Meaning and Purpose: The Main Reason for Career Happiness

“So, what’s the goal, to be Senator or something?” About twenty five years ago, I was a young public service attorney. I was visiting my high school friend who was with his wealth manager friend. The friend – Steve – was gregarious and direct. But he was also as shallow as the caricature of the villains in 1980s Wall Street movies. He had a very distinct and tangible goal: make as much money as possible. He was completely confused by my abstract answers regarding “making a positive difference”, “serving justice” and “helping others.” He then latched on to what he assumed must be my tangible goal: political success. The whole meaning/purpose concept was completely lost on him. Ten years later, he was caught in an SEC investigation after losing the money of not only his clients that he knew from his sales but also friends and family members who had trusted him. Steve, like many of my generation, did not give much career thought to meaning and purpose. Instead, he just wanted to make money.

Many in my generation – particularly men – were focused on getting ahead, making money, conquering the world… with very little thought to having work that mattered.

As time has gone on, I’ve noticed unequivocally that those who have meaning and purpose in their work have happy careers and those that don’t… it depends. Some are so successful that they feel fine. Most others, not so much.

Now, as the pandemic has created “reflection” time, the clients of Career Counseling seem to walk in the door – more often open their Zoom 🙂 – with a deeper appreciation of how much meaning and purpose matters for career happiness.