Having a clear purpose can serve as a guiding light in your career. It helps you decide what really matters, and how you want to contribute. When those are clear, you can more easily identify roles and companies that will be a good fit. Watch the video below or the blog post that follows to learn more.
Over lunch with a friend, I heard a great example of how purpose can be a driving force in someone’s career. This friend met a woman who was a retail clothing store manager for about 20 years. When asked what kept her there so long, the woman replied, “Well, I like clothes, but that’s not actually enough to have kept me here that long. What I’m really about is, well, see all those kids at those registers? I see it as my role in life to help those kids learn what it means to have a job, what it means to be professional, what it means to serve customers in a way that is respectful and professional. And, that’s really what my job is about. Sure, I manage the store, but what I really do is grow young people into professionals who can go on to have great jobs, either here or somewhere else.”
Now, isn’t that an amazing sense of purpose?
I’m sure that’s much more likely to get her out of bed every morning than simply thinking about how many clothes she could sell that day.
The great thing is that kind of motivation is available to any of us. It comes down to two things:
- Knowing how you want to contribute in the world and the difference you want to make
- Seeing how the work you do (or could do) contributes to that mission
Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar, describes the evolution of his career purpose in the book Creativity, Inc. At the beginning of his career, his driving vision was to create the first feature-length, fully computer-animated film. He worked for years to make this dream a reality – finding funding, building the team, developing the technology, and eventually producing Toy Story. It was an amazing moment to realize that he had fulfilled the purpose he set for himself.
But then, after the film launched and the excitement had died down, Catmull was left wondering “what’s next?” He felt adrift. It was time to define a new purpose. He decided to focus on building a company that could be consistently creative and innovative, year after year. That new purpose sustained him for the decades that followed.
That purpose guided his decision-making, how he led the company, the norms and the values he promoted, and the expectations he set for his team. In Creativity, Inc., he reflects on those experiences and shares what he learned on that journey.
Defining a purpose for your career that matters to you can make a big difference. It’s the energy and the fuel that drives your work. It gets you out of bed in the morning. (My purpose is why I’m up at 6 am on a Sunday morning writing this blog.) It helps you move through the challenges that are an inevitable part of working life. It keeps you focused on doing your best work.
Without a clear connection to purpose, you’re likely to feel like you’re just going through the motions at work, slogging through the challenges. Days blur into days without any real meaning. Without a clear purpose, it’s hard to bring your best self to work. It’s easy to get lost, drift along, or feel stuck in your career.
On the other hand, when your purpose is clear, your career is built on a strong foundation. From there, anything is possible.
I identified my career purpose many years ago, and it has been a north star guiding my work ever since. My purpose is to help people have better lives at work. Most people spend at least half of their waking hours at work or thinking about work. That is far too much of your life to spend unhappy or stuck or drifting along. That’s why my goal is to help people find meaningful and fulfilling roles and to build productive and satisfying relationships at work.
The way I’ve expressed this purpose has changed over time. I spent years working in organizations, coaching teams to work well together. Then, I shifted my focus to providing leadership and communications training. Now I expressed my purpose primarily through coaching.
Throughout, my goal has remained the same: helping clients, just like you, find their purpose, and build the relationship skills, the communication skills, and the leadership skills to fulfill it. I want everyone to experience the joy of doing work they love, where they feel like they’re contributing in a meaningful way, in partnership with the people around them.
If you’re unclear about your purpose or feel like you’re not living into it right now, we can help. Reach out to my team. We’ll get on the phone with you for about 45 minutes, to explore where you are now, where you want to go, what’s clear about your purpose, and what’s not yet. If we can support you in getting more clarity, getting your career on track, and helping you make your next move (whether that’s moving up in your current company, or finding a different opportunity somewhere else), we’ll let know what that could look like. If not, we’ll tell you that, too, and point you to other resources. Either way, you’ll walk away with clarity. You can book that call at https://www.zmcoach.com/apply. We look forward to hearing from you.