Penelope Trunk has some thoughts on meaningful work:
At its core, meaningful work is helping people. But that makes you think you need to save children dying in Africa. But, really, you can push papers for multinational conglomerates and feel like you’re doing good for the world.
She says down to covering the basics, making sure your job doesn’t suck — that’s right, according to Penolope we are responsible for that — and making a difference in people’s lives. That can occur in any setting.
That’s a pretty simplistic formula, but I think it’s spot on. I would add that that in order to be meaningful, a job needs to feel like it’s going somewhere. It doesn’t need to be heading towards a huge promotion or a big raise — although going after those things is fine — but it does need to seem to add up to something.
Looking back over the past week or the past year, there needs to be visible progress. Improvement. Success. Accomplishment. That is essential to having work that’s meaningful.