XPG Insights

Staffing industry recruiting news, advice and thought leadership.

XPG Insights

Staffing industry recruiting news, advice and thought leadership.

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Realizing the Purpose in Your Work

Great movies contain great dialogue – words that change the way we think about life. Sometimes, even not-so-great moves can do the same.  

Dave is a 1993 movie starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. It’s a comedy about a man who runs a temp agency but happens to be a doppelganger for the president of the United States. Dave winds up being recruited to fill in for the president when he has a stroke.  It’s a pretty forgettable movie except for one scene (and really only one scene) that has a real impact. Dave, acting as the president, announces a plan to help every person in America get a job. He says:   

“If you’ve ever seen the look on somebody’s face the day they finally get a job, they look like they could fly. And it’s not about the paycheck, it’s about respect, it’s about looking in the mirror and knowing that you’ve done something valuable with your day. And if one person could start to feel this way, and then another person, and then another person, soon all these other problems may not seem so impossible.” 

Sometimes we need a reminder that the work we do is important. As an industry, we are about finding jobs for people. And when we are at our best, we find meaningful careers that enrich the lives of others.  

“I often think how fortunate I have been to have spent the last decade finding people jobs. I am lucky to be in an industry that naturally has some purpose to it,” says Amy Carlisle, Partner at XPG Recruit.   

Amy is reminded frequently of the purpose in the work she does, especially when she receives a note from someone whose life has been transformed because of a job she helped them secure. “Those are the best days – when I can take a moment and simply enjoy the happiness someone else is feeling because of something I played a role in,” she says. 

Realizing that purpose is important.  

Rachel Cook of Modern Mentor recently posted some thoughts about finding purpose in your life and your career.  Cook describes the Japanese concept “ikigai.” She writes, “It’s a combination of the words “ikiru” which means “life,” and “kai,” translated as “the realization one hopes for.” The Japanese describe ikigai as “a reason to get up in the morning,” or…purpose.”  

Cook writes that a person’s Ikigai is made up of four key elements:  

  • What you love: your personal preferences  
  • What you’re good at: your skills and talents  
  • What the world needs: a space for your skills and talents   
  • What you can get paid for: the commercial viability of that what you can do  

We coach candidates to ask about all kinds of things as they evaluate a job offer: leadership styles, company culture, professional development, even how and how often the team has fun together. But we seldom ask about the sense of purpose the job inspires.  

Companies worry about cultural fit with new employees, but studies indicate that purpose is one of the key factors in attracting and retaining young workers. It’s a high-stakes challenge; Gallup reports that turnover among Millennials costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion each year.   

Most young workers say that connecting their work to a higher purpose is an important factor in whether they stay engaged. But Gallup also reports that only 26 percent of millennials say that in the past week, they have “heard someone talk about how their daily work connects with their organization’s mission.”  

Connecting work to a compelling mission creates higher engagement, and both the company and its customers benefit. One powerful way to connect workers with a mission is to tell stories about the impact your company has on the people you touch. Loan processors aren’t just pushing paper; they’re helping people achieve their dreams of home ownership or starting a business. Construction workers are creating a place where families will gather and thrive.  Connecting the customer’s stories and helping workers see how they play a part in the outcome makes their work feel more personal and more important.   

Another benefit of purpose is a commitment to excellence. If the work matters, it matters that it’s done right. Entry-level workers sometimes don’t perform routine tasks well because they don’t see how the task contributes to the greater mission. Speaker Michael (Doc) Norton says that purpose and excellence are deeply interconnected. He calls purpose ‘connection,’ which he defines as “what makes a community. Internally, organizations need cohesion within and between all teams; one collective, united toward a common cause.”  

Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green,  a firm that supports social entrepreneurs, says “We believe that if more institutions—from workplaces to educational systems—were to embed programs and policies into their work that consciously cultivate purpose-directed individuals, we would see more passionate, engaged and flourishing employees, volunteers and others driven to make a difference in their daily lives.”  

Many companies have to search to find meaning in their work, but staffing already has it built in! Any way you can make the connection to the difference you are making in the world, the more engaged you should feel and the more satisfaction you should feel in the work you do.  

Simon Sinek is a business consultant and author of “Start with Why; How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” He encourages people and leaders to figure out why they get up in the morning and what matters to them. Then he says, go find a place where you feel aligned with the mission and purpose of the work.  

“When we discover our WHY,” he writes, “we are better able to find the clarity and confidence to choose the careers, organizations, communities and relationships that are most likely to inspire us.” Connecting with your inner and your company’s ikigai can transform your work and personal life.