have this pressing content topic that we need to transact upon. So, let’s keep the feedback for today. So, you need to stay at it.”
– Ronald de Jong
There are no perfect organizations out there, but you can begin to recognize those that do a great job of creating a much more meaningful work experience by doing the things we’ve outlined in this episode.
Clearly communicating the impact that the organization is having on the people that it helps and making it easy to see a direct relationship between the work that is happening and how you’re helping.
Also, a clear focus on creating a better experience for their team and going to lengths to hire others who are identify with the cause or problems that the organization solves.
Even still, when there’s so few organizations doing this well and since what creates meaningful work is slightly different for all of us, it can be a challenge to turn this knowledge into an actual career.
3 EXAMPLES OF HOW REAL PEOPLE FOUND CAREER PURPOSE
All this might cause you to wonder, “Are these even possible together, and, if so, how do real people actually find these opportunities?”
With the help of science and some real people who have done a great job finding meaningful work and career happiness, we’re going to break down the answers for you.
So, the question becomes: “How do you find this elusive work that’s meaningful and meets your other needs like a certain amount of income?”
When I think about what meaningful work means to me is that your activities and what you’re doing connects to a larger purpose. And in my case at Philips, we’re all about healthcare and improving patient lives and we do it across something we call a continuum of healthcare from birth to when you might be towards the end.
I know that the activities and the things that I do and working with my team has a direct benefit to helping somebody diagnose an issue or to be treated for something and I gain a lot of pride from that, and I feel like I have a connection to something bigger.
For instance, my brother has a liver condition. And in one of the aspects of his treatment to maintain how he’s doing is he goes in for periodic ultrasounds…the technology that I’m working with is helping to ensure that his treatment is appropriate and that his medication and his levels are stable so that he can have the best life possible. So that’s probably the closest example I have to what I do at Philips and working in the ultrasound R&D group.
Philips…talks a lot about how it’s working to make the world a better place and aspects of that include sustainability with where the energy is sourced. So, in the Netherlands, a lot of the energy comes from wind. At the campus I’m in, in Andover, Massachusetts, we have a solar farm, which provides a portion of the electricity consumed at that site. We have as part of our training and our process and just our culture is a really thinking about what’s your impact to the world in terms of be a carbon footprint and in energy we use or when we recycling materials, we have composting, we have plastic recycling, battery recycling… it’s not what we’re there to do, but it’s something that’s in the forefront.
I would say another aspect of it is really kind of connecting to that purpose where, if I’m working on a piece of software that helps to enhance something that’s going to lead to a better treatment and diagnosis of somebody, I know that that work product is going to affect tens upon hundreds upon thousands of people’s lives, when that’s available to them. So, I know that there’s an always growing impact, I would say, in a positive direction with the things that myself and my team were doing.
OK, remember that what causes you to feel like you directly see and connect how you’re helping others is different for different people.
So what moves you is likely to be slightly different than Steven, and that’s ok. But I want you to understand that the first step is understanding this so you can see what those things that move Steven. He’s got a great idea of what creates more meaningful work for him, here’s how he applied that knowledge in the job interview.
“I went to do my research ahead of the interview. Philips was transparent and shared the list of people I was gonna talk to. I looked them up on LinkedIn, and so, “Wow, okay. This person’s been here 23 years. That’s interesting.” That’s very out of the ordinary from what I was used to with managing people and having people come and go from my teams and whatnot. It’s like that. That’s pretty amazing. And then it’s like, “Okay. I’ll get the next person on the interview list.” And it’s again, like 25 years. When we look at the next guy, “Yep, same kind of thing.”
So, then I drive to the campus to go for the interview and… I get there a little early and I’m walking around just to kind of prepare. And in the parking lot, there are these a special set of reserve parking spots close to the front door. And they said quarter-century employees as a quarter century. Okay 25 years, and they were mostly full. And this is about, it just in my line of sight at the time, about 20 of them. Oh, this is just different. There’s something going on here, I don’t know what it is, but I got to learn more.
And then talking with the people, they just talked a lot about the support the company had given them, invested in their career, they felt a sense of purpose. There was a lot of camaraderie and strong relationships. And I said, “I really like that, that sounds good to me.” And so, I had that comfort level right in the beginning.”
A while back, I had the privilege of talking with Christy Wright, one of the people on Dave’s speaking team. She shared a little about her career with the YMCA before meeting Dave and his company. She started there as a very young director for a brand new YMCA center.
I was charged with building a department from the ground up. And that center here in Nashville became the fastest growing center in the country at that time. And so the need was just unending and I think that’s what it is, and nonprofit and ministry specifically, the need is attending and businesses, traditional businesses may have traditional hours, and nonprofit, you never really off, and so a lot of times you feel like you’re trying to catch a tidal wave with a teacup. And it becomes very easy to get overwhelmed with just the need that’s just non stop. And so it’s very easy to burn out. And it’s very important to have balance and boundaries in order to kind of stay the course in that type of history.
It was a great season and it gave me incredible career experience all the skills and management that I was thrown in the deep end.
