We all want fulfillment from our careers. In fact, research from BetterUp, a career experience platform, found that more than nine out of 10 people would be willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earning for more meaningful work. 

It’s important, but it’s definitely not so easy to find. Often, you get so wrapped up in the daily fires and minutiae, you end the workday feeling deflated rather than delighted.

That leaves you itching for something to change. You want more satisfaction from your professional life, but you aren’t sure what it takes to get there. Do you need to turn everything on its head and make a dramatic career shift?

Maybe. But, it’s worth trying some smaller changes first. Below are a few strategies you can put into play to find a greater sense of meaning and purpose in your work. 

1. Know your values

When it comes to fulfillment frustrations, it’s tempting to point the finger at your employer. They aren’t giving you work that matters. They aren’t supporting your ambitions. They’re only giving you busy work.

However, it’s important to recognize that you’ll always struggle to feel fulfilled if you don’t take the time to understand where that feeling actually comes from for you.

That’s why this is an important first step to take when you realize you aren’t totally satisfied with your current situation. Reflect on what would actually make you feel more fulfilled. A greater emphasis on social good and serving the community? Doing work that you really enjoy? Getting more insight into the impact you’re making on a daily basis?

Pinpoint exactly what you need and what you’re missing. That’s important information to have before making any other changes. Take a few different personality assessments to help you!

2. Set some self-imposed goals

Ultimately, you’re accountable for your own career. So, if you’ve been waiting for someone to push you in the right direction or lead you directly to more fulfillment, it’s time to change your perspective by setting some self-imposed goals.

Establishing these milestones for yourself is not only super motivating (it ties back to something called the Progress Principle, which states that making progress—even if it’s a small win—is the best motivator out there), it’s also incredibly rewarding. It’s tough to end the day not feeling fulfilled when you know that you managed to accomplish something that’s important to you.

Take this a step further by connecting some of your goals to the values you identified in the first step. Want more social good? Set an objective of pitching an employee volunteer club to your manager by the end of the quarter. Want a greater understanding of your impact? Make it a goal to meet with someone from a different department each month to get a better grasp on how your work fits in.

3. Connect your tasks to the larger purpose

When you’re so busy cranking your way through your daily to-do list, it’s difficult to connect the dots to the greater purpose that your work is serving.

Sure, you know that you need to update this spreadsheet or complete this report—but sometimes it just feels like a fruitless task. However, almost everything you do in your daily job connects to something much bigger and better. 

That spreadsheet might seem meaningless, but your company wouldn’t be able to host that huge annual event that generates a quarter of your revenue without it. That report might seem mundane and repetitive, but it’s a key piece of information that keeps your board of directors informed about your organization’s progress so that they can make smart decisions about the entire company’s future.

That focus on the bigger picture can be difficult to maintain. So, in those moments when you feel like just another cog in the wheel, trace the line that connects your tasks to the end result. I promise, your workday will suddenly feel a whole lot more meaningful. 

4. Volunteer your time and skills for causes you care about

This one isn’t necessarily something that’s part of your day job, but it’s a great way to leverage your professional skills for an initiative that you’re personally passionate about.

Are you a marketer with a soft spot for animals? See if there are some shelters or rescue organizations in your area that could use some help with social media. Do you work in finance and are a big believer in environmental responsibility? Check if there are some nature preserves, recycling initiatives, or educational programs that need some assistance with their budgets or their books.

While it won’t contribute to your sense of fulfillment while you’re “on the clock,” so to speak, it’ll still provide a rewarding, positive feeling knowing that you’re using the professional skills you worked so hard to hone to make a real impact for a cause that you care about. 

Final Thoughts 

Wanting more fulfillment from your professional life is totally understandable—and you don’t necessarily need to make a drastic career change it happen.

Put the above four tactics into play, and see if you feel a greater sense of satisfaction at the end of the workday or week. If not? At least you can rest assured that you tried some smaller changes before making a bigger leap.

Kat Boogaard
Kat is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer who focuses on careers, productivity, and self-development. She has written content for The Muse, Trello, Atlassian, QuickBooks, Toggl, Wrike, and more. When she's not at her desk, you'll find her spending time with her family—which includes two adorable sons and two rebellious rescue mutts.