If you did a quick scan of the colleagues in your workplace, you’re likely to find people who are stressed, anxious, overworked, unhappy and considering switching jobs. It’s clear: the need for helpful, honest and purposeful career advice is at an all-time high.
A survey conducted in 2014 found that only 31% of employees in America were engaged at work.
Those stats may or may not surprise you, but for me, they sent me into mild cardiac arrest as I lifted my jaw from the floor. 31% is staggering!
It made me wonder how I would answer the question of engagement when I was a 9-5 employee. There were things about my work that had me engaged, but there were definitely things that drove me nuts. When my own disengagement light bulb went off, I had to make a change. So I made the leap from being an employee to determining my own course.
The gulf between engagement and disengagement continues to grow. Life used to be about having a job and career, but now it’s about having meaning and purpose and being deeply satisfied in the work we do.
The engagement problem in some ways surprises me. Even with increased career advice and counselling in schools, many people still feel disengaged at work. Endless amounts of encouragement to ‘do what you love‘ hasn’t shifted the needle either. We need something different.
A different kind of career advice
I’ve discovered that most career advice is at best inaccurate, and at worst, soul-sucking. ‘Do what makes you happy‘ is a common mantra; as is ‘follow your dreams‘, yet both of these ideas are misleading.
If all I did were activities that made me happy, I’d find myself watching re-runs of meaningless TV, eating an endless amount of junk food and spending every other minute drinking red wine around the campfire. None of these things are bad, but eventually, the happiness factor would wear thin. As I heard a guest say recently on a podcast, “if I did what makes me happy I’d be having endless sex and drinking margaritas till sunrise!”
The same can be said for ‘following your dreams’. Our dreams can point us in a certain direction sure, yet often the sheer scale of them can lead to inactivity. We just don’t know where to begin. Instead, it’s better to consider the impact you desire and the hopes you have for your life. We humans, have real desires when it comes to work, and most common career advice doesn’t speak to those needs.
If we only do what makes us happy, or simply follow our dreams, we fall short of the real intent of life. We miss the glorious joy of purpose, meaning and having a deep sense of contribution to the world.
I’m convinced that most people are not looking for a job. I’d even argue they aren’t looking for a career. People are looking for space where they can make a meaningful contribution to society and know that their daily toil has a purpose.
When we find the activities that capture our heart, give us meaning and connect us with a deep sense of purpose, we become fully engaged – not just at work, but in all our life.
So, what’s the real issue stopping people from being engaged in their work?
The main problem for many people is that they are unwilling to do the hard work of self-awareness to understand who they are, what they like and where they most desire to contribute. They don’t want to try out different careers, to take a risk and start from scratch. They choose to not do the hard work and understand who they truly are. They ignore the important assessment of their skills, strengths, attitudes and weaknesses from close friends and family.
Furthermore, many people are spending more money than they earn. They have become a slave to the dollars that come in and the spending that goes out. Their overcommitted lifestyle is holding them back. And the trade-off? 8 hours of disengagement every day.
Therefore, the status quo remains which results in 70% of the workforce completely disengaged – each and every day.
We need more people saying no to our consumer-driven world, and saying yes to purpose, meaning and contribution.
Simply put, to be more engaged at work, do something meaningful. If you want to be more engaged with life, find somewhere where you can contribute that makes you come alive.
We need more people like you prepared to do what you love and contribute to making the world a better place.
Let’s make an impact together.