Are you a 20-something seeking work with meaning? Are you willing to trade great mentoring and a dynamic work environment for a lower salary? If that’s the case, you are trending with your generation. And while making less money is not to be treated lightly, research shows that people who feel personally fulfilled at work are happier than those who work exclusively for the money.
But maybe you can have it both ways.
Find Your Imperative
Imperative is “the first human-centered career platform to enable people to find and manage work that is personally meaningful”. Founded by Aaron Hurst, founder of the Taproot Foundation, Imperative’s premise is that any kind of work can have meaning; the important thing is to figure out what provides meaning for you and find ways to add more of it to whatever kind of work you do or want to do. Imperative believes that you don’t have to separate your work from the causes you support; instead, both should be able to work together. It’s a compelling idea developed by the person who helped build a model that matches business talent with pro bono projects.
Through a clever assessment tool, Imperative aims to help people identify their purpose in work and use the information to help them to both create and react to opportunities and know when the fit is right. An imperative statement is not a branding statement, but is a declaration of personal values meant to cut across target professions, guiding you toward the impact you want to have through your work and your life.
It’s a lofty concept with grounding in positive psychology, career assessment and cutting edge happiness research. But the good part, the thing that signals real action and change, is the concept that everyone can experience profound meaning through their work, no matter what it is. So yes, you can get paid to do a job that on the face of it exists purely for commercial value, and find something in that job that gives you a sense of meaning.
List Your High Octane Experiences
When have you felt at your most successful, as though all your stars had aligned? Perhaps it was a meeting or conference you helped organize, or a fundraiser you created. Maybe it was a trip you planned or contributed to, where everything fell into place naturally.
Those experiences should be savored, but also dissected for clues about what you do most successfully, and what makes you feel proud of yourself. Think about why you felt good in the moment, and what specifically you accomplished.
Write short stories, just a few paragraphs, about those experiences. What was it that you did, what came easily, what was hard, what did people say? The more detail you can provide, the better able you will be to unpack each experience and see the commonalities among them.
Ask Those Who Know You Best
Sometimes the answer is right in front of you. Ask your Personal Board of Directors—the people who know you best in personal and/or professional realms—to tell you what they think you care most about and offer most naturally in your work, personal life, or civic activities. Ask them what they think your best skills and talents are.
Write Your Personal Branding Statement
If you’ve gone through all the exercises above, you are now ready to write your branding statement, the embodiment of what you do best and for whom. Together with your Imperative, you can paint a picture of both your unique selling proposition and your core motivation for doing what you do. And you can use it to inform all your social media profiles, your resume, cover letters and other marketing media. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. If your imperative is:
“To create opportunities for organizations to reach great potential by advancing knowledge and understanding”
Your brand might be this:
”Spearhead multifaceted social media campaigns for innovative educational and cultural organizations”
Follow this advice and you will be much clearer about what kinds of jobs and organizations will provide a sense of purpose while paying you what you’re worth.
Do you have a personal branding statement you’d like to share? If you send it over to me I’ll be glad to give you a quick critique.