6 Career Fulfillment Strategies to Help You Find Purpose in the Workplace

Happy young smiling businesswoman sitting in front of her laptop.

Are you struggling to find purpose at work? Do you feel unhappy? 

It can be tough to feel satisfied at work if you don’t feel as if you’re contributing to the overall mission that’s driving the company forward. No one wants to feel like they’re just punching the clock day after day without appreciation, recognition or bigger goals to fulfill them.

When you aren’t satisfied at work, you tend to look for other opportunities. It can eventually lead to a pattern of hopping from job to job and feeling unsatisfied in every role. 

Here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), our values of integrity, determination, responsibility, excellence and innovation drive a relatively transparent culture of communication and respect. We aim to help each team member feel connected to their greater purpose and understand exactly how their role contributes to the company’s mission. 

In this article, we’ll look at the most common reasons people feel unfulfilled at work and talk through some strategies to help you feel more satisfied in the workplace today and in any job you have down the road. (Hint: You’re in the driver’s seat.)

Why Do People Feel Unfulfilled at Work? 

Some of the most common reasons people feel unfulfilled at work are because they feel like they have no control, have no social engagement, receive little (if any) recognition or praise and have no opportunity for growth. The culture might not fit well or the job might not align with their goals. Sometimes, the job simply isn’t what they thought it would be. 

All of these factors play a significant role in how you feel about your work. However, the biggest differentiator between job satisfaction and dissatisfaction comes down to purpose — namely, whether or not you feel like or can clearly see how your work makes a difference or positively impacts the company. 

While it may sometimes feel as if your ability to find fulfillment in your career lies primarily in the hands of your employer, it’s actually a two-way street. Even the world’s best places to work cannot make you feel fulfilled if you, the employee, aren’t willing to be a partner in defining what that means for you and doing your share of the work to achieve it. 

The formula for achieving lifelong career fulfillment involves contributions from both the employer and the employee. It requires the employer's understanding and the investment of time and resources in connecting an individual employee to the impact of their contributions. And it requires the employee taking the time to discover and communicate their needs through collaborative goal-setting and ongoing discussions with their manager. 

6 Career Fulfillment Strategies 

Here are a few strategies you can use to hold up your end of the bargain and achieve career fulfillment.

Strategy #1: Identify Your Needs

The first step to achieving fulfillment in your career begins with internal reflection and discovery of what you truly need personally in order to feel satisfied in your job. The things you identify will almost always be both physical and abstract. 

Ask yourself, “What would have to happen for this job to be a better experience for me? Do I understand what I need to be fulfilled in my role? What does my employer need to do differently to help me succeed and feel fulfilled?” 

Physically, maybe you don’t have the right tools to do your job properly. Or maybe the chemistry with your current team just isn’t the right fit. Perhaps your physical surroundings are holding you back from achieving your greatest potential. Don’t be afraid to have an open conversation with your supervisor or the human resources team about your concerns. 

Even if your physical needs are met at work, you still may not feel fulfilled in your job. This is why determining the intangible things you need to help you feel fulfilled is so important. If you have everything you need physically, ask yourself, “What is still holding me back from feeling perfectly happy in my job?” 

Once you answer that question, dig deeper and find out what specifically you and your employer can do to help you get there. For example, if you’d really like to get greater exposure with other people or departments in the company, maybe there are internal committees, events or activities you could ask to be a part of. 

If you just don't feel like you're building any new skills to grow professionally, talk to your boss about training opportunities (keep an open mind, as these could include free online resources in addition to paid options). 

You can’t expect your employer to know or understand what you need to be fulfilled if you don’t understand it yourself. Once you have discovered these things for yourself, communicate them to your manager. While the company may not be able to solve everything, due to limited resources or other factors, once they know what’s important to you, most often a good employer will do everything they can to help.

Three young workers sitting together looking at the same laptop.

