If you’re in HR, marketing or any leadership role, you hear it all the time: Your company needs to articulate its purpose. Simon Sinek gave his popular TED talk on the subject in 2009. To date, the video has 33 million views.
LinkedIn and Imperative released a global study on the topic just last year. And a quick Google search will yield a ton of articles covering a different piece of the purpose pie every day. Yet there’s a sliver that deserves more attention.
How does your personal purpose align with the purpose of the organization where you work?
Working at an entrepreneurial agency, I have been able to explore many areas of business over the course of my career and became involved in different passion projects along the way. I have always gravitated towards internal operations and people work — even though I started out in client service and public relations — but I never had a guiding purpose or beacon that led me (at least not that I was aware).
It was working fine for me until five years ago, when very unexpectedly, I lost my younger brother to suicide. I can’t begin to express the tragic and gut-wrenching time this was, nor the difficult months and years that followed.
After this, I questioned everything: How did this happen? What if it happens again? How can we talk about these issues more openly as a society? In my family? At work? How can I better help the people in my life?
The seemingly endless barrage of questions follow me to this day, and probably will for eternity.
It’s that last one that really sticks though: “How can I better help the people in my life?” I ask it every morning, night and moment that my brain quiets.
I am driven to better serve the people around me so they can be more aware of the opportunities they have and can create for themselves, as well as to be a solid supporter for them when they’re troubled.
That’s my personal purpose.
My company strives to be a great place to work where we do great work. It’s a place where employees can be themselves, take on challenging assignments, and have fun while they succeed together.
Happily, there was alignment between my purpose and what the company needed. I was able to transition my career into human resources, where I am helping to shape the experience people have when they work here.
It took a tragic awakening for me to set my life on a more purposeful path, but it doesn’t need to be that way for everyone. What it does take are attention and intention.
If you don’t yet have a defined purpose, think about the following:
- What are the questions you ask yourself over and over?
- What are the best projects you’ve worked on? Why?
- Why were they important to you?
- What gets you excited to come to work?
- What brought you joy at – and outside of – work today? Why?
For two weeks, keep a journal to answer these questions. Review to see what resonates and what themes emerge. You can start to identify what you enjoy, want more of and desire to solve. With that in mind, you can look at your company’s purpose to determine if there is or could be alignment.
As you assess the connection between your personal purpose and the company purpose, consider the following:
- Look at shifts to your current role. Identify pain points in your company that are connected to your role and are aligned with organizational/personal purpose. Put your hand up and make your case to help or lead an initiative in that area.
- Explore new roles in your organization. Like me, you may have a calling that fits your personal purpose and helps the company, but you’re not in that role just yet. Speak with HR or a trusted manager to apply for another opening. If there are no relevant positions, get creative and see if there are steps you can take towards a new role. Maybe it’s shadowing someone in that role now, sitting on a new project committee or developing your own solution to an existing challenge. Sometimes expressing your interest is enough to open new doors.
- Acknowledge the round peg/square hole. If you’ve reflected, looked for alignment and sought connection, and it’s just not there, that’s OK. Be real with yourself, and if you can, with your company. At our firm, we have the utmost respect for people who say our company is not for them and are open to helping them find a better fit. If you’re not able to have this open conversation in your company, all the more reason to move on. This is the nature of business, and there is something better and more fulfilling for you out there.When you take a purposeful look at purpose – your own and your company’s – you may be surprised at the meaning you will add to your day, career and future. Worth a shot, no?