You’re Never Done Finding Purpose at Work

Dan Pontefract

Do you dread going into the office Monday morning? Maybe a new boss has entered the equation, creating a rift between how you once felt and how you now feel. Perhaps your company has recently been acquired, changing the culture. Maybe you simply have outgrown your role and are bored to tears in your cubicle.

I have found that whether we enjoy our work often boils down to how our job fits with our sense of purpose. Where we work, the role we hold, our broader sense of purpose — all three are subject to change. Thus if we want to stay in the “sweet spot” among these three, we must not fear career transitions or even change itself; indeed, we must seek them out.

Having a sense of purpose in our life is critical to well-being. In fact, in alongitudinal study researchers found that people who demonstrate a sense of purpose in their lives have a 15% lower risk of death. Having a sense of purpose in our roles at work is equally important. And yet it’s not enough to find that sense of purpose once — you have to continually refind it as circumstances (and you) change.

“I am cautious and alert and mindful that the battle is not won yet” is how Céline Schillinger, an executive at Sanofi Pasteur, describes staying on this learning journey. “I will not fall into complacency. No matter what, I will continue to hone myself.” In 2001 Schillinger landed a position in France at the vaccine maker. To date, she has occupied positions in human resources, product development, and stakeholder engagement. She moved to Boston in 2015 to focus on quality innovation. “I would define myself as a person under construction,” she said to me. “I’m always trying to enrich my experience by adding bits and pieces wherever I go. I experiment in my roles, and push for uncomfortable-ness to eventually gain new knowledge out of each situation.”

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