By Kirstin Karoub
Purpose is often described as why we do what we do.
It is a fundamental human condition – to make meaning of our existence – to understand why we were placed on this earth and are given our own set of unique skills, talents, ambitions, and passions.
What inspires us to articulate and follow purpose in the first place? In some cases, an influential person in our life has recognized our strengths, sparked a passion, or modeled a career, mission or pursuit we wanted to emulate, adopt, or support.
Purpose can be inspired by a life experience, response to a social or environmental injustice, or exposure to new information, groups of people, or world views.
Often, we discover purpose through the honing of personal skills and talents, the pursuit of an activity we love, or a calling to address a need.
In every case, the pursuit of purpose means we connect with, contribute to, or focus on something beyond ourselves.
The Purpose Generation
One group highly inspired by purpose is the Millennials, also dubbed “the Purpose Generation.” Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996, who have never known life without the internet, have ready access to cheap technology, and free information.
What kind of influence do Millennials have on the way companies do business, market products, and build a workforce? A lot. According to one source, by 2020, they will make up 50% of the workforce and will soon be the #1 market influencer. A recent article cites that 70% of Millennials will spend more money on brands supporting causes important to them. They officially comprise a majority of the voting age population and will soon make up the majority of entrepreneurs.
This influential majority values inspiration and purpose in their work. In a survey conducted by NetImpact, 59% of Millennials said their happiness was impacted by a job where “I could make an impact.” Half said they would take a pay cut to find a career path that held personal meaning for them. By the time they’re 35 years old one Career Builder study reveals, 25% of millennials will have held at least 5 jobs.
Millennials aren’t the only ones searching for meaning in the workplace. A study from Harvard Business Review stated that 9 in 10 Americans would be willing to trade a portion of income to have a more meaningful job.
How does one find a career that fulfills purpose?
While nonprofit companies by nature tend to be more mission-driven, employees are expecting more from the for-profit sector, as well. They want to know that their employer has a purpose position that aligns with their own values, allowing them to make an impact through the work they do. More companies are adopting Corporate Social Responsibility practices, realizing they are being held to a higher set of expectations from both consumers and employees. They are also engaging current employees through social impact initiatives, such as “green” projects and community outreach programs.
What if your purpose sends you in a more self-led direction outside of a company or business? There are still other ways to turn your passion into a viable career. If you’re just in the beginning phases, you’ll need to do some research. Talk to a career counselor to identify careers best supported by your strengths and passions. Read blogs, scan social media, join forums, connect with people who share your passions and skills, or are already building a career you would like to emulate. Find small business, nonprofit or entrepreneurial support organizations to help you launch your project once it’s time.
What about those who are employed somewhere that isn’t sparking passion, but is paying the bills? Or those who need the steady pay check while they take more time to fully develop their purpose path?
It is still possible to find purposeful inspiration on a current career path – it just takes a little more creativity.
An article in Forbes recommends finding inspiration in the job activities you like to do, the accomplishments you have made, and by getting involved in charitable causes or social impact initiatives your employer supports. Assess the contribution your own work makes to corporate higher purpose and find meaning in that. And for those job responsibilities you don’t love – think about how they might contribute value to the world. How might those mundane tasks enable a larger cause or impact the greater good?
Considering the amount of time we spend working, building a career inspired by our uniquely defined purpose offers the best of both worlds. Both pursuits can span a lifetime, meaning you have time to assess, research, and explore what lights you on fire, and then pursue it. Once you see that path unfold, you will discover how inspiring purpose can truly be.
Kirstin Karoub is Vice President, Operations & Strategy, for Your People LLC.