388: Can Your Work Change The World? How To Make A Meaningful Impact In Your Career



  • What makes work purposeful
  • The 3 keys to make a meaningful impact
  • How your career can allow you to make a meaningful impact

You’ve seen those quotes on Instagram, Facebook, or Linkedin about changing the world. They’re cliche.

“You can change the world if you care enough.” or…

“Want to change the world? start by making your bed.” or…

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” (this one’s good and not as cliche)

But how does somebody actually change the world? Do you need to be Harriet Tubman or Mother Teresa?

I personally don’t think so. I also don’t think Harriet Tubman became the Harriet Tubman you’ve heard of overnight.
Today, we unravel what it takes to have a unique contribution and impact in the world. And to discover what it means for you to change the world.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:04

You've seen those quotes on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn about changing the world. They're cliche, you can change the world if you care enough, or want to change the world start by making your bed or be the change you want to see in the world. Okay, the last one, you know, not do that. But how does somebody actually change the world? Do you need to be Harriet Tubman or Mother Teresa? I personally don't think so. I also don't think Harriet Tubman became the Harriet Tubman that you heard of overnight. Today, on the podcast, we unravel what it takes to have a unique contribution and impact on the world and to discover what it means for you to change the world.

Introduction 0:52

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:16

Every conversation I've ever had with my friend, Colleen Bordeaux, expert on workplace, she's always talked about not doing work in a way that kills the human spirit.

Colleen Bordeaux 01:29

In many ways, the way that we've thought about jobs and design jobs, they're too small for the human spirit, and are focused in many ways on kind of rule based or repetitive work in certain career paths, or in kind of pixelated work, where we as human beings doing that work are disconnected from how it supports an organization's mission, how it supports other human beings, and are doing tasks and activities that don't necessarily align to our strengths and what energizes us.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:00

We covered all that in the past series on meaningful work. And if you're interested, you can go back and listen episodes 301, 302 and 303. It was really great. But what we didn't talk about during that series, was the fact that to allow the human spirit to thrive, we must be able to see a measurable impact in ways that we care about. In fact, we completely left that part out. This is the first episode in a two part series about, what happens when you combine purpose and a cause that you care about, particularly how it creates a much better world for us all. More importantly, you will be able to see how your career can allow you to have a meaningful impact, which is something we all need to feel like we're thriving. Without it, you'll always feel like there's something missing in your life and work. No bueno, right. Over these two episodes, we'll unpack everything you need to know about how purposeful people are changing the world by being aligned with an organization and a cause that they care about. First, what does it even mean for you to make an impact on the world or like I said, saying it another way changing the world to explain how changing the world is possible for you. Let's roll back in time. Earlier I mentioned Harriet Tubman. Her story definitely didn't start out with a young Harriet determined that she was going to change the world. To help you understand her story, we brought in an expert.

Mackenzie Barlow 03:30

I think Harriet Tubman is really an interesting person. And she made a lot of big changes, even though she only started very small.

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:43

Okay, so this expert is actually Mackenzie Barlow, she's my daughter. As timing would have it, she's also recently done several school reports on Harriet Tubman. So turns out, she actually knows a lot about her.

Mackenzie Barlow 03:57

Well, she was born in 1820 in Dorchester, Maryland. And she grew up for 29 years on the plantation there. She suffered her grave injury to her head, the injury was a big mental weight. And it was thrown at her instead of the slain boy that had was running away from the plantation. She actually refused to punish the boy and the weight kick her instead of the boy, because she was in the way, because it was really heavy. And after about the 29 years, she learned about the Underground Railroad. I think she had the courage to keep going on, even when everyone else turned back. So the first time she found the Underground Railroad was she was driving with her two brothers, both older than her. And they got scared a little, a few days from the plantation and turned back. She went on, and she got to the end. And then she decided, I'm going to go back and save all of these people from the plantation, and inspiring everybody to do the same. In that, she got the nickname of Moses. So I put this quote at the end of my first presentation, and I thought it was really inspiring. The quote was, "I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years. And I can say what most conductors can't, I never ran my train off the track. And I never lost a passenger." I like it because it sums up her bravery, and her willingness to sacrifice herself. And as she said, she never once lost a person. That's another thing she was famous for. She always went back no matter how old or small that person was.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:23

So what can we learn from her? First of all, a teenage Harriet son injustice taking place and had courage to do the one little thing she could, step in between another person, a slave, and their overseer, she took a blow to the head, that single event may not have made a huge difference by itself. But this was a first step. When she ran away and got her own freedom, she realized that it wasn't enough just for her to be free, if hundreds of thousands of others were still enslaved. But how could she, in her situation, a poor outcast, young woman, and former slave do anything to free the other slaves? Well, it turns out, Harriet cared deeply about freeing her friends and family that were enslaved. And when she began working with the Underground Railroad, she was able to literally change, not only the lives of those 70 people that she helped free, but also the course of history in the US. So we see that Harriet's efforts in her cause were amplified, when she actually partnered with another organization, in this case, the Underground Railroad. It turns out, changing the world is not ever done alone. So it involves not only thinking bigger, but also partnering with other people, other organizations that are aligned with your values and the cause that you care about.

