Research Paper By Jennifer Bisser
(Career Coach, USA)
This paper explores why there is such a high level of dissatisfaction in the workplace across the world and how knowing one’s life purpose can impact career happiness. We will also look into the role that career coaching plays in empowering people to discover their life’s purpose, thereby helping them to find their career bliss.
The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. - Steve Jobs
In 2014, Gallup conducted a worldwide employee engagement survey called State of the Global Workplace. The results of the survey revealed high levels of disengaged employees worldwide. Gallup reported that 87% of employees worldwide and 70% US employees are disengaged from their work.1 Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.
High levels of disengagement can have a huge impact on the global economy due to the fact that it affects productivity at the individual level, which in turn affects productivity at the organizational level. Active disengagement costs the U.S. an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually according to Gallup research.
What contributes to such high levels of disengagement? A variety of explanations exist as to why employees become unhappy in their work. Jacob Morgan, a contributor to Forbes Magazine, explains that we all lead “double lives”. We have one life at home and another life at work. He attributes this gap to organizational stagnation; organizations are not adapting to change at the same rate the way we work has evolved over the years.4 Employees start to feel like robots, making long commutes to work, sitting at desks all day, reading never ending emails, and feeling as if they no longer have control over their lives or the work that they do.
Leigh Branham, a career transition coach, wrote on the Association of Leadership site that too little coaching and feedback, and a mismatch between the job and the employee are two reasons for disengagement.5 Similar to Morgan’s “double lives” theory, Michael Chayes, a managing partner at Sustained Leadership, attributes disengagement to the “culture of business” which asks people to leave their personal lives at home. Chayes says, “The irony is that we ask people to be role players during their work day and not who they fully are as human beings, but then we’re perplexed and concerned when most of them feel disengaged from their organizations.”
Another reason people feel disengaged is that they are struggling to find meaning, purpose and connection to their work. Much is written about millennials’ desire to have meaningful work. Adam Smiley Poswolsky, the author of “The Quarter Life Breakthrough”, writes that millennials are, “driven to make the world more compassionate, innovative, and sustainable.” He explains that millennials aren’t looking to make a lot of money or retire at 40, rather they want to do work that has an impact now versus putting it off until later. Evidence suggests it isn’t just the millennials who feel this way. Ilya Pozin, a LinkedIn Influencer, states that the number two reason people dislike their jobs is that their passion is gone and their work does not connect to their purpose.
The Importance of Purpose
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. –Mark Twain
The Harvard Business Review describes purpose in the article, “From Purpose to Impact”, as the strengths and passions that you bring to the table and what “everyone close to you recognizes as uniquely you and would miss most if you were gone.”
Research shows that having a strong sense of purpose can have a profound impact on one’s life including living longer, protecting against disease and having better relationships. For example, a study of over 73,000 Japanese men and women in 2009 found that those who tended to live longer had a strong connection to their sense of purpose in life. According to research published in Psychological Science, “finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer.” This was evidenced by data from the study over a 14-‐year period of time where the 569 participants who died during the study had reported lower purpose in life and fewer positive relations than did survivors.
The New York Times conducted a study in coordination with The Energy Project to determine why people hate their work. They found that when people derive meaning and significance from their work, they are three times as likely to remain at their place of work. They also found purpose to have the single highest impact on people’s satisfaction with work, over other influences such as time for renewal/breaks, value and focus. 10 This shows that people who fail to find meaning and purpose in their work are more likely to leave, to be unhappy or to feel unfulfilled.
The United States has a culture of work hard, play hard; where many companies consider three weeks vacation generous. Simply take a poll amongst friends and it will likely reveal that many struggle to find careers that enable them to live their purpose or to have the impact that they’d like to have in their careers.
