As a life coach, I work with a lot of people who want to feel more fulfilled in their job (and life, for that matter). When I question them further, however, it turns out that the word “fulfillment” is often hard to define.

So what is job fulfillment, then? What makes you feel energized and motivated and deeply satisfied in your career? Is it using your strengths? Doing work you enjoy? Being part of a team? Becoming financially independent.

I’d say all of those things play a part, to be sure. But there’s been one overarching pattern I’ve seen in almost every client I’ve worked with:

Fulfillment comes from helping others in a meaningful way.

Let’s break that phrase down into two chunks:

  • “Helping others” doesn’t have to mean working at a non-profit, giving all your money to charity, or rebuilding houses in a 3rd world country (although it certainly can, if that’s your deal). For some people, selling their handmade jewelry or helping clients develop an authentic brand feels like a positive way to be of service and give back. The key here is that you feel like your work is impacting others by solving a problem, spreading positivity, or improving lives, in one way or another.
  • The “meaningful way” part is where many people get tripped up, but it’s also the place where you can really personalize this concept. Perhaps you already work at a place that’s helping improve lives or solve problems in some way, but you don’t feel personally invested in the company’s mission. Or maybe you don’t get to work directly with the people you’re helping, so you never see the final impact of your work. Even if you logically know that you’re making a difference for someone, if it doesn’t feel meaningful to you, then you ultimately won’t get that sense of fulfillment.

Allow yourself to be creative when considering what feels meaningful to you. What do you regularly help friends/family with? What do people thank you for most often? When was the last time you felt like you made someone’s day? Really think about these questions to get clear on how you’re already making a difference on a regular basis – in a way that feels energizing to you and them.

Here are a few questions to help you determine if you’re meeting both parts of the fulfillment equation:

  • How is your work impacting others?
  • How invested do you feel in your company or team’s big-picture mission?
  • How often do you get to see or experience the results of your work?
  • How much interaction do you have with your teammates, clients, customers, or end users
  • Where in your life do you feel most energized, valuable, or satisfied?

We’d love to read your answers and hear your insights! Write your responses in the comments below.

Ask Gerri Elliott how her job impacts others!