6 Steps for Pursuing Career Purpose
What’s your career purpose? Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
Achieving career purpose, fulfillment, and success is one of the most sought-after goals of job seekers and professionals today. Career experts’ definitions of career purpose, career fulfillment, and career success vary slightly, but all agree they matter in today’s job market and workforce. Whatever you call it, you probably want it. We all do, whether we’re conducting a job search or not.
What is career purpose? How can we practically pursue and attain it?
Defining Career Purpose
Career purpose is one element of your career that contributes to total career fulfillment. If you perform work that feels meaningful to you most of the time, you have likely achieved your career purpose.
It’s important to note that any career path, job role, or industry can feel rewarding, meaningful, and purposeful. The key to career purpose is to ensure you’re on a career path that allows you to:
- Explore your interests
- Utilize your skills
- Do work that reflects your values
- Feel passionate about the subject matter, people, or tasks
Notice that career purpose is one element of career fulfillment. So to achieve your career purpose, you must first define career fulfillment for yourself. As Steven Leapley, owner of Minimalist Marketing, notes, “We have to define career purpose, fulfillment, and success for ourselves, not what others say or tell us, but what we believe it to be.”
Career fulfillment can certainly be a moving target. Over time, our priorities change as our lives grow and adapt. If we become parents, for example, we may find that we feel less concerned about earning a higher income than we do about ensuring we have adequate flexibility to spend time with our children. If we become caregivers for loved ones, we might decide that our first priority is working remotely so we can be physically available and present with our loved ones to help as needed.
“One of the keys to a fulfilling career or life is a sense of purpose that allows us to find our passion, pursue important goals, and live life authentically. Most of us go about our lives without actively thinking about what our purpose is. Ask yourself, ‘What’s my why?’ and ‘What does happiness mean to me?’ And then, all decisions can be made strategically to fulfill your goals. This applies to decisions about your college choice, your career, your life partner, and more,” advises Rose Opengart, Ph.D., president of Interviews That Work.
6 Paths to Pursue Career Purpose
Let’s look at six ways you can practically and mindfully pursue your career purpose.
1. Begin with the End in Mind
As Wesley Reece, mindset coach, proposes, it’s best to begin with the end in mind. So don’t just define career purpose and fulfillment for yourself; envision yourself living as someone who has already found career purpose and fulfillment before you try to take practical steps to achieve a greater purpose.
Reece advises, “If you want to deep dive, imagine as if you were taking your last breath. Ask yourself, ‘What would it look like to live a life of no regrets?’ Then ask yourself, ‘What does this look like for me?’ And then comes, ‘Why is this important to me?”
2. Get Reflective and Contemplative
If you genuinely want to find your career purpose, resist the tendency to go, go, go, and do, do, do. Initially, you should spend adequate time reflecting, contemplating, praying, or meditating. Career coaches, life coaches, and mindset coaches all agree that time exploring your deeper desires and your spiritual needs is never wasted.
Trina Holman, trainer and speaker with Maxwell Leadership, encourages job seekers to “begin by searching within” when defining career purpose and career fulfillment. Before jumping ship, Trina urges professionals to examine their current workplace and job role to identify if opportunities to expand, grow, or move closer to their passions are already there.
“If the opportunity for career fulfillment can’t be found where you are, do some soul searching. Is your work something you could provide for others, or could you help develop the future leaders in your industry through coaching or training? Remember, you always have options,” Holman adds.
3. Start Where You Are
Before launching a job search in pursuit of your career purpose, carefully consider whether you can find a career purpose in your current job role or with your current employer.
“Start where you are and take a hard look at your current role and company. Are there things you could take on to light yourself up and provide you with a greater sense of purpose within the organization? If so, have a conversation with your immediate supervisor or department head,” suggests Beverly Smith, career search strategist.
Even if you’re sure you’ll need to change job roles or change employers, look at the past before moving forward. Barb Buckner, HR consultant, advises clients accordingly:
“Look at the roles you have already held and think about what aspects of the positions you found most fulfilling. What was it that got you excited to tackle? Then ask yourself: could I find a position focused more on these aspects or create a role that does?”
4. Consider a Pivot
After evaluating your previous roles and current position, if you still feel your career purpose is lacking and impossible to attain where you are, then it’s time to launch a job search. But before launching a job search and starting over, consider a career pivot.
A career pivot allows you to remain in your role but find a new direction, a new target audience, or a new product or service you can provide. This is very doable for entrepreneurs and employees who work in agile environments with managers who want to retain them and are willing to accommodate their employees. A pivot isn’t necessarily any easier than launching a job search. Still, it does allow you to take advantage of the relationships you’ve already built and the experience you’ve acquired within your current role rather than starting over from scratch.
Dr. Bev Browning, grant writing coach, recently found herself at a low point when her grant writing income diminished. She shares her experience and the solution she discovered, which involved reflection, assessment, and a career pivot.
“I was too comfortable living an as-is life expecting new clients without marketing. I prayed for direction and solutions. Because I prayed and followed instructions immediately, I pivoted my services by focusing more heavily on training. My live Zoom courses are thriving. I am humbled and grateful to be able to work from home, care for my husband, and still mentor and coach others,” Browning explains.
5. Explore New Options
If you need to launch a full-on job search, first take personal and professional inventory.
“If you feel like you are at a dead end in your current role, the next step would be to take inventory of your strengths, skills, and passions. When my clients are considering a career change but are unsure of their next move, I ask them, ‘How do you want work to feel?’ With all this in mind, spend time researching industries and positions that sound interesting to you and speak to people in those roles,” encourages Beverly Smith.
When you launch your job search, keep your pursuit for greater career purpose and career fulfillment front of mind. It’s easy to be distracted by typical dangling carrots, including a better salary or amazing perks. But unless you have already identified that salary is one of your top priorities toward achieving career fulfillment, you need to stay focused.
Only apply for jobs if the job posting or description fits your definitions of career fulfillment and purpose.
6. Remain Flexible
Whether you remain in your current role and pursue a greater career purpose or choose to find a new job or new career path, the key is staying flexible. Understand that as you pursue career purpose, your own definitions of career purpose, career fulfillment, and career success will evolve. As you grow, your priorities change. Don’t be married to your current description of career purpose, or you’ll find yourself lacking the very thing you seek.
If you’re seeking a new job during your search for career purpose, check out the resources and job postings available at Lensa.com.