Gone are the days when a job was just a job. The workplace these days thrives on purpose and meaningful work. [TWEET]
We members of the U.S. workforce live in a new era, or so social movements like Conscious Capitalism (based on Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey’s eponymous book), websites like Imperative, and books like Aaron Hurst’s The Purpose Economy tell us.
What’s the old era? It can be best summed up in the following exchange:
Person A: “What do you do?”
Person B: “I work for ______. I am responsible for _______.”
Person A: “How do you like it?"
Person B: “Well, it’s a job.”
“It’s a job.” Said with a pronounced sigh, talking about just another job signifies a kind of torture you tolerate in order to make a living. In this cynical perspective, you generally expect a job to be mostly trouble and are pleasantly surprised at the exceptional moments of harmony. As an individual, you also avoid all responsibility for the situation you’re in. What do I mean? Well, expecting nothing but the worst from work is a cop-out.
New workplace rules
So, what’s all the buzz about purpose? Why even bother talking about it?
As American workforces become increasingly millennial and less boomer in their composition, their expectations change for what they want or even demand from employers. This bias toward meaningful work and finding a job you love means that employers who encourage their employees’ potential and self-direction stand to attract and keep more young talent than those who don’t. The good thing for job-seekers (and all workers, period) is that companies are becoming increasingly aware that they can’t conduct “business as usual,” where employee exploitation and top-down subordination are the rule. Instead, the new paradigm can be boiled down to: Treat your employees well, and they will want to do their best work for you.
Sounds radical, doesn’t it? The sad thing is traditional workplace rules reward the centralized, authoritarian power structure where the person on the “bottom” takes orders and asks no questions. In fact, forget the bottom: If you’re anywhere but the top of this hierarchy, your voice and needs are largely inconsequential.
Enter the purpose-driven workplace. Collaboration and mutual interest are the rule, where enlightened employers recognize the success of their organization is directly proportional to how well they treat their employees … and promote their growth.
The Daniel Pink factor
Another way to understand the power of purpose and why organizations look to Zappos’ company culture for instruction, is what I’ll call “the Daniel Pink factor.” As outlined in the book Drive, Pink’s trifecta of autonomy, mastery and purpose is central to his thesis that today’s workers respond positively to, and are more fundamentally motivated by these factors than traditional ones like bonus plans or corner offices.
In short, if you’re looking for job search tips to change jobs or careers for reasons other than short-term monetary gain, your first criterion should be: Am I fulfilling my purpose at work?How is my employer helping me to be my best self and do my best work? This calculation can even help you determine whether you should stay at your current organization, or whether you should figure out how to find a job you love. If your employer actively supports your professional development and creates an environment for you to thrive, then it is worthy of your loyalty. You would stand to do well to remain with it. On the flip side, if it doesn’t, then you should be looking to invest yourself in a place that does. Life is too short, and your talents are too precious to be wasted for an organization that would abuse or disregard them.
Growth and security
The thinking goes: You spend so much of your time at work, you better be happy doing what you’re doing. And as Gretchen Rubin points out in The Happiness Project, a sense of growth and development is one of the most important and universal causes of sustained happiness.
Given this new understanding of what inspires the modern knowledge-based worker, how secure are you in your job? Not how likely are you to lose it, but how likely are you to cherish the thought of keeping it? If your work … and work environment … is purpose-filled, than you are more likely to be secure in your happiness, and therefore more productive. Everybody wins.
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