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Amazing Possibilities!

  • Writer's pictureMatthew Kelly

The Need for Meaningful Work

Several months ago, I had the opportunity to conduct job interviews

for a number of new positions at my organization. In all, I conducted

almost fifty interviews with candidates who had been pulled from

literally hundreds and hundreds of applicants. I was overwhelmed by

the number of people who applied and the quality of the applicants.

Every single one of them was already in what I thought was a really

good job. In many cases, the candidates would be required to take

pay cuts to move from high-paying corporate jobs into the nonprofit

sector, but that didn’t seem to faze them at all.

So I asked them all many questions, but their answers to one

question in particular seemed to have a common theme. I asked each

candidate, “You seem to have a great job at the moment. Why do you

want to leave?” Forty-eight of the fifty candidates replied that they

wanted to do something more meaningful with their lives, or with

some variation of the same idea. I believe this reflects the greatest

shift in the workplace of the twenty-first century and will affect corporate

America more than anything else in the next fifty years. People

want meaningful work.

In the 1980s, cash was king, and people seemed willing to work

a hundred hours a week as long as you paid them more money. The

1980s were all about money and possessions. In the 1990s, there was a

significant and noticeable shift in attitude away from an overwhelming

emphasis on financial compensation and toward a desire for leisure.

A growing number of people began to say, “I don’t care how

much money you pay me—I am just not willing to work more hours.

I don’t want more money as much as I want more freedom with my

schedule, more leisure time.”

Another factor is that throughout this entire period, the corporate

world has changed considerably, particularly when it comes to

loyalty. Many people who were laid off came to a frightening realization

about how little control they had over their destinies in the

corporate schema and, more strikingly, how little their efforts were

appreciated. For a whole variety of reasons, people have started to

take their lives back, emphasizing independence, family life, leisure,

and health and well-being.

The money focus of the 1980s evolved into the leisure focus of

the 1990s, and now there is a new trend emerging. People certainly

still want to be financially compensated and they want to have time

to spend with family and friends, but above all else, they yearn for

meaningful work. And they are willing to sacrifice some of the money

and leisure to have it. This shift in workplace attitude is only going to

gather more and more momentum as people continue to awaken to

their need to be engaged more passionately at work.

Matthew Kelly

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