Building a career that matters only gets more important the longer you work. Whether that’s switching to a social impact role or finding ways to make a positive impact in your company, you’re going to find yourself wanting to make a mark on the world.
This is part 3 in our Happy at Work series where Angela Guido outlines the aspects of your career that govern happiness over time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about it at the beginning of your career.
Grab the Happy At Work assessment sheet here.
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
This is one of the biggest things that my clients say frustrates them about their work life in the early part of their career. Hello. Welcome back to the Career Protocol YouTube channel. I am Angela Guido, a Career Coach, an MBA Coach, a former Management Consultant and Recruiter at the Boston Consulting Group, and lo many, many years ago, a Recruiter and HR Manager at KPMG. Today I'm talking about how you can be more successful over the long term of your career by prioritizing what's meaningful to you in your work life. We're talking about the Happy At Work equation, and for those of you who missed my first two videos on the Happy At Work equation, you can watch the first one right here where I talk about tasks that you enjoy, and you can watch the second one right here where I talk about working with people you like and respect and enjoy collaborating with. Those are the two first components of the Happy At Work equation that affect your day-to-day life. This is like the sea you swim in. It's the tasks and the people. Are you having fun doing the stuff you're doing with the people you're doing it with? Are you building meaningful experiences with people that you like, doing tasks that you find interesting and fun, or at least some tasks that you find interesting and fun? These are the first two components of the Happy At Work equation, and they're really essential because every day you are dealing with those two things. But there are two components to the Happy At Work equation that don't necessarily impact your day-to-day life, rather, they’re unfolding over time. And this is why it's important to be thinking of your career and not just your job. Your career is for you. It's the aspect of your work where you derive meaning and value and a sense of growth and purpose, and they are essential to your complete fulfillment at work and to the actualization of your potential.
So today I want to talk about meaningful impact. This means that the work you're doing is causing a positive change in the world. And you know what that positive change is. I gave the example of a preschool teacher who gets to see their pupils grow and evolve day-to-day over time. The impact that a teacher has is very clear, it's right in front of their face. It's almost every day one student doesn't know how to read, and the next day they can read three words. There's meaningful progress. You can see it, it's right in front of you. Direct human impact is one important kind of impact that you can have in your career. It relates to seeing people around you flourish, grow, develop, and evolve. If you’re a manager, I sure hope that this is a really important aspect of the impact that you’re having. It’s helping the people that report to you, the people you’re accountable to, the people around you be better, be happier, be more effective, be more successful, and contribute more. And if you're not a manager, hopefully that's something you aspire to, being able to see and measure the effect that you have on the wellbeing, happiness and effectiveness of others.
But that's just one kind of impact. And especially if you're early in your career, there's a really good chance that if you're having that kind of impact, it's tangential, it's not clear, it's not the main part of your job. The main part of your job likely entails completing tasks that are contributing to the overall impact that your team or your company is having. But that may be one or two or three or twenty steps removed from the work that you yourself are doing day to day. This is one of the biggest things that my clients say frustrates them about their work life in the early part of their career. If you have a great manager, that person is probably letting you know and helping you understand how the work that you do fits in with the bigger picture and how the tasks that you perform are improving things for the team, for the company, for the client, for the community and potentially even for the world at large. But not all managers are great at helping you understand the big picture, and really knowing how the work you do impacts the world is no one's responsibility but your own. It's really important to remember that when I talk about having meaningful impact as a component of your happiness at work, it's because that impact is meaningful to you. Your career is about you. It's not about your company and it's not about the job that you're doing. It's about how you are expressing yourself and achieving your potential, which includes helping humanity in ways that are meaningful to you. We work with a ton of clients who work in serious, difficult, challenging corporate jobs and a lot of them are driven to have a greater social impact in their work. It's sometimes really hard to see how, if you're working in a big corporation that has very clear profit objectives, how beyond that you can impact society. This is why there's this sort of persistent mythical dichotomy between making money and making a difference. Take a look and see if somewhere in your mind is this friction between those two ideas of making money and making a difference and see if you somewhere deep down believe that you have to make a dichotomous choice, you have to prioritize one or the other. I personally believe this dichotomy is false. It is possible to make a difference every day of your life while still having a job that pays you a really healthy salary and allows you to also achieve your goals outside of work, your financial and wealth objectives. So the best way to start to dissolve that dichotomy is to look really closely at the meaningful impact you're already having in your work life.
To-do 01: Get much clearer on how you impact the world
So if you work in a kind of job where the impact that you do is diffuse or nebulous or far removed from your day to day life, a step you want to take this Monday is to get much clearer about how the tasks you do impact the world in successive concentric circles. I'm going to give you a set of questions to ask yourself about the impact that you're having so that this Monday you can have a greater sense of purpose and meaning in your work.
1. How Does Your Work Impact Your Team
The first question is how does the work you do impact your team? Now you want to think both in terms of the content of your work. So if you're writing a line of code or you're building a spreadsheet or you're preparing a meeting agenda, how is that task making life easier for the people on your team? It's just in general, how are you contributing to the overall success of your team?
2. How Are You Impacting The Division Beyond Your Team?
The next question is how are you contributing to the success of the division of your company beyond your team? So how does you creating a super awesome meeting agenda or creating a really clean, error free line of code, how is that improving the picture of the entire division or line of business that you work within?