Mackenzie Barlow 07:47

Well, to change the world, you have to do something about it first, big or small, and it can set off a chain reaction. And that chain reaction inspires many people. And the many people change, and the more people that change the world changes. That is what it means to change the world.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:17

By the way, when you think about the idea of changing the world, I think a far better way to look at it is making a meaningful, significant impact.

Joshua Rivers 08:27

Why is that, Scott?

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:29

Well, I'm so glad you asked Josh. By the way, that's Josh, our producer, our content manager, our career happiness content architect, he does a lot of things around here. Anyhow, I'm glad you asked. When you think about changing the world, it seems so big, that it feels nearly impossible to see where to start. You struggle to see how you, as one person, can possibly make a difference. Nothing meaningful actually happens. But if you look at it simply by saying "hey, how can I impact the cause that I care about, something that is both personal and doable?" It becomes a tangible thing that you can actually get traction on, take action on. What do you actually need to make a meaningful impact? Well, based on having many, many, many conversations, many thousands of conversations at this point, with people who have made a significant impact. And then also looking at research on this, has been embedded in the research over the last number of years. Here's the three things that I've observed that all of these people have in common. They are working on in or around a cause that they care about. They're making a contribution in a significant way, often in a unique way. And then, on top of that, over the course of time, they are growing, they're growing in skill. There are evolving themselves as people, and they're becoming more adept at furthering that cause. Okay, this sounds simple. But what does this actually look like?

Daniela Seabroook 10:09

So when I was, 10 years old, we had a cat and the cat was actually my cat. So I was crazy for cats, and got my parents to get to allow for me to have a cat.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:22

That's Daniela Seabrook.

Daniela Seabroook 10:24

The cat died when she was really young. And we didn't really know why she died. And that was the moment when I decided to become a vet, to actually find out what my cat had, and to be able to help other cats and other people so that their cats don't have to die so young. I kept this wish or goal for many years up to the point when I had to register for university. That's when I paused for a moment and asked myself, "do I want to spend the rest of my career working with animals?" Which is very good, by the way. Or "do I want to spend the rest of my career, that's what I thought and the rest of my career, if working with humans?" And at that time, I decided to wanting to dedicate the time I work with humans.

Scott Anthony Barlow 11:16

Daniela is the Chief Human Resources officer for Philips, an organization that specializes in health technology. For Daniela's teenage years, she cared about taking care of animals to the point that she started training to become a veterinarian, she made some pivots to get to where she is now. But it started with a cause that she deeply cared about. And she started to contribute in a way that she knew how. To make a meaningful impact, as in meaningful to you and meaningful to other people in the world, there's those three pieces I mentioned earlier. Daniela's story shows the first two, furthering the cause you care about and contributing to that cause in a significant way. What I didn't tell you is that when you have both of those one cause and two contribution, they are two of the main ingredients for feeling like you have purpose, that magic word purpose, right. Which means that when you find an organization that supports a cause you care about, you're able to contribute to this cost significantly and get paid for doing so. You've just found yourself much more purposeful work. Okay, listen, we've asked thousands of people what creates purposeful work for them. Here's just a few of those answers.

Rachel Gatlin 12:35

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,


Your activities and what you're doing connects to a larger purpose.


Well, for me, meaningful work means 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.


Purposeful work for me is making people better, making someone better, impacting someone in a positive way.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:09

Starting to notice any patterns here? Here's one more again from Daniela Seabrook. Remember, she's the CHRO at Philips that you heard from earlier.

Daniela Seabroook 13:17

It is really about what I do, has a bigger meaning and a bigger impact for people around us, communities around us, society, than just having great products. And that's really important. So serving a greater good with what I do or being able to contribute to serving a greater good, that is what purposeful work means to me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:41

Daniela has allowed purpose to guide a lot of her career decisions over the years.

Daniela Seabroook 13:48

Beside other things purpose is one of the fundamental motivators for people. So it's not something you need to be rewarded for. It comes naturally to many people. And when you then can work in an environment where that is fueled, I think that is a big engagement factor.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:03

Putting purpose first remember, purpose is cause, plus making a significant impact, then that allows you to change how you approach work, and it certainly changed how Daniela approach work.

