How to Build a More Meaningful Career

meaningful career

The average person racks up at least 100,000 working hours over a lifetime. That means you spend more time in the office than you do in your own home and have more face time with your colleagues than your family or friends. Some of the most difficult decisions you’ll have to make will occur during business hours.

If you don’t love what you’re doing in your work life, then 85% of your time is only defined by a pay check. The hours outside of work with the people you love are the most important so in a way we’re all “working for the weekend,” but if you’re not present in the moment then you can’t have the career you want and deserve. How do you build a more meaningful career?

Here are some guidelines to help you get more out of your hours in and out of the office:

Be passionate about what you do.

Successful people love what they do. Whether you are in the position you’ve always wanted or you’re working to get there, there are silver linings that can get lost under task lists and paper work. Don’t let them.

First, know that you are making a difference for others. You support your team members and your manager. Everyone contributes to achieving department goals that are felt company-wide.

If you’re a manager then your work and leadership can help people build their careers and find meaning in their work. The time you invest in your employees can forever change their lives.

It doesn’t matter what your title is; the end result of your hard work isn’t just in a pay check. Clients, customers, real people you may never meet or know are benefiting from it in some way.

Another silver lining is that you will never know everything; you can always learn more. Each position is a unique opportunity to learn something new and different. The only constant is change, but you will always have your career experience. Challenge yourself to learn as much as you can from your manager, peers, direct reports and your customers.

Don’t play games.

Make it known that you’re at work to help the business and your colleagues succeed. Rise above office politics and drama. Office bullies who take out their insecurities on employees usually look to peers to encourage their behavior. Don’t.

If you are a target, remember someone who is trying to diminish your self-worth is taking out his/her personal insecurities on you. (Most bullies have gone through some form of abuse during their lifetime.)

Don’t retaliate; instead break the cycle with a professional discussion with your manager. Make it clear that you want to be at the company and you don’t want the situation interfering with your work. If someone is preventing you from accomplishing your goals then they are doing so at the expense of the business.

If your boss is a bully then find another position working for someone who actually wants you to succeed. Everyone at your workplace was hired to benefit the business and good managers do so by helping other employees reach their goals. Unfortunately, sometimes even managers can lose sight of what’s best for the company.

In the words of Peggy Olson from Mad Men, “it’s not a game, it’s my career”. There will always be people who play games or office politics, don’t be one of them. In the end, the merit of your work and your actions define you.

Take nothing for granted.

When a manager or colleague lets you know you’ve done something right, tell them that you appreciate it. Coming across as calm and confident is important to become a leader; humility and gratitude are necessary to be a great one.

Remember that the job is not all about you. Be open to other people’s ideas and be respectful of differences. Observe the strongest leaders at your company and how they drive success, not just for themselves but for their coworkers.

It’s easy to lose momentum, but don’t ever feel like you can stop trying or that a company owes you something. No one is invincible and people are appreciated when they provide a measurable value. There are limited career opportunities and leadership roles at any business and at the end of the day, it’s business.

Be in charge of your life.

Make the most of your time outside of work and remember to make time for friends and family members who have always supported you. You want to love what you do at work, so make sure you’re passionate about what you’re doing outside of work too. Some of the most dedicated professionals I know are amazing soccer coaches, novelists, mountain climbers or artists when they aren’t at work — don’t limit yourself!

Most of all, be in charge and accountable. It’s your life and you are in control whether or not it always feels that way. Know what your bottom line is and what your needs are — don’t compromise them or give them up. If your work experience isn’t a positive one, find another one that is.

How do you build a meaningful career?

Photo by DepositPhotos.

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Naomi Garnice is a Creative Services Manager and a full time WorkAwesome reader.


  1. Simon Duck on the 31st August

    Excellent points and I agree with them all. The main thing is that you be yourself, calm and collective and remember that helping people, working well together and keeping your head screwed on correctly is the most important aspects to being noticed whilst at work.

    Also always remain confident , but not arrogant. Make it known that you are able to complete tasks on time in a way where it installs confidence into those around you, and if you can’t complete it on time, always remain calm.

    Simon Duck

    • Naomi Garnice on the 31st August

      Great input, Simon. I’m glad you enjoyed the read!

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  3. Kate on the 5th September

    In some cases, the bully is a male “traditional” president and you are a woman exec. I find it hard to get around. Some things are not about “tasks” but about results. When results are good and prosperous, you are not aligned to your well deserved departmental/enterprise successes, it is a hard to make a case for your worth and your ability to move beyond the situation.

    I think, many times, the “bully” (especially in a more prominent position) knows you are the main contributor, so keeps you around, but diminishes your role and autonomy through micromanagement, giving new hurtles to overcome to maintain the same results. When that is not possible, their proclaimed thoughts of you are validated and expressed.

    In many cases, the takes years before realizing that you are in a “no win” situation. With these, the scenario yields leaving a company in a diminished state then when you came into it. It is hard to know when focusing your attention on an exit strategy is more prudent than focusing your attention on making it work and succeed. It is difficult to have the energy and focus for both.

    I can say with two scenarios in the past 18 years, it is hard to recover from and “move on”. I am convinced this scenario is one that produces more successful female entrepreneurs than any other.

    • Naomi Garnice on the 10th September

      Hi Kate, Thanks for sharing. It’s great to see you taking the positives out of challenging experiences.

  4. Frank Lio on the 18th September

    Thank you for the wonderful, spot on article! The one thing that we always have control of is our attitude in any circumstance. Always seek to create “win-win” situations, which also means to move on and not accept “loss-win” for yourself.

  5. Jaana Paloheimo on the 18th September

    Thank you for this article! It was inspiring and reached me at the right time, when I’m considering future career options.

  6. Andranik on the 22nd September

    Awesome article! Really useful tips and inspiration. Now, back to work…

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