7 Unconventional Ways To Give Your Life Meaning By Reshaping Your Career

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Woman at work

You are in good company if you feel disengaged and unhappy at work.

In a 2022 Gallup poll, "Sixty percent of people reported being emotionally detached at work and 19% as being miserable. Only 33% reported feeling engaged."

So many feel adrift in their lives and work. Emerging from remote work and Zoom conferencing has left many people feeling more adrift. 

If you want to feel whole, alive, and engaged at work, you can take charge and navigate your career path by applying proven approaches to make your work personally fulfilling and rewarding.

What does that require? Meaningful relationships with other people.

Or, to use a technical term, networking. 

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The art of professional networking with a purpose

Finding your true "tribe" — or as C.S. Lewis called it, your "inner ring" — begins with recognizing that the conventional networking approach (which most people hate for a good reason) is the most misunderstood and misapplied technique there is.

Rather than collect names, "suck up" to potential contacts, or brush up on your 30-second elevator pitch, transform networking into "kin-finding" — a way to seek and create a ring of like-minded people to collaborate in work and life, together discovering your purpose.

So, finding your tribe to discover your niche turns conventional wisdom on its head. 

The key attributes of kin-finding are curiosity, generosity, communication, relationship intimacy, and shared passion:

  • Curiosity: genuine interest in someone and asking questions for information, understanding, and empathy. 
  • Generosity: Offer to give before you ask to receive. Connect people to those who can help them before you request a referral for yourself.
  • Communication: Know how to engage in conversation and appropriate follow-up so you can befriend your colleagues who will want to help and work with you.
  • Relationship intimacy: Be real, authentic, and present, open to vulnerability and confidence-building.
  • Shared passion: If you care about a cause, subject area, or practice field, seek those who share those interests and passions. 

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Reverse conventional wisdom

It is no longer just "who you know and what you know" that matters.

It is now who knows you and what you can do with what you know and can learn in collaboration with others, including using artificial intelligence and technology tools.

Once you are ready to activate your attributes like curiosity and generosity, you're in the right mindset to begin "kin-finding."

Seven ways to reimagine your career and life trajectory 

1. Be agile and adaptive

Do not narrowly define yourself by job function or industry — project manager, sales manager in retail — rather inventory your skill sets, experience, and collaborations and expand the ways you describe yourself and how you work best. Be open to project-based work rather than full-time employment.

Consider different fields such as non-profit, education and government. 

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2. Consider others relational rather than transactional

Consciously build relationships without an initial ask or self-serving motive. Rather see others as your kin who will become colleagues and partners in achieving joy, success, and fulfillment together.

3. Identify where you best fit and how you add value

Understand who you are: the organizational culture, work structure, and roles that best suit you, and then how you can contribute to the team effort.  

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4. Use technologies and skill-building to increase your value and reach

Many online courses certify competence in project management or a platform system such as Salesforce or Google. Look at upskilling as a continuous learning process that will qualify you for better work performance and opportunities.

5. Take cues from three foundational purpose criteria — intra-personal, inter-personal and impact

Most people seek meaning and purpose in their work to feel personally rewarded. Use the requirements of how you feel about yourself, working with the people in your collegial circle, and the social or spiritual impact on the world to make a difference you are proud of. 

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6. Make your work fit the life you want

Online work enables flexibility for location, schedule, and self-motivation. Make work fit the life you want rather than contort your life to fit the work defined for you by an organization.

7. Describe your life story as a thread that distinguishes you rather than narrowly defines you 

Traditional resumes define you by job function, organization, and timeframe worked. These are useful but need to be augmented.

Suppose you can identify those projects and achievements that most fulfilled you. Then you can thread those together into a life story that shows coherence and purpose.

If you like to solve problems, be onstage performing, mentoring, teaching, resolving conflicts, or many ways to describe yourself, then others can find you as their kin. 

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Be fearless and find your inner circle

Finally, have faith that the journey to joy, meaning, and purpose in your life is a lifelong path of sharing and collaborating with others who get who you are, who value your contribution and relationship, and with whom you feel the fulfillment of the fellowship of endeavors within your personal inner circle.

One way to get started is to explore these sites: Knackapp for Substack creation; Clifton Strengths for personal assessment; for job posts; and Flexjobs for positions that offer flexible working arrangements.

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Jeff Saperstein is an ICF-certified career coach and memoirist who works with business professionals who feel stuck and want a career transition.