Strategy #2: Find Your Purpose in the Workplace

Now that you know what your needs are in the workplace, it’s time to tie it to your purpose. Start by understanding how your company contributes to the industry, economy, community and so on. Now take a step back. How does the department you work in help the company achieve that goal? Go one step further back now. What is your role on the team and how do you help the team achieve its goals? 

When you can connect your role to the greater picture, you can find your purpose at work. Not every company may be entirely transparent about where they’re going in the future, so talk to your manager for insight. They might not be able to tell you everything about the company’s strategic goals, but they should be able to provide some details about the company’s vision. Transparent leaders who prioritize a healthy culture will be open about this.

Let’s put these steps into practice, so you can see how it works. We’ll use ATS and our involvement in supporting the wind energy industry as an example. We all know that wind power is a clean, renewable energy source. 

Scenario 1: Customer Service Representative 

ATS is a leader in wind energy logistics, and we have been for decades. As you can imagine, energy transportation can get complicated. A lot of logistics providers won’t work on certain projects because they’re too difficult. That’s where your team comes in. 

While your supervisor might be a touchpoint with a major customer, your job is to align trucks to haul the parts of a wind turbine. Therefore, your greater purpose at work is to support the wind energy sector by keeping important parts moving across the country. Without you and your expertise in transporting this uniquely oversized freight, the components to build wind energy infrastructure simply wouldn’t arrive.

Scenario 2: Content Writer

To support the wind sector and get those parts transported where they need to go, ATS needs highly skilled truck drivers. That’s where the marketing and recruiting teams join forces. The recruiting team focuses on hiring drivers who have the unique expertise to safely transport these loads, but they can’t do that unless drivers know about the company. The marketing team helps this effort by publishing content that is of value and interest to this unique audience of drivers to build trust, running ads, boosting the company’s digital footprint in front of this audience and managing social media accounts, among many other things. 

If we take a step back and look at your role on the marketing team as a content writer, we know you’re more than just a writer. 

As the author of the content that catches the eye, creates the first impression and builds the first bit of trust with this unique class of drivers, without the content writer, ATS may not as easily find all the drivers we need to properly serve the wind energy sector. 

Strategy #3: Set Goals 

If you’re clocking in day after day, doing the same thing over and over, with no goal to work toward, you can feel like you’re simply a body in a seat. What goals are you working toward? How are you developing personally and professionally?

Having an onboarding plan when you first begin your job followed by an individual development plan (IDP) once you’ve been with the company for a few months can keep you on track and help you develop personally and professionally in the workplace. 

Schedule regular meetings with your supervisor to check in on your goal progress. It doesn’t have to be weekly, but having at least a monthly check-in will not only help you feel supported but will help you continuously work toward a bigger goal. Your boss can also support you by funding additional training for you to develop or learn new skills. 

Make sure to tie your goals to your greater purpose. Defining metrics can help with this. For instance, the content writer in the example above can keep track of how many pieces of content they publish and measure how many drivers were influenced by or hired because they viewed that content. 

Their goal may be to help hire five percent more drivers by year’s end. The steps to get them there could include publishing more content, finessing their content to apply to a wider audience of drivers and making the website more user-friendly.

Arrange goals into manageable, bite-size pieces that are easier to accomplish. Take the time to celebrate when you achieve each piece. One step at a time!

Two best friends smiling together at work.

Strategy #4: Engage With Others

Studies show, if you have a best friend at work, you’re more likely to feel fulfilled and enjoy going to work each day. Now, you might not need to find a new best friend, but if you’re feeling unfulfilled, it may be time to expand your social circle at work. 

Work to establish positive relationships with team members in your department and beyond. Instead of eating alone in the lunchroom, introduce yourself and sit with a group of people. Expand your horizons and reach out to other departments on staff you don’t normally work with. Volunteer (with your boss’ approval, of course) to work on projects that could use your unique set of skills.

And it’s not just what you’re doing to broaden your professional network within your company, it’s who you’re doing it with. Time and time again, we see examples of people achieving goals far beyond what they could have ever imagined because they surrounded themselves with people who were more advanced.

