Five attributes of meaningful work

How to Find Fulfilling WorkMaria Popova offers a great summary of How to Find Fulfilling Work, philosopher Roman Krznaric’s treatise on employment with purpose and point — a book “for those who are looking for a job that is big enough for their spirit….” The summary, and the book, offers historic tidbits on when and why we started expecting our work to be fulfilling, and what various thinkers have thought about the subject.

Krznaric flags five keys to meaningful career — earning money, achieving status, making a difference, following our passions, and using our talents — each of which has its strengths and sandtraps. Money, he and others suggest, seems tied to happiness and meaning in work only until you are able to cover your basic financial needs (similar to the current conversations from Dan Pink about motivation and money). Status can become unstable and extrinsic when framed as ‘prestige,’ so Krznaric suggests ‘respect’ as a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic value at work.

‘Meaningful’ and ‘fulfilling’ are often words the drive young leaders into the arts professions, and also the elusive goals that keep the rest of us here. But I wonder how many of our organizations give continuous and focused attention to making the work within them meaningful — not just for the artists and audience (although certainly them), but for every level of staff and support.

The flipside of finding fulfilling work as an employee is creating opportunity for fulfilling work as a manager or supervisor or chief executive or board member. We may not have access to significant money to contribute to the equation, but the other four dials can certainly be turned up a notch. In fact, let’s turn them up to 11.

[If you don’t find reading fulfilling, you can watch Krznaric talk about his book on YouTube, or below.]