How to Find Meaning and Purpose
I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you. - Oprah Winfrey
We now know that finding one’s purpose and meaning can lead to a more fulfilling career. However, finding one’s purpose is challenging. If it weren’t, many more people would be in fulfilling careers than are now and there wouldn’t be thousands of books, articles and blog posts written on this subject. Finding one’s purpose is challenging and can take some people years before they’ve discovered it.
Here, we’ll explore questions and action one can leverage during an inner quest for purpose. Below is a list of common reflections that may help uncover what is most meaningful to you:
- What did you specifically love doing as a child? Describe an example of something that you loved and how it made you feel.
- What activities make you lose track of time? What activities get you into the flow?
- What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
- What is an issue that you feel strongly about? What about it impacts you?
- What are your innate strengths? What would others say that you are naturally good at?
- Who inspires you? Who do you admire? What about these individuals is inspiring or admirable?
- What are your top values?
- If you were to teach something, what would you teach?
- What would you regret not doing in your life?
Some also say that to find your purpose, you must start by taking action. Shannon Kaiser, author of “Find Your Happy: An Inspirational Guide to Loving Life to Its Fullest”, believes that you cannot think your way into finding your passion, rather you must do your way into it. 11 We tend to believe that if we think about something long enough, we will figure it out. However, Kaiser explains that sometimes you won’t be able to find your passion without taking action first. She suggests taking steps towards your goals and trying new things.
Mark Manson, a personal development author, shares a similar sentiment stating, “Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-‐contact sport, a trial-‐and-‐error process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we actually do the activity.”12 Manson suggests thinking about where you would go and what you would do were you forced to leave your house everyday for everything except for sleep.
A host of resources can also be found online that provide advice on finding one’s purpose such as Tiny Buddha’s “3 Steps to Find Your Purpose When Life is Crashing Into Chaos”, Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth”, and websites such as Oprah.com, TheMuse.com, and Levo League.
The Role of Coaching in Finding A Dream Career
If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs.– Tony Gaskins
We’ve explored ways to explore one’s purpose and meaning above. However, some find that going it alone doesn’t get them all the way to finding a new, more fulfilling career. They may have answers to some of the questions listed above, for example, but still lack clarity on what it all means or how that translates into an ideal career. This is where the value of career coaching becomes evident. Enlisting professional coaching support can be the key to how someone is able to identify their purpose and get onto the right career path.
More and more seekers are turning to career coaches to help them wade through the choices and guide them to a place where they can visualize and take action towards finding fulfilling work. What is that career coaches offer that one cannot achieve on their own?
First, in addition to the resources mentioned above, there are many types of personality, skill, value, and interest tests and exercises that one can do to help them learn more about what makes them tick and fuels their passion. Career coaches can help clients to understand the threads that connect the learning from these various tests along with other topics that are covered during coaching sessions. A coach’s very role is to ask powerful questions, mirror back to the client what they are hearing and to provide any insights that surface along the way. The website Business on Tap explains that career coaches will, “help you reframe your perspective and help you think about where exactly you want to go.”13 Career coaches also specialize in particular areas such as focusing on people who are retiring and looking for a second career, or working with creatives who are looking to explore creative career opportunities. Other coaches focus on executive coaching in the workplace or leadership coaching for managers. There are also youth coaches, college transition coaches and coaches in a variety of industries such as finance or law.
For example, Michelle Ward, the When I Grow Up coach, is a creative career coach. She specifically coaches clients who are looking to build careers in a creative industry such as helping one client to transition from teaching at a high school to becoming a martial arts instructor. Maggie Mistal, is a career and executive coach who helps people transition to more fulfilling careers and identify career paths in the corporate world. One client states that Mistal, “helped me identify my dream career when I was struggling to decide and helped me map out a plan to get me where I want to go.”
Other career coaches focus more on the job search itself advising clients on their job applications, interviewing and networking. Robin Ryan, for example, helps professionals, managers and executives land their dream job and has received many accolades for her work over the years. One client states, “Robin’s coaching allowed me to stop dreaming about landing an excellent job and actually do it.”
