Purpose: how to understand the meaning of your work

A few years ago I was an intern at the IT department at HSBC Brazil. Funny thing, I’m an Advertising graduate, barely knew anything about IT or anything about Technology especially when it comes to software. But, that’s exactly what made my 2 years internship interesting.

See, it wasn’t the environment or the department I was working for that defined my role, it was the purpose why I was placed there.

The purpose? Facilitating and opening the communication over the Americas continents, bringing countries together by telling more of the IT projects and events that happened in the region, making all employees understand we are all on the same page, inspire one another. Now, that has to do with me.

Since then, I have been seeking through purpose in every single experience I have. Personal experiences, academic ones and especially professional ones. What I’ve realized since I’ve started my “working” career back there when I was 16 years old, it’s that people constantly forget why they do what they do. They constantly forget why they are placed, where they are placed and most importantly forget their own work purpose.

Driven by that, I started to develop a strategy to help others understand their Value Proposition, their own purpose and co-related to their company. This is what this article will tell you, in 5 single tips.

1. Know your Why

In the book “Start With Why”, Simon Sinek explains what makes Apple a so outstandingly different company from their competitors, with what he calls the Golden Circle. If you are not familiar with it, the Golden Circle Theory explains that companies that know their why are more likely to succeed.

Basically, this is the Golden Circle:

Why — The core belief of the business. It’s why the business exists.

How — How the business fulfills that core belief.

What — What the company does to fulfill that core belief.

Alright, get it? No? It’s alright. Forget about companies, think about you. What is your why? Your why it’s your purpose. It is the reason why you get up in the morning. It is what motivates you to action. It is what keeps you focused each and every day and guess what, your why it’s what no one has the power to take from you, your core belief. Understanding your why, makes you understand the meaning of your work. Sometimes that reason it’s not super clear, maybe you have an idea of what is your why, but you can’t summarize it in a phrase. That’s the case of most young people, especially right after College when you get into the “adult life”. Don’t worry, if you can name a few reasons, then you’re on your way to understanding your why.

But don’t forget, your why is yours.

2. Your Purpose is not your Degree

Your essence can be influenced by where or what you have studied but it is definitely not defined by it. If that was the case, we wouldn’t have so many architects, doctors, professors, and engineers out there. The decision of studying a certain field is extremely important to fulfill your true purpose, but it needs to come from it, the degree, bachelor, master’s, Ph.D. or whatever you want to accomplish it’s just a way to get to where you want, it’s not THE way.

As an example: The fact that I’ve conquered a diploma in Advertising and Social Communication does not make me think that I need to be in an Advertising agency writing or producing ads, no. Studying this matter was needed to reach what I wanted, but it wasn’t what defined me as a professional.

3. Personal purpose + Company purpose = Self-Satisfaction

This is what I like to call: the perfect formula. Finding a company that has a purpose is not an easy thing. Entrepreneurs or even big companies are often drawn to first go after profit or market share instead of understanding what is the meaning of their product or even why they actually exist. Well, luckily there are companies who understand their essence, their purpose. Once you find one, reflect: Do I believe that this company can help me fulfill my dreams, my wishes, my purpose? If so, then it’s like Tinder: a match!

Being in a place you believe, where you are motivated to make things happen and is keen to acquire more knowledge can not only help you feel satisfied but will help you grow as professional more easily. It’s a chain reaction: satisfaction will make you feel proud which will motivate you to accomplish more and more.

4. The Story of your life matters

I am a person who is very attached to little details, they matter a lot to me. No, I don’t have OCD, what I mean by caring about details it’s the inner things between stories, those little connection points in real life, moments that take you from one to another. I believe that those little details are what differs twins, brothers and sisters, a person from another and every human being in the world. Sometimes we might even have similar backgrounds, values, beliefs, but it’s those details that differ us. Everything you have ever been through, everything you have done — every little thing — matters. It’s how you got to where you are, whether it’s a good or a bad place, you got there and obviously, there is a story behind everything you’ve done.

Don’t neglect your story, it’s because of it that you may be who you are, it’s how you got or will get to your purpose. Simon, sums up pretty well what I mean, with this phrase:

“Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY — our driving purpose, cause or belief — never changes.”

5. Activate your Purpose, Inspire others.

Once you have reached to a level where you have identified and found your Why, you will want to activate it, basically, will want to make it happen. Reaching and achieving your purpose has a lot of great effects but I believe the most important of them all, it’s the effect of inspiration. To inspire others is a hard thing, it is often misunderstood by people as manipulation (sometimes masked as it) and requires a level of self-knowledge and intuition.

Your narrative, your story, your meaning, can inspire colleagues on your company, inspire clients to acquire your product or just whoever else. The benefits of telling your story, inspiring others, are huge. Especially when it comes to employer branding and cultural organization awareness. In an article at Harvard Business Review, John Coleman explains that:

“Individuals must learn to connect their drives to the organization’s purpose and to articulate their story to others, a purpose is essential to a strong corporate culture and it is often activated and reinforced through narrative.”

So, use and abuse of Storytelling, your life’s stories, match your purpose to your Business, Company or whatever and trust me, that will inspire others.

-

Looking back to my internship at HSBC, I have not only passed a few more professional experiences since then but completely different ones. Back then, I was so sure about my purpose and if I told that girl back there what I’ve been doing today she wouldn’t believe at all because the scenarios changed, the environments changed, I’ve changed. She would only believe in one thing: She is on the right path to fulfill her purpose.

Hopefully, with these tips, you can feel the same way as I do.