May 7, 2019

Meaning and purpose in our work. Your experience?

Valentijn van den Hout @vvdhout

I want to work at a place (or on a project) that makes me happy, where I feel I am part of a bigger mission that adds something awesome to the world. Working on my own products is a way to do so, or possibly finding a great mission-driven startup.

But every time I see job boards like Indeed and Monsterboard, they make me a bit sad. They feel cold and pale, with a high focus on salary and prestige.

You hardly get any idea about the company, the people working on it, and most importantly why they are working on it and what kind of mission they pursue. Even though these are the things that will determine my interest 🤗

I wondered if that is just me or if others share that view.

What do you think? How do you experience meaning and purpose in the work that you do? Have you had a great time finding jobs that get you excited or find that in the projects you work on?


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    Might be worth checking out KeyValues from @lynnetye - this is one of the problems she is working on.

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      Good lookin' out, Rosie! @vvdhout, I hear you loud and clear. I felt the exact same way when I was last looking for full time roles... so I ended up building Key Values as the resource I wish existed!

      I think that a lot of people look for meaningful work by constraining their searches by industry or mission. While this is certainly important, I'd argue that the people you work w/ are equally (if not more) important. I've worked on really fascinating and exciting problems before, but alongside people I disliked and/or found kind of boring. They pretty much squashed any joy I had.

      On the flip side, I can get really excited about virtually anything so long as I'm working w/ people who really inspire and energize me!

      In short: find meaning in not just what you do, but also who you do it w/. Hopefully Key Values can help!

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        Hi @lynnetye

        Great to see somebody is taking a run at this! I feel we need more of these type of platforms, even if it is just to offer the other option.

        Have you been working on this for a long time already? Did you get a lot of positive feedback? Are there interesting things that you learned? Very curious to your experience. I have been considering doing something in this space for some time now and just trying to get an idea of what people desire and what's already out there.


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          @lynnetye Great name by the way, "KeyValues" 👏

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          Well, lucky for you, I sat down w/ Courtland and talked about all of this for 100 minutes. 😂 It's more than you wanted to know haha.

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      Just checked the website. That definitely looks like a great resource! Thanks for sharing Rosie!

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    This is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I’ve never found purpose in work and think maybe it would require a totally different line of work. I feel strongly about environment and animals, I want to help both but it hasn’t been easy finding work I can do remotely in these fields. If I could fine a company and people who are seeking to make a huge impact on nature, and I can somehow contribute, I’d love to be a part of that.

    I think part of not being able to align with any values is the fact that I don’t want to be an employee. Unless it was some sort of a co-op I can’t imagine ever enjoying working anywhere where people are pocketing than myself, no matter the mission. I know it sounds shallow and narrow-focuses but something about this makes me hesitate ever seeking full time employment.

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      Can totally relate to the employee thing. Went solo in 2016 and never want to look back. Damn, even thinking about working in a dev team in one of those corps again scares the hell out of me.

      Before that I postponed quitting employment for 2 or 3 job changes. Never wanted to do this freelancing/contracting thing as it is just the same shit. Sitting in a room with a bunch of strangers coding stupid shit. No purpose anywhere.

      Luckily, I found out what drives me aka my why, my purpose, I even wrote about it. It helps me gain clarity of what work suits me. If my why does not fit the work, i know i will not do it or have a hard time pressing through it. But there is no joy, nothing. It is totally different on things that fit like the MindfulDevMag,

      Sure, sometimes it is a tradeoff because money has to come in. I do tech training for a while now and it is ok, actually more of a tradeoff because it pays the bills but I am getting so tired of this whole tech world.

      What do you do for a living and where? Maybe we all can help you fondna way to combone that with purpose in environment and animals?

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        Ji Jens,

        Thanks for sharing your own experience. Would you be okay with me reaching out to you to shoot you some questions? Would love to hear your thoughts on the space and what you feel can be better.

        All the best,


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            Hi Jens,

            Is there anyway I can reach out to you without crowding up the comments here? Email, twitter DM, whatever works for you.

            Thanks again and talk soon,


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              Use codeboje on twitter or hello@mindfuldevmag.

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      I totally understand you!
      At the moment I'm freelancing, and transitioning to a full-time position as a developer is something that terrifies me. I totally relate with the 'co-op' concept of working.

      So yeah, besides going for a full-time employment, the other options are either build a product, or build a team of developers that view work in this way.
      Both scare the heck out of me lol.

      If you don't mind me asking, what are you doing at the moment in terms of work?

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      Hi @Unity,

      No, I completely understand where you are coming from. Not shallow at all. Knowing what works for you is incredibly important so you are already far in that regard.

      I can imagine that is a bit difficult, although there must be many startups or companies out there that you'd probably love to work at. Finding them is a hurdle though.

      I'd love to talk to you a bit more if that is okay 🙏


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    My experience is that if I do one or two meaningful tasks a day it is enough for me to feel passionate. Also, my experience is that not only the direct result of what I do on my day job could be the thing that motivates me -- working for a bank, I'm more motivated to help the people on my team than delivering features.

