The Work-Meaning Connection
Several years ago, a Wall Street Journal/ABC News poll reported that nearly 50% of all those working in the United States would choose a new type of work if they had the chance (Warshaw 1998). Why do so many people feel dissatisfied with their work? The answer is complex and multifaceted. We live in an age where work has become "more personal than ever—when who you are is what you do—a deeper source of personal satisfaction than ever" (ibid., online, n.p.). Many are reexamining their careers in light of the growing realization that work should be more than a job. Instead of listening to internal signals, many individuals make choices about work and careers on the basis of external criteria such as income potential, status, and the opinions of others. Although they may achieve success in these careers, they may be unhappy and dissatisfied because their work is not aligned with who they are—their "core self" (Clark 1999-2000). Others may select careers based on their aptitudes-things they are good at doing—but just like external criteria these aptitudes may not reflect their "deep interests," that is, the things that really make them happy (Webber 1998).
According to Timothy Butler and James Waldroop, examining the terminology used to describe work can help unravel some of the questions about choosing work that is meaningful. Although the term "career" is used most frequently, the term "vocation" is more profound because it has to do with doing work that makes a difference and that has meaning. The Latin word vocare, which means "to call," is the root of the word vocation. A vocation is a calling that one has to listen for. It is not immediately recognizable and one has to be attuned to the message for it to be heard (Webber 1998). Finding meaningful work, therefore, involves listening for those internal signals that signify "deep interests" and then allowing the interests to lead to work that is aligned with a "core self."
Job Satisfaction and Career Happiness
Traditional vocational or career guidance grew out of the needs of the modern industrial era and focused on measuring individual differences or traits and then using this information to match people to occupations. Part of this tradition was measuring job satisfaction through a positive evaluation of individuals' attitudes toward their jobs. Career satisfaction measures concentrated on correlating external job factors with global measures of satisfaction (Henderson 1999-2000; Savickas 2000). Job satisfaction also depended on an individual's ability to recognize and follow his or her interests (Henderson 2000). According to Henderson (1999-2000), when "the popular literature began suggesting deeper meaning in work…these traditional studies and assessment techniques began to have an empty ring" for both individuals and career development professionals (p. 6).
In response to the need to address the evolving concept of meaningful work, a new...