Work Your Purpose: Take Steps to Find Out What You are Really Here to Do

Far too many people work in jobs they hate. The reasons they stay in uninspiring jobs vary. Some stay because the pay is steady. Others believe they won’t earn comparable money at another employer.

Whether it’s proximity to a child’s school, an elderly parent, or a spouse’s job, remaining at an unfulfilling job becomes the status quo. These individuals report to a j-o-b rather than performing work that motivates or advances their careers. As a result, our workplaces are filled with misfits—people who are not working in their purpose.

The Gallop organization regularly polls the state of the workplace. Since 2000 it has polled millions of employees in nearly 200 countries about job satisfaction. One of the most recent surveys found that a significant number of workers hate their jobs.

This is concerning for employers because unhappiness at work can lead to low employee morale, absenteeism, and poor productivity. For individuals, low job satisfaction contributes to depression and poor team relations. It could also damage interpersonal relationships with family and friends.

For these reasons, it is important for individuals to gauge their own satisfaction and to proactively manage their experiences at work.

Job Satisfaction Analysis

Here are a few questions to help determine your job satisfaction:

Am I clear about what is expected of me at work?

Do I have what I need to perform my job successfully?

Am I able to offer my best work every day?

Is my work meaningful?

Do I have friends at work?

Do I have a mentor at work?

Is my work important to the company?

Are there opportunities to learn and grow at my workplace?

Are these opportunities available to me?

Is it a burden to go to work each day?

Does my supervisor recognize my job performance?

Do I care about my supervisors and co-workers?

Would I quit my job if another company offered me the same or slightly more pay?

More negative responses than positive ones may indicate a change is needed. However, before blaming bad bosses, annoying co-workers, and poor work environments, individuals should consider what they can do to help bring about positive change.

While switching jobs might be an option, a change in attitude could also offer a different and consequential point of view.

An Entrepreneur’s Dream

For entrepreneur Nikki Huntley, it was a prospective job relocation that changed the trajectory of her life and career. In 2017 her employer announced that some of its operations would be moving from Alabama to Texas. Nikki’s entire department was targeted to move. Although she’d been employed at the company for twenty years, relocating was not an option.

The news was distressing for the mother of two because she had grown accustomed to the steady paycheck her job provided. “When I took the job years ago, I was a new mother needing good pay and benefits. Over time I got comfortable,” Nikki said.

With the threat of having no income, Nikki realized that she had to make a major decision. She decided to open De’ Ja Ray Consignments, a boutique specializing in high-end women’s apparel and jewelry. Nikki said the turn of events was confirmation that it was time to “do what had been in my heart for years.”

The shop is named in honor of her 17-year old daughter, De’Ja. “I’d always told my daughter that I wanted to open a boutique. I also wanted her to see me do something purposeful,” Nikki said.

Though she spent years working as an employee in a company, Nikki’s advice to others, “Don’t be afraid to step out on faith to make your dreams come true.”

While she has faced many obstacles and had despairing moments since becoming an entrepreneur, Nikki said each has been overcome, providing the assurance that she is doing what is intended for her. She is now helping two other vendors fulfill their dreams by allowing them to showcase their wares in her store.

Deal Maker to Professor

Karen Braxton was once a successful media sales executive earning hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. At the time, she found joy in the hustle and bustle of deal-making. However, a life-changing event led to what she now believes is her purpose.

While undergoing treatment for cancer, she enrolled in a university program to complete a master’s degree in business. The process was grueling, yet she stuck it out. Along the way, she decided to move back to her hometown to recuperate. There, she began to help run her family’s elder-care business. It was there she found joy in unexpected places.

After almost simultaneously earning her master’s degree and defeating cancer, she decided to pursue a doctorate degree. Now miles away from the world she once lived in, Karen finds peace working on a university campus where she teaches students how to become the best versions of themselves.

Karen has found her purpose. “Early in my career, I thought I was doing what was destined for me to do,” she said. “I’d followed the book model for success, yet deep down I always knew there was more for me to do,” she said.

Discover Your Purpose

If searching for your purpose, here are steps to help move closer to your goal.

  1. Dare to dream bigger. If you are playing small, you are likely thinking small. Imagine the biggest vision possible for yourself, then figure out steps to achieve it. Sometimes our only limitation is what we tell ourselves.
  2. Write a mission statement. Companies and organizations spend considerable time and money crafting vison and mission statements, why shouldn’t you? These statements are declarations of what you want to do. Committing your dream on paper is one tangible step toward achieving it.
  3. Create a board of advisors. Identify individuals who can offer objective counsel and advice. Be transparent about their assignments in your life. If they agree to support you, be respectful of their time; follow-up to let them know how you are doing; and keep them apprised about how their advice is helping you.
  4. Discover your strengths. There is something that each of us is uniquely able to do. Identify, name, and capitalize on yours.
  5. Do your homework. There are many successful people whose skills and interests are like yours. Don’t be afraid or intimidated to seek them out to discover what they did to achieve success. Their example could provide a template for you to follow.
  6. Know what brings you joy. This might take some time to figure out, however, it’s worth the exploration. It is likely the thing you would do if you never got paid. Keep in mind, there can be riches in your hobbies.

Finding purpose can be a never-ending journey. The key is to get started. As civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, once said, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

So, go ahead and follow your dreams. Have the courage to take the first step on a journey of a thousand miles.  In doing so, you might find your purpose and satisfaction.


Debra Nelson is President of Elevate Communications, a professional development and communication services firm. An executive coach and certified facilitator of Korn Ferry’s Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI), Debra also consults and speaks on topics related to diversity and inclusion, leadership development, employee engagement and women’s empowerment.

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