    On another note, there is a job board for openings which, arguably, more impactful than the average job on the market Maybe you can find there anything.

    Another thing I recommend is doing the exercise by Marshal Goldsmith:
    "As you go through your day, I want you to evaluate every activity on a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 being the highest score) on two simple questions:
    #1. How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from this activity?
    #2. How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in this activity?
    Simply record the activities that make up your day, both at work and at home, and then evaluate each activity by applying these two questions."

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      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. 80000hours is a great website; love what they are doing and the effective altruism concept that drives it.

      I still feel though that such a job board misses something. They seem to focus on best way to make a large scale impact, even though there are so many smaller companies and startups that are doing more specific but amazing things as well, that might allow me to match even more strongly. But that can be a personal view. And I'd love to really have more visuals that help me "feel" the companies' mission and team spirit. Very vague probably haha but something like this. Sometimes you see a video of a company doing something incredible and it just goes straight to the heart. That's kind of what I am thinking about I guess.

      And thanks for sharing that. Never heard of Marshal Goldsmith but I'll definitely check that out as well.

      I am looking to see if I can add something to this field, purpose in your work and life. Feel there is so much to gain and there must be something I can do to help others also find a place were they feel they belong.

      I'd love to hear even more about your own experience in this. Every bit of insight might help me figure something out that I can take a shot at.

      Okay if I contact you via email?


      1. 1

        Hey Valentijn

        "They seem to focus on best way to make a large scale impact, even though there are so many smaller companies and startups that are doing more specific but amazing things as well, that might allow me to match even more strongly."

        1. Absolutely, I've seen people working as cashiers or bus drivers but they were immensely enjoying themselves. Of course, the impact can be an important factor for some but it's not mandatory for everybody in order to feel passionate about what they do.

        2. Marshall Goldsmith is an executive coach. The exercise comes from his book Mojo -- it's about the passion about what we do. I cannot say it is that great, but there are some good pieces.
          I personally like this exercise. I also coach people and I give some this kind of exercise because it's invaluable to do some 'research' to understand what excites you and then it's easier to bring it more into one's life.

        3. Sure feel free to write to me. I would be glad to chat with you.

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          Hey Alex! I've not heard of this exercise before either, but thanks for sharing - it makes total sense to audit yourself this way and something that should probably be done at specific points throughout one's life. :)

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            You're welcome. I would be interested to hear how will it work for you :)

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              Will let you know next week!

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          Hi Alex,

          Thanks again for the response. That's awesome. I will reach out to you soon. Going to be swamped for the rest of the day (meeting and then eating at my grandparents, very important 🤗) but I'll definitely reach soon.

          Talk soon and thanks again 🙏


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            Sure, there's no rush :) Have a nice day!

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    I stayed in the same job for over 12 years because I was really passionate about the mission of the company for a long time. I considered switching jobs quite a few times over that period, but I always found it hard to find another place that had a mission I felt worthy of my time. I think that passion (which many shared), and the way it came out in how we recruited, was key to us being able to hire stacks of great people.

    I guess the companies most likely to be passionate about their mission are small ones, and they're also the ones most likely to get drowned out somewhere like Monster - they don't hire often, and when they do it's often through referrals, networks, and outbound sales style recruitment.

    I have a theory that a great way to find jobs with orgs with a great mission is to keep an eye on the local startup press and keep tabs on companies that pique your interest. If you want to work for them, approach them, even if they aren't advertising roles. This could work especially well if they've just had a capital raise.

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      Hi Graham,

      Thank you so much taking the time to share your thoughts. Amazing how that match with a mission of the company can be so important to keep you there. I'd love to ask you some more questions if that is okay with you? I am excited about this topic and would love to see if I can build something great in the field that can really be of value.


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    Hi @vvdhout ,

    I completely understand you, if you don't work in a job that fulfills you, you'll end up frustrated and losing your motivation. I was very lucky to be part of the HR department of a company that had great values and where I could live my purpose. It's not easy to find but nowadays more and more companies realize that showing a compelling mission and values to the world is important to attract the right talent.

    My advice would be:

    Find out what is your purpose, what would you like to do in this world, what are your values, what really motivates you. This is the most important, once you know your "WHY", go out there and look for companies that are aligned to it. Contact companies in the industry you'd love to contribute, do some research of their culture (website, social media), and if you can't find it online you can reach out current employees in Linkedin to find out more.

    Living your purpose at work is a "must", and the key to your long-term satisfaction and fulfillment.

    Good luck, I'm sure you'll find a great place to work soon!

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      It's not easy to find but nowadays more and more companies realize that showing a compelling mission and values to the world is important to attract the right talent.

      Maybe I met the wrong side of those but I have never worked, directly or indirectly, for a company that actually lived their values. As soon as profit was in danger, margin too low or whatever, those values were forgotten. Often as soon as employees wanted somethong from management. Personaly, when a company talks in job ads about their values or mission it is on the same level as passion for me. It is bullshit, they only care for profit. Would love to meet one company really living their values.

