The Quest for Meaningful Work



Meaningful Work. We all want it but so few of us seem to be achieving it. Why is that and where are we going wrong?

Last week my colleague Claire blogged about How to Create Meaningful Work and it really hit home with me. Coincidentally I’d also spent the week at a conference surrounded by inspirational business people who 110% love what they do. So many times during that week I heard about their WHY. Why they do what they do and their personal stories of what led them to do what they do. It was pretty powerful stuff.

One of the best parts of my job is being fortunate enough to have people share with me their why and their story. From the businesses and the individuals within those organisations to the people I interview and provide career coaching services to. We all have a story. Many of the people I interview who are looking for a new job and all of the people I work with on a coaching level are searching for meaningful work. They want to find work, a role and an organisation that fits with their why. They are searching for a sense of purpose.

The stats Claire shared in her blog alarmed me. Why is that so many people are unhappy in their work? There were some great tips on how employers can help create meaningful work for their employees and based on the stats shared, poor management has a lot to answer for. But what about our recruitment process? Are we recruiting the wrong people in to the wrong job or the wrong workplace for the wrong reasons and then trying to make them feel their work is meaningful when the Why of the organisation and the Why of the individual are not aligned?

If you follow my blogs, you’ll know how I feel about interviews being one sided. The candidate rocks up to the interview, is drilled with questions by the employer, it’s a traditional Q&A style meeting. The employer asks all their questions on list, asks the candidate if they have any questions, sometimes giving them only a couple of minutes to do so and wraps up the interview. The interview has been totally one sided – all about what the employer needs and wants. But what about what the candidate wants? When do we give them the opportunity to share their why? When do we ask them about what gives them purpose? What does meaningful work look like for them?

All too often we don’t ask those questions. We are impressed at interview; they answered the questions the way we wanted, they have the experience or skills to do the job so we make them an offer. They accept – hoping that this will be the “right” career move for them. Basically taking a gamble because they haven’t had the opportunity to interview the employer about their why. The candidate goes out on a whim and hopes for the best. 3 months into the role, 6 months in, 12 months in; the honeymoon period is over and they turn up to work each day feeling they have no purpose, unhappy in their work and feeling what they do has no meaning.

I’ve been there. I’ve experienced meaningless work. It’s not a nice space to play in. That experience has formed part of my why. It’s why I do what I do. I believe no one should have to be unhappy and feel meaningless in their work. We spend way too much time in our lives at work for it to be an unhappy space. I’ve been that candidate who had their rose coloured glasses on at an interview and was “sold” a position. I didn’t ask questions, I didn’t challenge the business on what they stood for, what their why was and why they would be a good fit for me and my career. At that stage in my career, I didn’t have clarity on my why. I didn’t understand what it was I was really looking for, what I had to offer, what working in my genius was or felt like and with hindsight knowing this would have completely changed this time in my career.

As job seekers, all too often we don’t take the time to understand ourselves before we apply for a new job. We know we are not happy in our current job so we update our resume and start applying. We land an interview, we have our rose coloured glasses on and away we go again. Jumping in to the wrong job for the wrong reasons. It’s the individuals who take the time to understand themselves, their why, their genius, their motivators and drivers that make the best career moves for all the right reasons.

If you’re a job seeker in search of meaningful, take a step back and get to know yourself first. Take off those rose coloured glasses and put your potential employer through your own interview. Don’t take a gamble with your career.

Employers, when you are searching for your next team member, take a fresh approach to your interview. Ask the people you are interviewing about what defines meaningful work for them – it’s an individual thing and will be different for everyone. If you can’t offer them what it is they are looking for; you are not the employer for them. Give them the opportunity to interview you, it works both ways, they need to select you as an employer equally as much as you select them for the job.

If we can make these small changes to the typical recruitment process, maybe then we have a chance of changing those stats and having more engaged and happy people in our workplaces. That would a win-win for all of us.


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Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at or by following Angela on LinkedIn.






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