You never know when the self-doubt will strike: are you really doing what you love at your job?
For many working adults, their career is just that: work. It doesn’t matter if you come home at the end of the day — exhausted, bored, and ready to zone out on your couch — as long as you’re getting paid a healthy paycheck, does it really matter what you’re doing?
However, many other people in the working world need a little something extra: a purpose.
This is especially true for millennials, who not only crave a balance between work and life, but also need to have an achievable goal or the ability to make a difference to motivate them at their job.
Unlike past generations that were simply happy to get a paycheck, millennials want to work for a company that aligns with their values, treats them well, and provides them with a purpose that directly impacts their community or the world.
Most millennials are diverse, passionate, and require a company culture that can match their enthusiasm for change.
But millennials aren’t the only generation of people who can benefit from finding a purpose in their career. Anyone — from baby boomers to Generation Z — can benefit from directly impacting the world around them. After all, you tend to be more successful in the long-run when you can enjoy what you’re doing.
Unfortunately, switching careers can be a daunting task for anyone, and for many people that want to find a purpose, they might have to start over from square one.
Are you struggling to be motivated or happy at your job? Are you hoping to find a purpose in your career that can help you stay engaged and excited? Or are you struggling to see a fulfilling future with your current career path?
It could be that switching to a more fulfilling career is just what you need to feel better about your working life. Here’s how to find fulfillment in your career, and how you can make the transition to a more purposeful path.
Finding Purpose in Any Field or Industry
Discovering your purpose requires you to ask yourself some questions. Ashley Stahl, a career coach and Forbes contributor, suggests starting with these four questions to help you better understand where your calling is and how you can define your purpose:
1. Are you happy?
Being happy at your job can be difficult, and it’s normal to have bad days, weeks, or even months.
However, there is a large difference between going through your daily motions because you enjoy it, and going through the motions because you don’t know what else to do. Ask yourself if you’re happy, and assess your workload.
Are you burnt out? Would taking a vacation help, or would you still hate coming into work? Are you exhausted because you’re overworked, or because you’re not doing something you enjoy?
2. Who are you proving yourself to be?
This question is all about your expectations: are you living up to your own ideas of what you want to do, or someone else’s? Stahl writes: “You will never find real satisfaction if proving yourself to others is the biggest motivator in your career.
Take a moment and be sure your actions are motivated by the right reasons.
3. Is there another way?
It’s easy to become consumed by your work, or possibly even obsessed. You spend a large chunk of your life working, and oftentimes you might find that you’re pushing yourself too hard on the little projects. You’re focused on controlling your calendar day-by-day instead of looking at the bigger picture.
Stahl suggests taking a step back and removing your limitations. If you could do anything, would it be this? What do you really want to do; what are your goals and aspirations; what makes you want to get up in the morning and come into work?
It’s possible that your goals are still clear, but there are other ways to achieve them. Stahl uses her own experience as an example: after working years as a foreign diplomat, she realized there were other ways to travel the world and make a steady paycheck without burning herself out.
Once she was able to see beyond that rigid plan for herself, her possibilities really opened up. Yours might too if you take a step back.
4. What has to happen?
This question can be hard to answer, as it requires you to give up some control in your work schedule and simply assess the flow: what wants to happen? If you stop pushing and running full throttle, what can you put more focus on and what will stand out as the most important project or goal in your life?
Stahl recommends ceasing your constant need to make things happen, and slowing down to really be present in the moment and get perspective.
Of course, there are also other things to consider when finding your purpose. For example, do you know if you’re working within the right industry, but maybe not in the right company?
Does the company culture suite your expectations, or do you need to find a company that is more aligned with your personal values? Lastly, if you do find that your purpose is lacking and you need to make a big career switch, what all does that entail?
It can be truly daunting to make big career changes, but it’s not impossible — no matter what age you are.
Remind yourself that your happiness, mental and emotional wellbeing, and your ability to succeed are all dependant on doing something you love and feeling fulfilled by your career.
Jobs With a Purpose
Whether you’re hoping to change career paths entirely, or are just getting your career figured out, you might find that your future lies in a purposeful career. Although every career path can have a purpose, some careers are more focused on making an impact than others.
This includes careers that are specifically designed to help individuals or the environment.
Perhaps you’re someone who loves to help others succeed. This could mean your future is in teaching, social work, counseling, or nursing — all of which provide you with direct access to people in need and the tools and abilities to help them.
Potentially, you might be interested in helping out the environment or specific species of animals. There are plenty of career paths that can also offer you successful opportunities, including environmental work, conservation, and more.
