Some of the most misery-inducing career advice ever devised is this:
Follow your passion.
Being deeply passionate about your job, day in and day out, is just not practical for most people. Passions that transform into careers that pay the bills are few and far between. Passion can wither when you're compelled to do it as full-time work year after year. You might not have anything you feel especially passionate about right now. Or, as Mike Rowe once quipped, "Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it."
Your job can be more meaningful and satisfying without getting your personal passions involved. Here are ways you can find meaning in your job:
Shape your job
Even jobs that are fascinating at the beginning can become monotonous over time. As you get better at tasks, they are no longer as challenging or interesting. And, as you work hard and develop professionally, you pick up new interests and outgrow others. The job you once enjoyed can lose its meaning when it no longer offers new possibilities.
Job crafting is about taking control of your job by reshaping your responsibilities to better fit your skills and interests. It can mean small changes, like taking phone calls while on a reinvigorating walk. Or it can mean bigger changes, like asking your manager to let you give more presentations so you can practice your public speaking skills.
If you're not in a position where you can change your responsibilities, you may be able to take control over when you do what you do. Try the anti-procrastination technique of "swallowing the frog," in which you do the least appealing or most challenging task first, leaving you more motivated and productive the rest of the day.
Improve your coworker relationships
You spend more time around your coworkers than you do with most other people in your life. Even if you prefer to keep work and life separate, nurturing meaningful relationships with your colleagues can bring greater meaning to your job. When you get to know each of your coworkers and value the contributions they make to your organization, you'll become better at communicating, collaborating and creating successes together. This purpose-filled collegiality can improve your job satisfaction and performance.
You don't need to become best friends forever with every coworker. It can be as simple as being approachable and friendly, and expressing gratitude. When you're together, skip the gossip and complaints. Instead talk about what they're working on, what they're learning and what keeps them excited about their job.
Make an effort to enjoy official social events at the office. Hang out with coworkers outside the office in a way you enjoy, whether that's grabbing coffee or going on a run. Spend more of your time with coworkers whose company you enjoy, and less with those who themselves don't find meaning in their jobs.
Meet the people your organization serves
Sit at your desk too long, and the people your organization serves become abstractions far removed from your daily routine. This distancing can make it difficult to understand and empathize with the people you serve and can make you ambivalent and unenthusiastic about your work.
To inject more meaning into your job, meet the people your organization serves out in the real world. Attend community events, government meetings and other public forums. When you're there, don't talk. Simply listen to what people have to say. If your organization has a community outreach program, offer to staff the table at community events or attend community meetings in an official capacity.
Feeling bold? Suggest your organization hold listening sessions to gain a deeper understanding of your community's concerns, motivations and needs, so everyone at your office can find more meaning in their jobs.
How have you found meaning in your job? Share your ideas in the comments.
Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, writer, and speaker based in San Francisco. She helps organizations engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.