No matter which type of career or where one is headed, there is a career coach that can help ease the transition, provide support and ensure that the client is not alone in the search.
There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.—Nelson Mandela
With a clearer understanding of workplace disengagement and the role that knowing one’s purpose plays in career happiness, we can easily see the benefits of career coaching. It is evident there is an important role that career coaches can play in helping people to find their purpose and passion. Career coaching not only impacts the individual, but also has the potential to impact the global economy. With people working more productively in their chosen field, we have the power to truly make the world a better place. Image the potential if everyone on earth did their life’s work rather than punching the clock or passing the time at a desk job that isn’t fulfilling.
Coaches and the coaching industry have the opportunity to share their skills and knowledge with those in need. The uniqueness of coaching—its focus on the client’s agenda, the client’s true self, the core being of the client—is what makes it such a powerful, impactful and life-‐changing service.
2 “Majority Employees are Not Engaged Despite Gains. Gallup.com. Web. 15. Aug. http://www.gallup.com/poll/181289/majority-‐employees-‐not-‐engaged-‐despite-‐gains-‐2014.aspx
3 “70% of US Workers are Not Engaged at Work.” Gallup.com. Web. 15. Aug. 2015. http://www.gallup.com/services/178514/state-‐american-‐workplace.aspx
4 Morgan, Jacob. “This is the Single Greatest Cause of Employee Disengagement.” Forbes Magazine. October 2014. Web. 16. Aug. 2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2014/10/13/this-‐is-‐the-‐single-‐greatest-‐cause-‐of-‐employee-‐ disengagement/
5 Branham, Leigh. “The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave.” Center for Association Leadership. Feb 2005. Web. 15. Aug. 2015. http://www.asaecenter.org/Resources/EUArticle.cfm?ItemNumber=11514
6 Chayes, Michael M. “How Can We Solve the Employee Disengagement Problem?” Fast Company. June 2013. Web. 15. Aug. 2015. http://www.fastcompany.com/3013477/creative-‐conversations/how-‐can-‐we-‐solve-‐the-‐employee-‐ disengagement-‐problem
7 Pozin, Ilya. “Top 10 Reasons People Hate Their Jobs: LinkedIn.” Huffington Post. July 2013. Web. 15. Aug. 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/11/why-‐people-‐hate-‐jobs_n_3579873.html
8 Craig, Nick and Snook Scott A. “From Purpose to Impact.” Harvard Business Review. May 2014. Web. 15. Aug. 2015. https://hbr.org/2014/05/from-‐purpose-‐to-‐impact
9 Hill, Patrick and Turiano, Nicholas. “Purpose in Life as a Predictor of Mortality Across Adulthood.” Psychological Science. Sept 2013. Web. 15. Aug. 2015. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/05/06/0956797614531799.abstract
10 Schwartz, Tony and Porath, Christine. “Why You Hate Work.” New York Times. May 2014. Web. 15. Aug. 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/opinion/sunday/why-‐you-‐hate-‐work.html?_r=2
11 Kaiser, Shannon. 3 Unexpected Ways to Find Your Life Purpose.” Huffington Post. April 2014. Web. 15. Aug. 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shannon-‐kaiser/3-‐unexpected-‐ways-‐to-‐find_b_5176511.html
12 Manson, Mark. “7 Strange Questions that Help you Find Your Life Purpose.” Mark Manson.com. Sept 2014. Web. 15. Aug. 2015. http://markmanson.net/life-‐purpose
13 Kudia, Lauren. “3 Reasons You Should Hire a Career Coach.” Business on Tapp. Web. 15. Aug. 2015. https://www.tapp.com/grow/3-‐reasons-‐you-‐should-‐hire-‐a-‐career-‐coach
14 Mistal, Maggie. MaggieMistal.com. http://www.maggiemistal.com/meet-‐maggie/testimonials/
15 Ryan, Robin. RobinRyan.com. https://www.robinryan.com/