Sometimes making a difference on a larger scale can start with a small focus. If you’ve discovered your purpose, but aren’t sure how to turn that into a career, look at these possibilities:
Helping Others: Social Work, Volunteering, and Nursing
If you find that helping others is not only fulfilling, but aligns perfectly with your purpose, then there are a variety of opportunities available for you to pursue.
Here are some options, as well as some information to consider about each career path:
a. Social Work
This career path gives you the opportunity to play off your morals or advocate for social justice issues that matter to you. If you are passionate about a social movement, or simply want to help marginalized communities gain access to essential services, then social work may be right for you.
There are many similarities between social work and human services, but social work education provides you with unique clinical opportunities or access to education around counseling and similar services. Social work is also a rapidly growing market, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates an above-average growth of about 16 percent over the next eight years.
B. Nonprofit Management
Similar to social work, working within the nonprofit sector can help you directly impact the community and work alongside causes that matter to you. If you already have experience within the business sector, you can use that to your advantage to move into the nonprofit sector.
However, it’s important to remember that nonprofits have their own unique culture that is quite different from that of a traditional business. Many nonprofits are collaborative in nature and have a unique set of challenges when it comes to receiving financial or community support.
This Fortune article lays out some of the additional challenges for switching from corporate leadership to nonprofit. Of course, if you don’t have the management experience, you can still help nonprofits through volunteer work or by becoming a non-leadership member of their staff.
There are many different nonprofits out there, with many different career opportunities contained within them, and you may find that one of them is perfect for you.
If there’s any calling that will always be in high demand and will always be full of purpose, it’s nursing. Nursing is certainly not a calling for the faint of heart, but there are many different ways to participate within the field. This can include anything from working within the emergency room, to working with small-town clinics, working with children in schools or pediatric offices, or to traveling the world and working abroad.
Additionally, difficult health decisions are often sensitive and trying times for families or individuals, which gives you the opportunity to show compassion, empathize, and make a genuine impact on people that are struggling to stay hopeful.
Not only is nursing one of the most purposeful careers, but it will always be in high demand: the BLS estimates that registered nurses are expected to grow by 15 percent or more over the next eight years.
Home health aides are also one of the fastest growing careers in the country. Much of this is due to the large Baby Boomer generation which is reaching retirement age and struggling with chronic illnesses.
Helping the World: Green Jobs and Conservation
Of course, if direct interaction with people isn’t your strong suite, there are also a plethora of jobs outside of the human world that are full of purpose.
Whether you’re an introvert, or you just love nature more than you love people, consider these growing job fields that might be right for you:
1. Green Energy Engineering and Construction
One of the fastest growing industries in the world right now is that of green energy. This includes the construction of wind turbines, solar panel fields, as well as the manufacturing and maintenance of renewable energy sources. Currently, there are about 5 million Americans working within the “green energy” sector, and this industry is expected to continue to grow for some time as the world shifts from fossil fuels to more clean energy sources.
Luckily, not only is this career path booming, but it also is full of opportunities that would align with your purpose and can provide you with a healthy paycheck. Maybe you’re someone who has thrived in engineering or some other STEM field, but you were unsure of how to apply that knowledge to better the world around you.
Within green energy, there is a high-demand for technology proficient individuals, as well as those that are eager to improve both the industry and the community or world.
2. Biology and Conservation Sciences
Perhaps your love for the world comes with a genuine love and appreciation for animals. If that’s the case, then there are plenty of potential career paths for you in biology and conservation sciences. You can become a leading climate change scientist, explore the hidden ecosystems of the world, or work directly with endangered animals that need the help of human intervention.
According to the BLS, conservationists and forestry jobs are growing at a semi-regular pace of about 6 percent, and many of them receive a traditional middle class income.
However, the opportunities that conservation can provide you are endless: from traveling the world to discovering never-before-seen species. It is well known that biologists and conservations scientists are passionate about their calling, and it could be that that passion is what your career has been missing.
Finding Your Calling
No matter what stage you are in with your career, defining and evaluating your purpose can always be beneficial. It’s possible that you’re already working within a field that you are passionate about, but you just need to take the time to reevaluate your position.
Or it’s possible that you are feeling like a cog in the machine, and want to break out of your mundane and unhappy path.
Whatever your situation may be, defining your purpose can help you better understand how you directly impact the world around you and how you should pursue your future.
Even if the jobs listed above aren’t right for you, it’s possible to find purpose in any career path that you pursue.
All you need to do is ask yourself questions, find your flow, and take the time to slow down and get perspective.