Amy Wrzesniewski, Ph.D., a Yale professor and researcher, found that people have one of three views of their work:
People who have a job see the work as a chore and the paycheck as their reward. They work because they have to.
People with a career like the concept of moving forward and succeeding.
People with a vocation find their work satisfying and believe it is meaningful, builds on their strengths, and contributes to the greater good.
Unsurprisingly, people with a vocational vocation not only find their work more rewarding, but work harder and longer because of it. And therefore, these are the people who are generally more likely to get ahead. But those without a calling mindset need not despair.
Related: You don't have to like what you do...
Wrzesniewski's most interesting finding is not just that people view their work in one of these three ways, but that it doesn't matter what kind of job we have. She found that there are doctors who only see their job as a job and janitors who see their job as a calling. Indeed, in a study of 24 administrative assistants, each orientation was represented in roughly equal thirds, even though their objective situations (job description, salary, and education) were almost identical.
Whatever your work, you can find meaning in it. In my business consulting work, I encourage employees to rewrite their job description to be more call-oriented. I got them thinking about how the same assignments could be written in a way that would entice others to apply for the job. The goal is not to distort the work they do, but to highlight the meaning that can be derived from it.
Next, I ask them to reflect on their own personal goals in life. How can their current job duties relate to this larger goal? Researchers have found that even the smallest tasks can have more meaning when tied to personal values and goals. The more we can align our daily tasks with our personal vision, the more likely we are to see work as a calling.
You can also try this quick exercise to find a small dose of meaning in your work:
Take a piece of paper and jot down a mandatory task that you find meaningless – something you dread.
Ask yourself what the purpose of the task is, draw an arrow and write down the answer.
If this answer still seems meaningless, ask yourself:what does this result lead to? Note this answer.
Continue this process until you find a meaningful result.
Related: What to do if you hate your job
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of LadiesBelle I/O magazine.