I once watched a seven-year-old hockey player whose mother landed him in the wrong class at hockey camp one day. The class was full of skaters who were bigger, faster and stronger than him. But after a brief moment of terror, by the end of the class, he was skating circles around kids two to three years older than he was. This is a perfect example of where our expectations of ourselves lie today and where they could be if we step up to a challenge.  

When you surround yourself with new people, especially those with experience you can learn from, you broaden your capacity to learn and grow in your own position. Aim to be in rooms where diversity of thought is celebrated. You’ll need to keep an open mind, sure, but this type of collaboration — and a little bit of terrifying discovery of what you’re truly made of — can be incredibly fulfilling. 

If you’re working on a big project, make sure you circle back afterward to talk about what went well and what didn’t go well. Open the line of communication so you’ll be invited to collaborate in the future.

Strategy #5: Get Involved

Volunteering has a long list of benefits, from making an impact and meeting new friends, to feeling the satisfaction of accomplishing something bigger than you could hope to alone. Maybe your company is a sponsor at a big annual event. Maybe they’re involved with several organizations in the community and they host volunteering events year-round. If not, at the very least, you can probably lend your time and skills to event or holiday planning. 

I have yet to meet an internal committee in a company that wouldn’t accept a helping hand if it were offered. When you volunteer or spend time working on committees, you’ll feel the satisfaction of being needed and depended on, not to mention gaining exposure to other parts of the business — people who perhaps later could help you in your career or professional growth. 

In an adjacent move, you could also see if you can lend your brain power to a different department of the business as time allows. If you can help another department and it doesn’t take away from your everyday tasks, this can be seriously fulfilling.

Engineers in blue hard hats and bright yellow vests high-fiving one another.

Strategy #6: Set Realistic Expectations

Setting the proper expectations is probably the most important thing you can do to help position yourself to be fulfilled in your career. 

It's great to reflect and understand what you need to feel fulfilled, but sometimes the things employees need and want to feel satisfied are just not realistic for any company to provide. 

For example, perhaps you want a certain pay level or a certain title, but you also only want to work two days a week. Those two just don’t mesh in the real world. If you want higher pay, expect that you’re going to have to work hard to earn it. You get out of it what you put into it. 

Alternatively, if you only want to work two days a week (or want to spend a bunch more time at home), no measure of pay, benefits or recognition will ever make you feel happy or satisfied because when you have a full-time job, the reality is that you have work, well, FULL time. 

Ensure the expectations you set for yourself and your employer are realistic.

Culture and Fulfillment 

In the pursuit of finding fulfillment at work, acknowledging the role of purpose and connection is paramount. Feeling unsatisfied in a job often arises from holding onto unrealistic expectations and a lack of purpose, control, recognition and growth opportunities. But the good news is, the first step to feeling fulfilled at work is in your hands. 

The key to breaking this cycle lies in identifying specifically what it is that’s going to help you feel fulfilled and aligning your role with a greater purpose. Strategies like need discovery, setting goals and proper expectations, embracing collaboration and volunteering contribute to the journey of fulfillment. 

Ultimately, if, despite these efforts, you remain unfulfilled, evaluate company culture. Leaving a job should be considered as a last resort, only after exhaustively trying the aforementioned strategies and ensuring you’ve put the personal energy and attention needed into it.

If you decide to change jobs, focus on finding a culture that suits you. This article will help guide you by providing a list of questions you can ask about culture in your interview.

Brenda Schermerhorn

Written by Brenda Schermerhorn

Brenda is the marketing director for ATS. She has been with the company since 2016. As a seasoned marketing professional, Brenda facilitates seamless alignment between sales and marketing internally to accelerate revenue enablement and growth. Externally, she obsesses over the questions and concerns customers and career candidates face and leads efforts to build partnerships leading to mutual success. Brenda is also a tireless advocate for company culture and she’s seasoned in teaching and leading from its core principles. These passions in collaboration uniquely position her to bring a fresh and progressive perspective to inspiring performance above and beyond expectations.

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