So I had really developed a lot of that kind of leadership very early on in my career that laid the foundation for the things that I get to do today.
After three years of being in that location, I kind of really just felt it was time to move on. And it was time to do something different. And so that’s when I really feel like God told me honestly that I’m going to go work for Dave Ramsey.
I was standing on my deck one day… and I thought, I just I’m never going to find a company. I believe in as much as this one. Like, I really love that we change lives and we help people. And I, however you want to explain it. I heard the voice in my head up God say, “You’re going to work for Dave Ramsey.” And I’ll be honest with you, Scott, I had no idea who Dave Ramsey was. I need to go Google this guy, because I don’t know who it is.
Well, I applied for a position doing a youth product. So as the youth product coordinator, and it’s interesting, because I’ve never done products before, but I’ve done programs through my nonprofit, I was aquatic director at the YMCA here in Nashville. And so I was over all types of swim lessons and swim teams and sports and that kind of thing. And so I was able to kind of make a case for myself in the interview process that I’ve done programs, same process for products, it’s just tangible goods. And so that was the position I was hired for. And I started there in the fall of 2009.
And so how I got into speaking, which is what a lot of people ask me, everywhere that I go is another crazy story that makes no sense. But Dave’s daughter, Rachel Cruz… she was actually in college at the time, and so and the spring of 2010, there had been an arrangement worked out where she was going to go speak at a conference all summer. And there was gonna be 20 different conferences. So she’d be in a different state every single day speaking at these conferences, and somehow during this whole process, I inherited this arrangement.
And so about two weeks before she’s supposed to go on the road…we get the travel schedule from the conference company. And they had booked the cheapest flights possible. And they had two and three connections. It was a complete nightmare. You’re going to New York to California to get to Texas. You’re in an airport 16 to 18 hours a day. It was just a disaster. And so her dad, Dave Ramsey, really, with a lot of wisdom said she’s not doing this. She’s not doing this travel schedule.
And so I, as the new one with this company, got to be the bearer of bad news to them, that [Dave] would allow her to come to 10/10 of those conferences… And he said, “Christy, I’ve got her slated. I’ve got her booked for 20 keynote presentations at these different conferences all over the country. What am I going to do for those other 10?” And I said, “I’ll do them.”
So I want you to know that summer we went, you know, on the road, and Rachel did 10 events and I did 10 events, and then that fall, they created the speaker’s group, where we identified a real need for message bears because we were turning down 3000 requests a year for Dave to come speak and so they wanted to have a new group of speakers and message bears, and I was slid into that group, no addition to application, no questions.
One concept that seems to come up frequently when we talk about meaningful work is having a connection. Christy, for example, felt like she was missing something, but as she started working with Dave Ramsey’s Organization, she started to see the connection between what she did and how she helped people with their finances and businesses.
Earlier in this episode, we heard Steven talk about how he intimately felt the connection between what he did and how it help others – specifically how it helps his own brother. I also talked with Kasia Wiacek, who also works at Philips as a Supply Quality Manager. She described how she needed something more tangible and useful.
So, I started to work as a researcher and to University. And by coincidence, I was also working on the medical research. In the area of, well, electrical engineering, actually, and software, but for the medical applications, so that was the start. Somehow, I changed the certain moments from the research to industry. And I think maybe I wanted to have some more touchable results. Research is going often to be published and that’s it. And, it’s not always turning into the products or into the… something that is usable. It might end up somewhere in the draw and or a few publications and that’s it. I think I’m a practical person. So, at a certain moment, I thought, well, let’s do something practical and not only theoretical.
What it was, I think there are different definitions of growing for some people growing means getting higher in the position and higher and having more and more people reporting to them and doing less and less. But for me, it’s more that I like to do things and to make it interesting. It has to evolve, it has to have some new elements on things I can, I have to learn for, to do it correctly. But of course, I can also use my previous experience. Because, experience in one area can help you to understand better another area that’s not really exclusive if you’re working somewhere you will never use your experience from different positions, different areas.
CREATING MEANINGFUL WORK FOR YOURSELF
So what does all this mean?
It means that you must understand what you want and need most. What creates meaning for you.
It means that it’s not just about meaningful work. Having meaningful work but not having other elements that allow you to flourish can take away from the connection you feel and the impact that you’re having.
It means that you own this and nobody can answer these difficult questions for you.
But it also means that once you understand these truths building a career around what creates much more meaning for you becomes possible. It goes from unrealistic to completely realistic for you.
Taking the time and energy to more meaningful work is definitely the harder road, but for those that are willing to take charge of their career, they believe it’s completely worth it. I think it can be for you, too.
Thanks to Philips for their openness and access to both their leadership team and employees as we put this all together.Check out more about what Philips has to offer.
Listen to the 3-Part Podcast Series:
If you’re unsure where to start in your journey for meaningful work, you can always go to FigureItOut.co and that will get you started in our 8-Day Figure-It-Out mini-course to help you determine what you need most to create a fulfilling career.
Also if you know of a company that you believe is doing a fantastic job with creating meaningful work, I’d like to know about them you can email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org and that will make sure that me and my team know about them.