Are you “being good” at your job? Or just good enough?

A recent article from the New York Times called “Being Good Isn’t the Only Way to Go” spotlights the fact that many people seek to volunteer outside of work because they are less than thrilled with their jobs. It begins:

LAST September, the networking site LinkedIn added a feature that allowed its members to say whether they wanted to volunteer or serve on the board of a nonprofit. In just eight months, one million members raised their virtual hands.

But here’s the rub. LinkedIn has posted only about 1,000 listings seeking volunteers. That can’t begin to meet the demand from those on the site who are looking for ways to volunteer.

In much of the nonprofit world, there are more volunteers than there are spots. Staff workers don’t have time to manage more volunteers. As one executive told me, “If I get another volunteer I am going to go out of business.”

This demand to volunteer masks a broader problem in our society. It points to the lack of purpose that we experience in our jobs.

In fact, the article continues, over 70% of modern Americans reported a lack of purpose in their jobs–they were not engaged with them or actively disengaged.

The author, Aaron Hurst, who used to run a nonprofit called the Taproot Foundation that helped professionals find ways to do pro bono work, adds that even

working in a nonprofit is no guarantee of having meaning in your daily life. Many nonprofit employees lack purpose in their work. Their organization may be doing inspiring work in the world, but the day-to-day job doesn’t generate much involvement.

So how do you find meaning in your work? Hurst gives many practical suggestions–setting goals, pausing to reflect on the good things that have happened, even picking up the phone instead of email if work relationships energize you.   Companies are trying these approaches too:

Companies such as Cornerstone Capital Group have begun to adopt changes to increase employee purpose. Erika Karp, the chief executive, told me that she asked her employees whether they had a good day and to identify moments that made it so. She then works with them to refine their job, making small adjustments to change their engagement at work and boost their meaning. This is an even greater imperative with young people. In a 2011 report by Harris Interactive, commissioned by the Career Advisory Board, meaning was the top career priority for those between the ages of 21 and 31.

In the end, Hurst concludes,

We cannot meet this demand by looking to “causes” as the primary driver in our careers and place the burden on nonprofits to fulfill this need. Instead, we need to look to ourselves and cultivate self-awareness to take ownership for creating purpose in our work.

All good, but why stop there? The Christian tradition provides many avenues and disciplines to cultivate that self-awareness and bringing meaning to the place where you are. This blog and this website will help you find those avenues, and put you in touch with others who are trying to do the same. Welcome to the journey.

Image: “Catching up on e-mail” by Ed Yourdon, copyright under a CreativeCommons 2.0 license.

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The Patheos Faith and Work Channel is a place where conversation happens about work and faith. We talk about all sorts of things: daily life in the workplace, what the Bible says about work and vocation, economic systems and their relationship to Christian beliefs, how to know if God is calling you to a specific job, and how the local church can better equip workers. We draw on content from many other websites pondering these issues to find stories, testimonies, tips, biblical wisdom, and challenges for individuals, businesses, pastors, and civic leaders as we work to create a society where God's economy brings human flourishing for all.
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