What Does Meaningful Work Look Like

Bill Johnson is the student success coordinator for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s School of Health and Human Science. He is so committed to the achievements of his students that he has earned the title “dean of dreams.” He defines meaningful work as when your values, gifts, talents and passion meet the needs of the world.

He claims meaningful work is found when the following 8 questions are answered:

  • Values – What is the most important thing about my work? Am I living out these values every day?
  • Interests – What gets me excited to come to work? What drags me into the workplace on those days when I would like to sleep in?
  • Essence – Can I be my real self at work or do I show up as an imposter? Do I have to check a piece of myself at the door in the morning and pick it up again during the afternoon?
  • Purpose – Do I know why I am at work? As Steve Jobs once said, “I want to put a ding in the universe.” Am I doing something that is bigger than myself?
  • Passion – Do I love my work? If I was independently wealthy, would I perform my job for free? Do I bring that extra zeal to work that translates in discretionary effort beyond the call of duty?
  • Mission – Do I truly understand my charge at work? Is it crystal clear what I am responsible for? Am I on the path to a brighter tomorrow for my organization?
  • Audience – Who do I want to impact? Whose boats am I going help elevate in the harbor? Who did I multiply today?

Talents and Gifts – What am I good at and like to do? What am I pulled toward in the workplace? What do I embrace at a high rate of speed? What do I do and after I do it I feel great?

Instead of dealing with core curriculum requirements as a student adviser, Johnson tries to get his students to find their path toward what is really important to them at school and in their eventual careers. Those who took his one credit class showed an 80 percent retention rate and a five-year graduation rate of 61 percent, about 12 percent higher than the university average.

What the “dean of dreams” teaches us is meaningful work allows us to share our gifts with others and make positive contributions to the workplace. Are you living out your dreams at work?

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