Wednesday December 04, 2013 | 07:30 AM
Posted by Barbara Babkirk

Author and executive coach, Richard Leider would say “a sense of purpose”.

Apparently, the quest for meaning is on our minds these days.

Research on the role of purpose conducted by Met Life showed that regardless of age, gender, life stage or financial status, most people assigned the highest importance to meaning-related activities in their lives—even above financial gain.

In my career counseling business, the search for “more meaning and purpose” by far outweighs any other reason driving clients’ job or career transitions.

With the point made that having a sense of purpose hits the top of the “must have” list for most of us, we’re left with the question of how do we find it?

The answer is often not that obvious, yet at the same time, can be right under your nose.

You don’t need to be a heart surgeon or a social worker to feel like you’re making a difference.

Take Tom for example, an artist who, for practical reasons such as a steady paycheck and health benefits, works in middle management at a manufacturing company. After several years at this company, Tom found himself grappling with the question of purpose and began asking himself:  “What am I doing in this job that’s meaningful?”

When he considered his actual job, Tom acknowledged that he was contributing to the economy of his state. But even though this fact aligned with his values, it did not register high enough on his purpose scale.

He then began to explore other aspects of his job that were peripheral to his day-to-day work tasks, but called on other skills and abilities he enjoyed using. Like opportunities to mentor and encourage new employees and provide a caring and compassionate presence to his subordinates.

Those activities made it all worthwhile, he admitted. Then he knew he was onto something. Tom began to imagine ways he might increase these activities and even sought out help from the human resource professional in the company.

Tom’s shift in awareness of what he was doing transformed his attitude about his contributions and gave new meaning to his work.

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself to explore purpose in your life:

-       At my core, who am I? What role/s do I enjoy playing in and outside of work? What values/priorities does this role represent?

-       What skills am I displaying in this role/s?

-       Do I have opportunities at work where my work activities and skills I enjoy come together? How often? What aspect/s of my work give me a sense of satisfaction and purpose, even if they are not specific to my job description?

-       Might there be ways to increase this activity? With whom might I discuss this?

-       What value or priority at this time in my life could drive a sense of purposefulness in work? Where, if not at my current job might I find this?


About this Blog

Barbara Babkirk is a Master Career Counselor and founder of Heart At Work Associates, a career counseling and outplacement firm in Portland.

With a focused and intuitive approach, Barbara makes a difference in people’s lives by helping them design a new life chapter. She has a successful record guiding career transitions for professionals ranging from executives and artists to attorneys and entrepreneurs.

An expert in her field, Barbara is a public speaker on work-related topics writes a solutions-oriented column about work for the Portland Sunday Telegram.


Scott Woodard is a career coach with Heart At Work Associates, a career counseling and outplacement business in Portland, Maine.

Scott works with clients to identify and articulate their value and their personal brand. He helps clients develop clear, concise and crisp messaging to convey their particular difference, their achievements and their approach.

Scott coaches clients to market their brand through social media platforms, especially LinkedIn. He offers monthly workshops on how to make the most of LinkedIn for businesses or job seekers.

Previous entries

April 2014

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February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013


October 2013

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August 2013

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