3. How Does Your Work Improve You Company
The next layer is how does your work improve your company? I'm going to give you a really vivid example. Let's say you're just creating a meeting agenda. You're in charge of setting up a meeting with a bunch of people. That's all you're doing is you're figuring out what are we going to do in this one hour of time? If you do that job really well, the meeting is going to be a success. It will achieve its outcomes, people will leave with a clear sense of purpose, decisions will get made, time will not have been wasted, and everybody will feel better moving forward from that meeting. You can immediately see what an impact that's having on your team. But it's also having an impact on your company, because if you're using time efficiently in that one hour to get things done, that's saving time and money for the company and it's allowing you to potentially achieve the next layer of impact beyond your company, and this is looking at your clients or customers. So, no company exists without an intention to serve someone. Some individual, some group of individuals, some organization, some community. If you are working in a company, whether it's a nonprofit or a for profit company, or a governmental organization, or even a military organization, whatever organization you are a part of, it exists to serve other people in some way.
4. What About Your Clients And Customers?
So now ask yourself how is the work that you're doing serving your company's customers or clients in a more effective way? And back to our example of that meeting, if you're running a great meeting, you're freeing people up to serve the corporate objective which is to take better care of the customer and client. The customer or client may never know about that meeting, they may never know you exist, they may never know about anything that happens in that one hour, but if you did a great job of planning and running that meeting, then the customer is being better served by everyone who participated in that conversation.
5. Is Your Work Contributing Something Meaningful To Society?
The next layer of impact you want to look at is your community and society as a whole. Is the work you're doing contributing something meaningful to your community and society at large beyond just the specific customers and clients that you're serving? This is really the trickiest one to understand and early in your career the answer could be, well, not much, or I don't really know how my work is impacting my community beyond just taking good care of my customers and my clients. If the work you're doing can be traced to impacting your customers and clients in some way, you're already making an impact in your community because you're helping the people that come to your company for value. But if you work in a company that has a social impact agenda, a corporate responsibility mission, or even just a product or a service that is improving the world in a way other than financial transactions, then you're also impacting society at large. If you're like most people, over the course of your career, you're going to want to be able to see and measure the impact that you're having on the world and on your communities more and more with each passing year. This is why meaningful impact is one of the aspects of being happy at work that can only really make sense over time. In the earliest part of your career, you're only going to be able to understand in a concrete way the impacts that you're having on that most inner circle, on the people that you work with, on your team, on your division. But as you advance, and this is why it's important to invest in yourself as you go through your career, it’s important that you seek to put yourself in roles, jobs, tasks, and companies where you're having a greater impact on the things that are really important to you. I'll give you a really quick example from my own life. Early on in my career, I decided that I wanted to help people be happier at work. I believe in the human spirit and our potential to express ourselves and add value to our fellow humans through our day-to-day work in the hours that we spend doing our jobs. And I started my career in human resources. I thought, I'm going to affect the happiness of the employees at this company and that's how I'm going to begin to make my mark. And then I made a step to impact the happiness at work of employees at many companies by entering a job in management consulting. And when I realized that that wasn't allowing me to have as much impact as I want to have, I left and started my own career coaching company where I can spend literally every hour of every day directly impacting the happiness at work of my team, of my clients, and of everyone who comes into the orbit of Career Protocol, including you, including everyone watching this video right here. You want to seek to have more and more impact, more direct, measurable obvious and expansive impact on the people and causes that are important to you in every step of your career. This is going to be a really important governing principle as you're ready to make a career transition from one company to the next, from one role to the next, or even if you're planning to apply to business school and expand your impact as a leader exponentially through that kind of a transition. For most people, the impetus to change and grow and move jobs and positions is related to wanting to have a more obvious, substantial impact on the things that are really important to you.
To-do 02: Celebrate the impact you’re already having
So hopefully, in this video today, you began to get a really tangible feel for how you're already having a substantial impact in your day-to-day work through the tasks that you do. If you did, please leave me a comment. Let me know what is the impact that you're having on your team, on your division, on your company, on your customers and clients, and on your community? I am dying to hear the impact that you are having today in your work life. If you want to make Monday better, there are two things you can do. The first thing is really celebrate the impact that you're already having. It's so easy to get lost in our to-do lists and in all the things that we should be doing better and in all the things that are on our wish list for things that we want more of that we frequently forget to celebrate what's already really working. And if you're doing your job even a little bit well, you are having an impact already. So take note and celebrate the success that you're already having. The second thing you can do to make Monday better is ask yourself, what impact do I want to have this week? I recommend you start with a really small goal. Keep it focused on your team. Think about how do I want to improve the efficiency, the effectiveness, the joy and the ease of the people around me this week? How can I make life easier for the people on my team this week? Make a short list of the things that you think you could do this week to improve your team in a way that's meaningful to you, and then come back next week and tell me what you did. Tell me how you improved the lives of the people around you on your team this week and how it made you feel because I know it will make you happier at work. I'll be back next week to talk about the last component of being happy at work. If you're not subscribed, please be sure to hit one of the buttons somewhere around me so that you don't miss a single Career Protocol video that will help you make Mondays better. I'll see you next week!
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