How to find a career that is meaningful to you – five steps you need to take

Are you unfulfilled by the work you do? Do you feel that there must more to life than this? Here are five steps to take to find a meaningful career.

The past few years have certainly been filled with challenges, particularly when it comes to our working lives. 

The lockdowns saw millions of people across the UK working from home for the first time. Our personal and work lives blended into one. We home schooled. We sat in countless Zoom meetings. We shifted and adapted. In all the uncertainty and chaos people were forced to reflect.

What’s really important? What do I want to prioritise? Do I have a healthy work-life balance?

As we head into 2022, I’m encouraging you to take a pause and ask yourself ‘Am I working meaningfully?’ What does that mean? It means working in a job or finding a career that’s meaningful to you, that fills you up and lights a fire in your belly. It’s about having a career you don’t have to escape from and a personal and professional life that feels true to who you are and what you value. 

It might sound difficult, and yes it will require a bit of soul searching, but it’s not quite as daunting as it may seem. You can have a meaningful career. And you can feel fulfilled in your work.

Experienced career adviser Katie Redfern has put together some simple steps towards finding a career that’s meaningful to you and lights you up from the inside out. Follow these steps and open yourself up to new opportunities, experiences and ways of life. 

1) Figure out what’s meaningful to you

When it comes to our careers, it’s very easy to find ourselves striving towards someone else’s definition of success. 

Maybe upon hearing the word success you picture a fancy car, a director title, an expensive suit or gigantic house. Maybe it’s some other variation of perfect. But when you stop and take time to think about what it is that you want out of life, does it really fit that definition?  

It can be easy to compare ourselves to others. But it’s pointless. You will never feel fulfilled by going after what’s meaningful to someone else. You have to find meaning for yourself. 

You can do this in a number of ways. I would recommend writing a list of your values. You can look these up online for some ideas but it’s important you only jot down things that resonate with you. Narrow the list down to your core values. Then write down a list of your skills and talents. Put these lists side by side and ask yourself – how can I combine these things to contribute to the world? 

We all have something to contribute. Don’t be held back by feeling like you have to change the world. That’s not what this is about. It’s about what we each have to offer – our unique skills, talent and passions. 

2) Learn to work with your inner critic

Research tells us that 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of our thoughts are repetitive. We all have that horrible inner voice that shouts ‘no you can’t!’ Don’t let that voice win

When I’m working with clients, I often hear common fallacies like I’m too old, I’m unemployable, I’ve been on a long career break and my skills aren’t relevant, I won’t ever be as good again, the industry has moved on or I’m not up to speed with the markets. The search for meaning will always bring with it fear as things will change so we need to be as robust as possible and work with our negative thoughts and doubts actively.

 Ask yourself where that inner critic comes from. If you dig deep enough you usually start to recognise the voice. To begin to work against it, start by acknowledging the negative thoughts. See if you can learn to catch yourself without judgement. ‘Hmm… that was a negative thought.’ Note what the voice said and see if there are any patterns like some of the fallacies I mentioned above. Write them down if you can.

At the end of the day look at the things on the page and try to flip the narrative. Ask yourself if they are really true? What evidence do you have that proves otherwise? Trust me, you will have it. 

3) Embrace change

As you start to get greater clarity on what’s meaningful for you and how this might translate into a career change or a career tweak, your inner critic is likely to get louder. It’s important that during this phase you work towards embracing change and fighting that critical anxious voice inside your head. 

List your fears as they pop up. They may come in the form of annoying ‘what ifs?’ Maybe even share them with someone. It’s remarkable how saying your fears out loud or seeing them written down takes away its power. 

Practice being mindful and present. At a macro level assure yourself that you are safe in this moment and find something to be grateful for in the present. Think about what you can achieve today. Understand that this is the only thing you have control of. 

You could even try catastrophizing for a moment. Think about what’s the worst that could happen if your fears come true. How will you as a kind and wise caretaker of yourself overcome these outcomes. What skills and abilities would you use, what networks do you have, what else can you rely on?

4) Start an action plan

One of the greatest ways to overcome fears and embrace change is to create momentum. So, make an action plan to ensure this is possible. Your action plan should include:

  • Defining your goal and your reason for change.
  • Getting clarity on the steps you need to take to move toward your goal and breaking those steps down so that your actions are achievable.
  • Working out what you’re missing so you can plug the gaps.
  • Establishing timeframes and deadlines you need to meet which will help you with time management and priorities.
  • Detailing milestones you need to hit.
  • Defining desired outcome or outcomes.

5) Persist

Persistence is the key to making anything happen. Many of my clients come to me and feel defeated in their work life. They are lost and have challenges mounting up around them but they’ve made the decision to make a start on changing their lives so that they can work towards a future they’re happy with. They make a choice to persist.

Finding a meaningful career will require persistence. Honour yourself by refusing to give up. Know that you deserve to find meaning in your work. 

If you’d like to dive even deeper into how to find a meaningful career, I wrote a whole book about it filled with exercises and guidance you can explore. Always remember that your journey towards a meaningful career and meaningful work may also have a positive ripple effect and stand in the gap for others.

Don’t give up as no matter how small it may feel, you may just be the change the world needs.

Katie Redfern is the founder of Meaningful Recruitment and author of Working Meaningfully – Your fast-track guide to a career that lights you up. She’s a highly experienced career adviser, recruitment consultant, professional coach and CV Writer.

With over 20 years of experience in these fields she has helped many clients transition to a happier place in their work life using her wealth of knowledge including her professional coaching qualifications and degree in Social Psychology.

Katie is well known for boosting her client’s confidence by providing them with the tools and resources they need to help them during their career journey. She also has a vast network of organisations that she works with who are striving to make a positive social impact in our world including many B Corporations. You can email Katie directly here.

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