CAREER DEVELOPMENT / NOV. 14, 2014
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How to Find Value in What You Do at Work

For a lot of people, a job is just a job -- something they do to earn a paycheck, so they can lead meaningful, fun lives outside the four walls of the office. But since most full-time workers are spending half their waking hours in that office, shouldn’t there be value, meaning and satisfaction in the workday too?

If you’re struggling to find value in what you do at work, get help here.

Create goals to work toward

If you’re in a rut in which you feel like you’re spinning your wheels with no forward movement, creating both small and large goals can help you see how far you’ve come. In business settings, people tend to use the “SMART” goal setting model, in which “S” stands for specific, “M” for measurable, “A” for attainable, “R” for realistic and “T” for time-bound. This can be a helpful exercise for executives as well as assembly-line workers.

The media executive, for example, might set a goal to increase his advertising client base by two clients by the end of a three-month period. The assembly-line worker, meanwhile, might set a goal to output one more product every two hours by the end of the quarter. Each of them will need to break the goal into smaller goals, deciding what to do hourly, daily and weekly to make it happen. When you reach the goal by the expected date, you’ll not only have produced something meaningful, but you’ll have proved to yourself that you’re capable of attaining more when you set your mind to it.

Ask for feedback

Another way to understand your value at work: Ask others to rate your performance. If your workplace doesn’t have regular performance reviews, ask your boss to meet with you one-on-one, and then ask specific questions about what you’re doing well and how you can improve. If you work with clients, send them a short survey that does the same. Chances are you’ll hear a few things you can improve upon, but you’ll also hear some positive feedback that can underline the value you bring to the company.

Look further up the path

Another way to see the value of what you do is to look forward, at where you could be if you continue to achieve your goals. In other words, ask yourself what the opportunities are for advancement in your workplace, and then set goals to get that promotion, raise, or new responsibilities that will make your life more fulfilling. If your workplace doesn’t have any opportunities for advancement, it might be time to re-evaluate whether you’re going to get the kind of overall satisfaction you want from a dead-end job.

Look at the challenge factor

Jobs with real value, by the way, tend to ride a fine line that pushes you almost to a limit where you’re out of your comfort zone. In other words, if you think that your job is too easy, chances are you’re not going to see much value in it. If your job allows you to feel confident but routinely challenged, on the other hand, you’re probably in a good place.

Are you saving for the future?

Most people do a job in exchange for pay, so naturally, money has to come into any discussion about your value in the workplace. A satisfying job should give you the opportunity to pay all of your bills -- but it should also allow you to put some away for the future. If you’re barely able to pay your rent and you’re eating ramen noodles every night, it could be time to get a cheaper place -- but it could also be time to reassess where you’re working and the value it’s bringing to your life. The sooner you start putting money away, the better quality of life you’ll have in the future.

Are you happy?

If you have the best benefits, a high salary, plenty of time off and you’re still dreading every day of work, you’re not living the life you were meant to live. In the end, you can’t put an exact value on happiness. It’s more of a gut feeling.


Whether you’re struggling to see progress in your day-to-day life at work, or you’re not getting a good sense of the big picture, taking a step back to evaluate your happiness and to set goals can help you start to see the real value in the work you do.


Image: iStock

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