Recently one of the women attorneys in a mentoring circle that I facilitate expressed her dissatisfaction with her current job. She worked in a small firm where the partners brought in the work and distributed it to the various attorneys in the firm.

The partners then checked the completed work and delivered it to the client. This attorney didn't feel very connected to the clients, her colleagues or the partners even though she loved the legal work she was doing.

Her dissatisfaction had been in the background she said for the most part but what really brought it to the fore front was watching the funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy. As she listened to Kennedy's accomplishments in serving the poor she wondered about her own contribution to the world.

Many of my clients yearn to make a difference in the world and come to me to find a career or a way to make their own work more meaningful. In an article entitled 5 Must-Haves of Meaningful work written by Paul Fairlie in the HRReporter Canadian in June, Fairlie lists these 5 must-haves:

Variety: Using a wide range of skills to do a variety of things

Control: Having a say in how you do your work

Clear feedback: Knowing how well you're performing.

Recognition: The praise you get for doing your best work

Significant impact: Doing work that is important in the greater scheme of things

The 5th "must-have" (significant impact) is that yearning to do something as impactful as the young woman saw in the life of Senator Kennedy.

Take a look at the 5 "must-haves". How would you rate your job? Missing even one or two of these might make you less committed to your employer. It can also lead to burnout, depression, dissatisfaction and thoughts of leaving.

The article ends with tips for employers who stand to lose a lot if employees don't see their work as meaningful. My coaching focus is on what an employee can do if he/she finds their work is missing some of these "must-haves".

The first thing to consider is how you can make the work more meaningful. Sometimes employers are unaware of the employee's dissatisfaction. Before approaching the employer, have a plan in mind.

If variety is missing, volunteer to learn something new. You might in fact be helping your employer who hasn't thought to ask you.

If recognition and feedback are missing, let your employer know that you do your best work when you get clear feedback regularly on your work and praise when the work is done well. (Does this feel wimpy? How else will you get what you need? Your employer is not a mind reader.)

If control is missing, making some suggestions about how to do the work faster, more cost effectively or more accurately, would then give you a start on controlling how the work is done.

This assumes that you don't have an unreasonable boss of course. Some of you however may work for unapproachable or inflexible employers. The woman in the mentoring circle indicated that the partners in her firm were not willing to make a change.

When all else fails of course there is always the alternative to find a new employer. This may take time and effort on your part. In the meantime how do you manage to continue to do excellent work while looking for something more meaningful?

Author's Bio: 

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor (The Attorneys’ Coach) and a Career Changers’ Coach as well as publisher of "Parker’s Points", an email tip list and "Road to Success", an ezine. Subscribe now to these free monthly publications at her website and receive a values assessment as a gift. This assessment will identify your top 4 values. Working from your values makes the work more meaningful and fulfilling.