The Value of Meaningful Work

(This is the 3rd post in our 2018 "Celebrating Work" series. Each week we're highlighting a different theme about work and asking YOU to help contribute. Join in and let us know your perspective on work!)

In 2005, Gallup began conducting studies through their new World Poll in more than 160 countries (which are home to more than 99% of the world's population) and collecting survey data on a variety of political, economic, health, and global issues. Ten years later, they released the findings and announced one of their biggest discoveries to-date:

The whole world wants a good job.

It may seem obvious to us now, but this was a monumental find. In his book, “The Coming Jobs War,” Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton states that "humans used to desire love, money, food, shelter, safety, peace, and freedom more than anything else. The last 30 years have changed us. Now people want to have a good job, and they want their children to have a good job; they don't want informal jobs or self-employment out of necessity. It is a sociological shift of great significance.”

In the first week of our “Celebrating Work” series, we learned that throughout most of human history a job was not something you were meant to love or find fulfilling; you worked because you had to—which is what Mr. Clifton is referring to in his quote above. In modern times we can now find work we not only tolerate, or endure for the money, but profoundly appreciate. We are now all in search of a good job.


A Great Job & Meaningful Work

So what exactly is meant by “a good job?” Gallup defines it as a job “with 30+ hours of work a week with a consistent paycheck from an employer.” Jim Clifton goes a bit further and describes what a “great” job entails: “A great job is a job in which you believe your boss cares about your development, you can use your strengths every day at work, and you believe your work makes a contribution to something.”

At Jobs for Life, we want to focus on helping people find not only a great job, but a great, fulfilling career. We actually describe this type of work as “meaningful.” That word has recently found its way into the Jobs for Life mission statement: “Jobs for Life engages and equips the Church to prepare individuals for meaningful work.”

This was very important for us to further clarify, because we’re not interested in helping people find just any job. We stress the importance of searching for a job which offers at least a living wage (the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs such as food, housing, and clothing), offers growth potential and advancement opportunities, and where your skills and strengths will be best put to use. As we learned last week in week #2 of our series, if God has given us the gift of work, and if by working we’re able to better understand our true identity, be co-creators with Him, and provide for ourselves and our families, then we believe God wants all of the above for us. We believe He wants us to have meaningful work.


Unfulfilled & Disengaged

Gallup’s World Poll also revealed another startling fact: only 15% of the world's one billion full-time workers are engaged at work. In the U.S. the numbers are slightly better at around 30% of the working population feeling engaged at work, but this means that most of the country’s full-time workers feel no real connection to their jobs. The study also found that another 16 percent are “actively disengaged” at work and resent their jobs.

We know unemployment is an issue we need to tackle, but we’re finding more and more that underemployment and unfulfilling, disengaging work must be addressed as well. All of these issues can contribute to deteriorating physical health, depression, substance abuse, crime, divorce, and insomnia. In the workplace, disengaged employees may do just the bare minimum, tend to gripe to co-workers, and will drag down office morale as a result. This will not only cripple a company, on a larger scale it can also destroy a community and even a city.

Why does this happen? Why do so many people hate their work and feel unfulfilled at their job? Forbes put together this Top-10 list of reasons why, which includes being disrespected and ignored by supervisors, being underpaid and overworked, and having no advancement potential. This all makes sense—why would you want to go to work if this is what you faced every day? Is this what God had in mind when He gave us work?


The Journey Towards Meaningful Work

In the Jobs for Life curriculum, we use the analogy that searching for and finding a meaningful career is like taking a long road trip. It’s important to bring along the correct tools and resources with you on your journey, understand where you are going and have a plan to get there, and know how to get through the roadblocks and obstacles when you encounter them. Otherwise, you’ll either be unsuccessful in finding any work at all, or you’ll land in an unfulfilling job and be disengaged in your work.

For the churches and ministries leading Jobs for Life classes and helping people in their community find and keep meaningful work, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. We can’t expect those struggling with unemployment or underemployment in our communities to figure out the process on their own—finding a job IS a job, and it’s not easy to navigate alone! We need to fully understand the job search process, get familiar with the employers in our area offering good work with living wages, understand the skills and strengths of our neighbors looking for work, and get connected with the community resources that can help our neighbors overcome any barriers they may be facing in finding and landing a meaningful career.


We want to hear from you!

What is meaningful work to you? How does it make you feel when you’re at a job where you feel appreciated, respected, and your skills and talents are being used? Have you ever been at a job where you felt unfulfilled or disengaged? What was that like, and what did you do to change it? Tell us your story in the comments below!


About The Author

Alex Ford

Alex Ford, Marketing and Communications Manager

Alex grew up in the mountains of western North Carolina, later moving to Raleigh where he earned his degree in Graphic Design from the College of Design at North Carolina State University. He now works at Jobs for Life, where he is able to combine his love for design and marketing with his passion for community development and serving those in need. Alex lives in Raleigh with his beautiful wife, Caroline, and spends his free time playing basketball, hiking, and volunteering at Neighbor to Neighbor in downtown Raleigh.


Alex Ford
Yes! The work environment makes such a big difference. If you love your work, but the quality of your workplace is poor and/or you work with individuals who are disrespectful, degrading, or don't see your value to the company, it can make for a miserable experience. We'll actually be focusing on creating a good environment next week, so good timing, Mark! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
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Finding a job is definitely a job and the most important thing about a job to me besides the task is the environment.
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