Much is made of the Millennial generation’s focus on finding purpose and meaning. I don’t think that’s exclusive to a single generation. If you haven’t read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, it’s well worth doing so to get a sense of perspective. This post looks at the why, what, and how of purpose and meaning in the context of getting a good job fit with an employer.

A purpose is something that the world wants from you. It’s your driving motivation and your reason for being – it gives you meaning. For example, my purpose is to help young professionals to be employable so they have fulfilling working lives. What does the world want from you? Organisations also have a core purpose. What do you look for in an employer’s purpose and ethics when job and career searching?

Who gets your meaning?

The most meaningful way to succeed is to help others to succeed. Adam Grant

At a personal level, purpose is principally about being of service to others. Your will to succeed depends on how heartfelt and compelling the purpose. It can lie dormant within you and external factors or meaningful experiences light your fire.

For organisations, their purpose is often inspiring and clearly articulated. For example, to make the world more open and connected (Facebook), to remove the barrier to have to learn technology (Apple), good healthcare for all regardless of wealth (NHS), to help create lasting solutions to the injustice of poverty (Oxfam).

The only way is ethics

If purpose is about the ‘why’, then ethics are about the ‘how’. They are the moral principles that guide the way everyone in the business conducts themselves and within the accepted or regulatory rules of business engagement.

The world’s most ethical companies promote ethical business standards and practices internally, enable managers and employees to make good choices, and shape future industry standards by introducing tomorrow’s best practices today.

Ethics play a part in your job and career choices, for example:

  • If you believe in the rule of law, then you expect your employer to be lawful.
  • Your views on zero-hours contracts may clash with the ethics of employers that use them.
  • How a large retailer treats its suppliers may matter to you.
  • An employer’s conduct reveals ethical behaviour (l’Oreal) or unethical behaviour (Volkswagen).

3 actions to help you choose

Why does knowing an employer’s purpose and ethics matter when you are searching for a meaningful job and career? Because you will be:

  • More at ease in a work culture that fits with your personal values and principles.
  • More motivated if the purpose of your employer’s organisation inspires you.
  • At your best more of the time if you believe your contribution is meaningful and that what you do matters in your role.

A job or career is more fulfilling if your purpose aligns with and contributes to the employer’s purpose. Here are three actions you can take to help choose the right employer for you:

  1. Do your research to find out the stated purpose of employers that interest you. Why is it meaningful to you? Reflect it back through job applications and interviews. Show your understanding and why you believe in their purpose.
  2. Check out if they practice what they preach about their ethics and values (visit Glassdoor, like a Trip Advisor on employers).
  3. Explore your own purpose in life to make a more informed judgement on what you want from an employer.