Seeing the Meaning in Our Work, Part II
In an earlier post, we presented a number of strategies to help us feel more fulfilled at work. Below are some additional techniques that can deepen our sense of satisfaction from the work that we do each day.
Engage in job crafting
Just because you have a particular job title doesn’t mean that you have no control over how you perform your duties. Take initiative to alter your role by adding, emphasizing, revising, delegating or minimizing tasks and interactions in pursuit of greater meaning. For example, hospital cleaners who lack patient contact stepped up to provide emotional support to patients and their families, and technology associates began volunteering for mentoring, teaching and training roles.
When people craft their jobs, they become happier and more effective. In an experiment at Google, salespeople and administrators were invited to spend 90 minutes doing the Job Crafting Exercise. They mapped out ways to make their tasks and interactions more meaningful and contribute more to others. Six weeks later, their managers and co-workers rated them as happier and more effective. When they developed new skills to support more significant changes, the happiness and performance gains lasted for at least six months.
You may not have the authority to craft your jobs fully, but you can decide on which areas to spend more of your time and invest more of your energy.
Be willing to self-recognize
As awkward and self-centered as it may sound, sometimes it’s important to list your own contributions. What have I done to help my team and help myself grow? What benefit might my work have had on me and my team? How would things change for my team if I suddenly stopped doing my job? When we list our contributions, we become more motivated to keep going and invest our full energies.
If you’re not sure about how you make a difference, why don’t you go over to someone that you know and trust and ask them? If your workplace is not built on recognition, be the one to recognize others. Tell them what you noticed and appreciate -- and be specific. Doing so will also start to make its way back to you
Become more assertive at work
Share your insights. Let them see what you see.
Often we worry about this, thinking that assertiveness will lead others to dislike us. But if you play it right, you will find that not only is assertiveness ok, but also leaders really want that from their team -- to hear what their people have to say. Sometimes they just don’t know how to ask for it.
Assertiveness demonstrates leadership. Leadership is not about holding a fancy title. It is about inspiring and influencing others. You can be a leader. No matter who you are, you can positively influence and lead others. You can lend a helping hand. You can provide encouragement. You can make a difference in the lives of others. Never underestimate yourself and your capabilities.
Invest further in yourself
Perhaps you have achieved all of the degrees that your position requires. But that should not stop you from learning more, especially now that you have a clearer sense of what you need to know and the skills that you really ought to develop. College programs can be wonderful in providing you with foundational skills. Yet, I found that even after two master’s degrees and a doctorate, there is so much learning that I need to do that none of the university programs provided for me.
When you invest in yourself, you see yourself and your work differently. Not only do you feel more competent and capable in what you do, but you also wind up setting higher expectations for yourself. You garner others’ respect for your knowledge and for your willingness to keep going in your learning. I found out when I finished my doctorate that so many people would also like to continue growing and get an advanced degree. But most of them won’t. The fact that you did it is something that will command others’ respect and admiration.
Maybe your organization has funds available for this purpose. If it does, take full advantage of every opportunity. Even if it doesn’t, view the cost as an investment that will pay itself back manifold in the future.
Of course, the development that you seek should be fully in line with your present line of work or the work that you can easily envision moving into. That will make the investment worthwhile and keep you committed to finish.
Get a mentor
A mentor can walk you through the rough spots of the job while offering encouragement and a bird's-eye view. Also, consider mentoring others. While this may not be practical in your workplace, there will always be someone in your field that can gain from your wisdom and experience. Go onto LinkedIn or other sites and find them.
Teaching others provides fulfillment. It allows you to pass on your knowledge and expertise to someone else. Being a mentor to others also helps you explore/improve your skill set in a different light. No matter how skilled you are, there is always something new to learn. Always remember that helping others is a wonderful part of life. Teaching and inspiring others provides meaning and depth to our lives. You can pass on your knowledge and skill set to future generations. No matter how large or small your contribution is, your contribution matters.
Sounds counterintuitive. I don’t find meaning in it so I should do more? The answer is yes.
When we work at something we invest ourselves into that thing. We no longer view the work as external. Instead, it becomes part of us.
This post first appeared in SmartBrief on Leadership.
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