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Finding purpose in your career

Updated: Jun 16, 2022

Speak to several working professionals and you may likely end up hearing remuneration is important but purpose in work is internally fulfilling.

It’s like the head delivers a message but the heart focuses on another.

Examples of “purposes”:

  1. Personal growth and development

  2. Reduce plastic

  3. Transform lives

  4. Rehabilitation work

  5. Help the disadvantaged

  6. Conserve nature

  7. Protect the environment

  8. Save the animals

  9. Reduce carbon emission

  10. Leave a legacy

It's almost similar in work and career.

A recent 1,000 plus millennial polled, 42% said of jobs they sought that “the job must be meaningful to me." It was followed by “good salary prospects” in distance second as the choice of 17%. “Work-life” balance comes in third place as the choice of 12%.

Interestingly, older working professionals may dismiss talk of purpose and passion at work as idealistic musings of millennial who will fast outgrow such notions once they are settled with family and mortgage.

There can also be another group who is literally ghosting by daily but perks up on payday!

Whatever the situation, at some point, any professional in a regular functional role will have these fleeting thoughts.

How will they search something that make them feel a sense of purpose during their career journey?

That's where a self-discovery process steps in. It involves a deeper investigation.

A structured framework in place.

I remember the "Action-Oriented Hope Model of Career Development", designed by renowned Professor Spencer Niles and his team.

Self-clarity - involves having a clear understanding about one’s important characteristics (e.g., interests, values, skills, motivation, goals)

Self-reflection - involves examining your thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and circumstances.

Vision - involves brainstorming future possibilities for your career and identifying your desired future outcomes.

If one possess a well understood self-clarity paradigm and a dose of inner self-reflection with a clear vision - there will be "hope" to take action, so as to achieve a designated goal.

In other words, the values, motivation, goals (self clarity) and the beliefs, behavior (self-reflection) drive the purpose in your career.

Let's look at "interests" & "values" under self clarity for this article since it will be lengthy to cover the components.

Interests - test yourself

A quick exercise is to list down as many hobbies as you can within three minutes.

You can have a list that is something like this:

Like and enjoy:

- cooking

- playing football

- meeting friends for coffee

- swimming

- netflix binging

- cycling

- doing high intensity fitness class

- travelling the world

Then, circle the top 3 that you feel most passionate, superbly like and enjoy doing.

Ask yourself some basic questions:

What does each of the top 3 interests mean to you?

Why do you like and enjoy doing them?

What do you see yourself become upon these activities?

Find out whether there is a pattern or commonalities in between.

If not, analyze the distinctive differences between each.

For instance, you like and enjoy:

1. travelling the world 2. cycling

3. meeting friends for coffee

Take Peter for example.

To Peter, 1& 2 express freedom with the desire to gain worldly knowledge.

3 is to exchange ideas from his friends as they always talk about current affairs of the world.

Peter feels that he will be keen on something that gives him independence (freedom) with an interest to gain a wider exposure beyond Singapore (worldly knowledge).

This is where a regional role across a specific trade may fit into one of Peter's career option. A job that deals in compliance and protocols may not be something suitable for Peter.

This is one of the hypothesis derived from studying deeper into "interests".

In reality, the career-related conversations around interests will be much deeper because the person on the other side will be sharing more details.

But it does offers you some insights into the "purpose".

Values - list down your thoughts

Let’s say you are an Accountant.

The inner purpose can be to uphold financial governance that you truly believe in.

Integrity is your value.

Thus, an Auditor sounds appealing. Checking the books instills a sense of corporate justice.

If you are a Salesperson for new sales, you may be driven (not money only) but the sense of satisfaction in winning something that no one has ever imagined.

Achievement is your value.

Choose 3 most important values that you hold dear to yourself.

It doesn’t have to be iron clad forever but a good starting point to self-discover later on.

Usually values will not change quickly unless there are some events that rattle your internal system of underlying beliefs.

If you still remain unsure about your values after the free list is given, my suggestion is for you to find a qualified Career Coach. Here are some tips to screen the right professional.

Investigate your values

Once you identify your values, it's time to find out more.

Ask yourself some basic questions:

What does each of the top 3 values mean to you?

Why do you choose them?

How do these 3 values describe you as a person?

Gradually, you may get into a point that values make up part of your career decision-making.

If your values are undermined - highly likely you will leave your job.

But not your career. You will still find a similar job in a new company.

Unless the extent of crushing your values is highly lethal, say 9 / 10 rating scale - you will find that career satisfaction is missing due to misalignment of your value system.

We help you identify some of the values using the popular Knowdell Value Card Sorts.

In fact, you get a whole, new realm of discovery!


It’s never easy to find a direction within your job.

Include many jobs within one’s career pathway, without a clear and consistent purpose, will drain your energy out. The individual gets lethargic through less satisfying roles.

They will be performing functional tasks but ends up being “soulless”.

This is why a job brings in money.

A career is about satisfaction that draws in "hope" for the future (with the model above).

Sometimes, you need to expect trade-off in return, such as time to work on your interests to another new level.

Make a statement about what you are willing to live and work for, not just month-to-month remuneration - dependable on basic commitment which varies from individual to individual.

Perhaps, the millennial who said they choose purpose over pay may be latching on to a greater outcome. So, it’s up to us to choose where we’ll like to be.

The new generation has taught us to pursue things with a greater sense of focus, beyond just you and me - climate change, help the underprivileged, food security and many others.

Same for career.

Take the courage to uncover the vision.

If you still remain confused, we are always here to help. Discovery takes time and is completely personal.

Friends will give you hints but an experienced, qualified Career Coach points you the right direction. Simply because, the Career Coach is a highly trained professional.

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