      Nonetheless, your advise is top. You personal why is they key. Makes life easier and helps ruling out distractions and such.

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        What is the company culture? Who contributes on making it happen?

        The CEOs, leadership members or HR can make a huge effort to turn their values into a reality but at the end of the day is on everyone’s plate to act accordingly and be aligned to those values.

        Maybe the issue starts at the very beginning that companies don’t check the values of the people their hire (nor some candidates pay attention this aspects).

        Even if the company makes a huge effort to be honest and transparent, if they chose a wrong manager who lacks assertiveness what will be the result? A group of people living in a parallel reality where honesty is not present, but this doesn’t represent the whole company.

        I think the culture is made by each of us, being employees of an organization all our actions have a huge impact.

        Checking the company values and making sure they are aligned to yours increases the probabilities of being fulfilled but it’s never a guarantee, because it’s a very vague thing, but at least you have an idea of that is the direction and what is important for most of the people in that organization.

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          What is the company culture? Who contributes on making it happen?

          Essentially anyone in the company. However, it is senseless if upper management does not participate. It will not work if the CEO says our core values are x, y and z. The people follow along, but s/he and a bunch of the management do a, b and c instead. Quite often contrary to the values.

          I was once working in a consultancy which had mandatory training and compliance test about ethics for all employees. One part of it was no to share info with friends and families or acquaintances, nor giving them business/projects. Yep, and there I was sitting two weeks after this in a project meeting and the external vendor was owned by the daughter of the head of marketing of the company I was working for. Turned out it was an open secret on the management levels.... Consequences? None.

          Anyways, yeah, people need to share and actually live those values otherwise it is faux. I think we agree on that. And it is hard to find the cherries. That's why it is cool that you made the opposite experiences. What were the values? And how did the group deal with people not adhering to the values?

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            I got your point, and I agree, a key factor here is that the leaders of the organization become ambassadors of these values, so there’s has a cascade effect.
            The values of the company were transparency, ownership, passion... among others.
            It won’t be true to say that everybody was acting accordingly, there were many occasions when people (even influential leaders) didn’t respect them and this will always happen. In this situations, they were told (by HR, their supervisor...), to make sure they are aware of it and usually it brought to a discussion on how to approach that situation in a way that is more aligned with the values.
            We made a big effort to put our values on the table in many day to day situations: they were the core of the trainings/workshops, communications and performance appraisals we did. Also we asked for people opinion during the engagement surveys. Every small action helped to make people more aware and guide them.

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        +1 It can be hard to suss out the faux mission-driven ones from those which are real. Any company can slap up a video showing happy "employees".

        You really do need to dig a bit deeper, ask the right questions. Things like how do they make decisions, is it all about the bottom line or do they sometimes do things whose value can't be proven in a months' time but they actually believe in it which is why they do it.

        Actions speak louder than words.

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          Actions speak louder than words.

          Yes, yes and yes.

          It is so important to stay true to what you say. If you say you will do x, then do it. Otherwise, do not say it. It's just lip service. I reached the point, where I only believe people when they actually did what they said. With the sole exception on people who have a track record of actually delivering.

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          I agree that most companies are not 100% aligned with their values, because as I mentioned to @azarai it’s just a direction, aguidance to help employees follow certain ways of thinking/acting. But at the end of the day, it depends on how is each member of the organization behaves, company culture is not something static that is decided by a CEO, it’s alive and depends on every employee to make it happen.

          I encourage you to look for companies that have a vision and the goal to live values that are relevant to you, this will increase the chances to succeed but it’s never a guarantee. It also helps meeting the team and the one that will be your direct manager to find out more before accepting an offer. We did it in my previous company and it was really helpful.

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      Hi Andrea!

      Thank you for sharing your own experience. Much appreciated. Really like you point about finding your why. I'd love to ask you a bit more about this all if you'd be okay with that.

      Thanks again 🙏


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        Sure @vvdhout , feel free to ask me, it will be a pleasure for me to help you!

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          Thank you so much! I reached out to you over email 🙌

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    Man, I literally feel the exact same.
    Last couple of days I've been in the search of a job as a software developer, but just by looking to all these cold postings makes me want to quit.

    I also struggle a lot when I think about my meaning and purpose, and the contribution that I'm doing as a software developer.. Working on random projects doing repetitive front-end work is something that scares me and I don't want to end up doing..

    And like you, I think it would be awesome to find a start-up with people that thinks this way, or come up with an idea of a product and give my all to build it.

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      Maybe look at the dev to product mgr transition if you're a people person? You get a steady stream of new challenges this way.

      I was a former PM so speaking from experience.

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      Hi Ig 👋

      I totally get you. It's a shame that so little effort is focused on these aspects. Would you be okay with me asking you a few questions via mail? Just trying to figure out if there is something I can do in this space that can really add value.


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    I wrote about my search for meaningful work here:

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    This comment was deleted a year ago.

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    This comment was deleted a year ago.

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