Answering the Heart Cry for Meaning in Work

For many millennials, having a job where they believe they are making an impact is a significant key to their happiness. For 7 in 10 millennials, according to research by Rutgers, this is “very important”, while for nearly a third it is “essential.“  It shouldn’t be surprising that less than 20% are satisfied with their current career, using Barna Research, because they just aren’t finding the workplace filled with opportunities (to have an impact on the causes they care about) OR (to support the cause they care about) for impact.

For many millennials, they are simply not finding their work to be meaningful. They are looking for places where they can engage with impact.

A life of work, absent an understanding of our created design and the Biblical meaning of work, can be very empty.  Finding a way to connect with global or personal causes is one way millennials seek to fill that void, but it doesn’t address the core issue of finding underlying meaning for life and work.

This sense of meaninglessness is also true for millennial Christians.  In a 2012 study, 74% of those under 40 have thought about whether or not they have a sense of “calling” about their work.  But only 31% of Millennials feel this way about their current job, and more than 4 in 10 feel called to be doing something else. So they feel stuck doing something that they don’t care about, with stirrings that their life should be about something more.

Only a third of millennials feel called to their current job, and finding meaning in work is a true heart cry.

You can see this trend in how they approach opportunities to get engaged with causes.  With social and video being hot trends, you might think that these forms of media would be their main point of focus when they view a nonprofit website.  Not so – they look first at the page that describes the mission of the organization. They give the most attention to discovering if their sense of calling lines up with the organization.

The same factor influences a business to which they feel committed.  If a millennial stays more than five years, it will be because they have made a connection with other employees and because they believe in the company’s mission and purpose.  Meaning is central to the millennial view of work. But it’s also a major disconnect with what they are doing today.

Finding the Connection for Meaning in Work

To quote Barry Rowan, CFO at Vonage, “The test for me personally is this: Can I make a connection between what I am doing at this moment and my purpose in life?”  For those who care about millennials in the workplace and in their lives, this is the central question.  How can we help them make the connection between what they do and their life purpose? Of course, they must first find a framework within which they can understand their own life’s purpose.

That answer comes best by connecting with the creator and beginning to build an understanding of His bigger plan for the planet and for ourselves as individuals.  A “big story/little story” approach can be helpful.  The big story is the plan for redemption through Jesus, and the little story occurs as their unique gifts and talents are lived out in a thousand short stories every day.  These smaller stories come together in the larger redemptive purpose.  Millennials need to be able to feel that both the bigger story, and their own uniqueness, are expressed in the relationships and the work that they do every day.

And sharing about our own journey can help this all to make sense. As we share transparently about our own process, learning to live out His purpose in each part of our lives (life), including work, millennials can get a glimpse of how their work can make sense too.




Join the Conversation on our weekly conference call. We talk about what matters at work - challenges, conflicts, and opportunities.