When the pandemic happened in 2020, many of us suddenly found ourselves working remotely. With everything shut down, we were free from distractions. We finally had the time and the space to go inward and ask ourselves some deep questions. A major one was “what is my purpose?”
I was asking myself that question.
That was why I launched a podcast called A Work In Purpose.
In each episode, I interviewed people who had found their purpose and shared their insights and stories of how they did it. I heard an array of perspectives from people with diverse backgrounds. I talked to a neuroscientist, eco-entrepreneur, virtual-reality artist, hypnotherapist, breathwork instructor, life coaches, and more.
The Great Search for purpose
Now as we are returning to work, our workplace has changed. Our connection to work has also changed. Many of us are now wondering how we can align our purpose with our work.
And many people are making moves. A record number of people joined the “Great Resignation” and quit their job, likely because they realized their work did not provide a sense of purpose. Then came the “Great ReShuffle” in which millions of people switched to a new line of work. But then there are also millions of people who experience the “Great Regret” about quitting because they’re finding the job market tougher than expected. Plus, they actually miss their “work family.”
If you’re a people leader, you might have folks in your company wondering how they can find more purpose at work. Or you might be pondering this question yourself. It’s important to be intentional and clear about what that purpose is (so you don’t end up with the “Great Regret” too).
To provide you with insights and actions that can help you and your team find purpose at work, I recently interviewed Dr. Dana Mitra. She’s a leadership coach who specializes in helping professionals connect their work and purpose. She’s also a professor of education policy studies at Penn State University and the author of the book “The Empower Professor.” Here are her top tips for finding purpose at work.
8 Tips to find your purpose at work
Get really clear on what your values are
Everyone has different values. That’s why one person’s purpose cannot be the same for everyone. To find out what your purpose is, first you need to identify your values.
Here are some ways Dr. Dana Mitra suggests you can get clarity on your values:
1. Identify what sort of work charges your batteries and what drains them. It’s more important to notice the negatives because they’ll help you narrow down what sort of work is not aligned with your values.
2. Think about the times when you were in flow. Being in flow is a feeling of losing track of time and space because you’re so immersed in what you’re working on. This feeling is a good indication that you’ve found your path and that you should follow it.
3. Pinpoint what you would say. If you’re writing one tweet about something important to you, what would you tweet about? Or if you had a billboard, what would your headline be? Start by coming up with ten things you would say to see your values.
4. Ask your friends this on social media. Ask them “what do you see as my gifts to the world?” Then see what answers they give to describe you. This will help you know which ones you want to shine more of.
5. Engage in activities that clear your mind. Chances are, you probably already know what your values and purpose are deep inside. But the noise in your head is getting in the way. Take walks in nature, meditate, or free-write in a journal. That’ll help you quiet the endless chatter, allow you to listen to your inner wisdom, and gain clarity about your purpose.
Explore your purpose in your current job
Unless you know with some certainty what your purpose is, it can be risky to quit your job and move on to something else only to find out that it is not aligned with your purpose. If your job gives you some agency and flexibility on how you can grow your career, here are some ways you can explore your purpose in your current role.
6. Say “yes” to certain projects. Be curious about what sort of projects are available. Identify those that seem to be more interesting to you than others and volunteer to contribute. This is a low-stakes way to experiment to see what feels more aligned with your values and purpose.
7. Talk to someone who has your dream job. Or someone who you might want to be in ten years. Since this isn’t a job interview, you can ask questions to learn about how they got there and what challenges they’ve encountered along the way. As you listen to them, you’ll also see what resonates with you about what they do and what excites you.
8. Build connections with your coworkers. This builds trust. More importantly, this helps you build a supportive community and a sense of belonging. Everyone I’ve interviewed on the podcast who is living out their purpose told me that having a supportive group is the key to finding and stepping into your purpose.
How to step into your purpose
Let’s say you’ve done some of the tips and you’ve found your purpose. Now what? In order to step into your purpose, you have to step outside of your comfort zone. Here are some actions you can take to get started.
Make your intentions clear by setting a goal. Put your goals down on a vision board and make them easily visible so you can refer to them at any time. Tell some people what it is that you want to do, but pick wisely.
Try on your new way of being among safer people. Not everyone is going to be supportive of you making positive changes. Non-supportive people can be especially detrimental during the beginning of your new journey.
Start in low-stakes places. It can start as a side project in your current job. Or try it out as a hobby or a side hustle.
Monitor yourself and have some sort of accountability mechanism. Create a tracking system so you can see your progress towards your purpose.
Find an accountability partner or group. Put the word out there to people who are also trying to step into their purpose. You’d be surprised by how easy it is to find others doing the same thing. Better yet, start an accountability group with several coworkers and meet up once a month. Not only will you hold each other accountable for your goals, but it also deepens connection and a sense of belonging.
Embodying my purpose at Envoy
One of the most important things to remember on your journey is that your purpose(s) can change. Pursuing one purpose can lead you to your next and maybe a bigger purpose. That was the case for me.
Since I started the podcast two years ago, I learned that one of my purposes is to help others realize their full potential and purposes. I also learned that we cannot do that alone. We need a sense of belonging in order for us to get there. So creating a sense of belonging is also a part of my purpose.
And that was what led me to my role at Envoy.
When I first learned that Envoy’s bigger mission is to bring people together to connect, collaborate and thrive, I knew immediately that this company is in total alignment with my values and purpose. Just the other week, I launched a new mobile feature that empowers employees to build community at work.
In just two years, I went from having no sense of purpose to embodying my purpose at work. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. With the proper approach and effort, this journey is possible for everyone–including you.
Listen to the full interview with Dr. Dana Mitra for more tips here.
P.S. Envoy is also hiring!