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Determining The Importance of Meaning in Your Work

There is a good chance we are going to win a contract that has tremendous personal meaning for me. I can’t disclose it yet, but the odds are in our favor. The project is so significant that it actually sends chills down my spine, makes me choke up, and keeps me up at night when I think about it, because I feel so incredibly blessed to potentially do this work.

Finding this level of meaning in my work is its own gift, independent of the actual project. I can’t imagine doing a job that didn’t hold meaning.

At Information Experts, we are incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to perform highly meaningful work over the past 14 years.
We have trained the troops in Afghanistan & Iraq (DoD and USAID). We have helped the school-age population understand the dangers of sun exposure (EPA) – which is especially meaningful for me because I am a melanoma survivor. We have taught first-responders (the first safety officials on the scene of a disaster) how to handle biological and nuclear accidents (EPA and FEMA).

We have educated the Millennial generation about the wonderful career opportunities in the manufacturing industry (National Association of Manufacturers). We designed and developed the FDIC Money Smart curriculum to ensure financial literacy for young adults and protect against a repeat of our current economic situation. We have trained the student loan administration how to use the Federal Student Aid system so that loans can be processed (Department of Education). We educated Congress on the need to update floodplain maps in at-risk areas so that consumers can obtain adequate insurance (FEMA).

We created a collaborative online community for performing artists, which enabled artists from all over the country to meet one another, perform virtual auditions, and exchange ideas (Wolf Trap). We built an information portal for Beth Israel Medical Center to educate the caregivers and families of terminally ill patients on how to best navigate this difficult stage of life.

And most recently, we launched the Yahoo small business online community to help solopreneurs and small business owners launch successful businesses. These are just a few of the meaningful programs we have built.

When people ask me what Information Experts does, the easy answer is to explain that we provide training & education, human capital, marketing & outreach, strategy services, and technology development services. But the mission of Information Experts is to change behavior. We change lives. Our goal is to bring about transformational, lasting change, and we do that through our services.

Knowing how to build an instructionally sound training program is important for what we do. Understanding the elements of design is critical. Being up-to-date on all of the technical development tools is essential. But it is the integration of the skill sets to achieve a higher mission that makes us who we are.

Consider this story:
“A man came upon two workers breaking granite so he stopped to ask them, “What are you doing?”
The first one sarcastically replied, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m trying to break this granite.”
The second worker enthusiastically responded, “I’m part of a team of people who are building a beautiful cathedral.”

Which worker found meaning in his work? With which one would you want to work? To whom would you entrust your business… your goals?

When someone asks you what you do, do you tell them about your skill set, or do you tell them about the changes that you shape? Skill sets are a dime a dozen. But it is the impact that you bring that is extraordinary and lasting. For which one do you want to be remembered?


Interested in gauging the meaning your work? Take this quiz from Harvard Business:


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Rebecca Dohrman

I loved this blog post and I am interested in how much we have in common! My dissertation is on the meaning of work for Millennial high-tech entrepreneurs. What is your background? I am just about to begin my final year of my PhD in organizational communication at Purdue University. Thank you for the interesting post!

Daniel Daughtry-Weiss

I agree. Focusing on a mission to provide services (primarily to government now) that result in important social outcomes has made a big difference for Dare Mighty Things as well. Its what attracted me an most of my colleagues to work here. Whenever I am discouraged, this is what keeps me going.