Daniela Seabroook 14:18

Being open and doing what you really enjoy and what you're passionate for, that was always more important to me than have this very strong and clear plan. That's where I need to go from a hierarchy perspective or where I want to end up. So maybe just on that point, rush for me at the time, really linked the work I was doing to a greater good, and also being able with the work, you know, I did and the company did to impact a broader or serve a greater good broader society and the health and well being of people and that was something which really attracted me. I really, over my time in a company, I started to realize this is important for me. And from then on, every company I chose to work for was very much linked to what purpose the company had. And was it the purpose, which aligns with my values and my own purpose or not. So that is how I actually chose from then on the organizations I work for. And, of course, also ultimately, Philips, which has a great purpose. And it was really one of the key decision criteria for me to join the company.

Scott Anthony Barlow 15:34

One thing that's become apparent to me, 'cause that most people don't set out to change the world, they set out to do something smaller that they care about, Harriet Tubman didn't set out to change the world. Initially, she didn't even set out to free the 70 people that she did from slavery, she set out to free herself, and then realized that along the way, freedom wasn't any good if she couldn't have her friends and family along with her. I think the one thing that you can take from this is that changing the world starts small. And if you want to make your contribution, it starts with finding a cause that you care about, and a way that you can uniquely contribute to that cause. That's it, that's where it starts. But remember, I said that there are actually three keys to this puzzle. Number one, cause. Number two, unique contribution. Three, your evolution, specifically how you grow and develop as a person and continue to contribute in new ways, sometimes, even to new causes that you care about. Rachel Gatlin is the lead for supply chain direct to business ecommerce at Phillips organization. And prior to that, she worked for Avon and worked our way up the organizational ladder, when things changed, she left the company and realized that she needed to figure out who she was and what she really wanted to do.

Rachel Gatlin 16:57

So I left the company, did a little bit of consulting, did some soul searching, went to also started some very meaningful projects that I still do today, things that, you know, just really define me. And then I would say a friend or a previous colleague, I should call him. He has become a friend said, "Hey, we're looking for someone to manage customer operations" which basically is for their personal products. He said, "we really need someone with your skill set in order to manage our customer relationships, and order processing and basically supply chain and customer relationships to meaningful things to me as well." And I applied for the company and was hired in. And it's been a very good ride for me since 2015.

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:46

Sure, Rachel had skills from her previous employer, but the work she did herself really evolved who she was, and what she could offer. It set her up to find purposeful work at an organization that aligned with a cause that she truly cared about. Even though Rachel decided to work for Philips, because she saw the purpose driven work they were doing and wanted to jump right in there. She still is evolving and growing to find additional ways that she can support the causes that she cares about. Along the way, she actually realized that another cause within Philips organization needed attention.

Rachel Gatlin 18:23

I remember seeing a study somewhere, saying "how are men more successful than women in achieving raises?" And the study said, "Because men will actually ask." So I saw this behavior in our Stanford office. And I went to HR, and I said, it was peak season again, it was so funny, I said, "I'm going to outline a plan for you to be more structured. But I would like the consideration of forming a women's networking group here at Philips. Because I want to show women that, first, we can empower each other. And we also can share knowledge. But we also need to know, we need to inspire, empower and lift each other up and motivate each other to go after opportunities. When we feel shy, or we feel like whatever reason we are not worthy. We don't want to be seen as too aggressive, just different reasons."

Scott Anthony Barlow 19:20

Rachel realized the need to help women professionally and she was able to partner with her organization Philips to make it happen internally. And in the next episode, we'll look more about how Rachel was able to do this. But we also see that as Rachel became a different person, her transformation allowed her to help multiple causes. If you don't take anything else away from this episode, take away that, as we continue to delve into this idea of changing the world, that's driving in cause by yourself as noble, but your own efforts are only going to go so far. The key to making a meaningful impact is when you have a cause you care about. And you're aligned in a path that allows you to uniquely contribute. And it turns out, in today's world, it's more realistic than ever before, to find an organization that only supports a cause that you care about, but also pays you for your unique contributions and moving that cause forward. Pretty cool, right? That's, we're changing the world begins. In the next episode, we'll unpack how to find an organization that supports the cause that you care about and show you real life examples of how other people have found purposeful work that makes a measurable impact on the world.


Teaching you how to ask the right questions to be able to deliver that fix ability, and to be able to negotiate, you know, that flexibility and even salary that you wanted, that what's allow you to do the things that you need, whether it is even outside of work.

Scott Anthony Barlow 20:51

All that and more next week right here on Happen To Your Career. Until then, I am out. Adios.

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