Why meaning is the point in our job

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Yerin, you are an expert in positive psychology with a special interest in meaning. How do you find meaning in your own work?

I used to think a lot more about how meaningful my work is overall, but nowadays I tend to focus more on the more granular “meaningful moments” I experience throughout my workday. Once in a while, I would still look back and reflect on my current work and think about all the things I’m grateful for about my work, or what I believe I am contributing to through my work. I think that helps to remind myself of why I am doing this work, and helps me get through stressful times. But mostly during a busy semester, I enjoy savoring meaningful moments that happens throughout a workday by taking a moment to appreciate it or share it with my loved ones at the end of the day.

Yerin Shim is one of the speakers at the Swippa Conference 2023.

Many people don’t see direct positive outcomes of their work like you do. Do you have a suggestion how one might experience more meaning in a more ordinary job?

Although I believe that an “ordinary job” is also a perception, I do agree that there are certain jobs that are generally easier and some more difficult to find meaning in. In the latter case, instead of relying on job characteristics, leveraging other sources of meaning in the job can potentially provide one with more meaning. For example, if it is difficult to find meaning in the work itself, the person might be able to find meaning in their relationship with co-workers, or how the job is helping them provide their family. They might also use job crafting techniques if they have the autonomy to do so.

Could you describe what you observe in people who manage to find more meaning in their job?

In my previous work, I interviewed workers in low-income jobs such as cashiers, who differed in their level of meaningfulness. Those who endorsed high meaning in their work mostly reported enjoying their work and experiencing positive emotions at work, but also saw their work as beneficial for themselves and others. There are many psychological and contextual factors that play into one’s meaningful assessment of their work, but from my observation, I think people who see their work as meaningful tend to have perspective on their work and make good connections to fairly distal positive outcomes.

This sounds very heartwarming. One might wish for everyone to find meaning in their job. Now, don’t you think in a more digitized and more turbulent world it’s more difficult to find meaning? It seems so me, we are well networked but feel less connected. What is your take on this?

Obviously one of the biggest sources of meaning for most people are through relationships. Although technology has helped us stay connected during the pandemic, I think we often hold onto precarious meaning in a virtual world rather than deep meaning that can be experienced through real connection. And that’s why I am looking forward to connecting with you all in-person at Bern this November!

About Yerin Shim

Yerin Shim is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Chungnam National University in South Korea. She designs her research on well-being in a way that directly benefits practice. She will give a keynote address at the Swippa conference.

The Swippa Conference

“Successful living, successful ageing”, “Positive psychology in the workplace” or “Mindfulness in schools”: Be inspired by exciting lectures on positive psychology and gain further qualifications in workshops with proven experts. The annual conference of the Swiss Society for Positive Psychology (SWIPPA) is aimed at a broad professional audience from science and practice in the field of positive psychology. The conference will present the latest research results and at the same time aims to demonstrate and promote applications:

  • International keynotes will present the latest research findings
  • Parallel sessions allow a thematic focus
  • Workshop sessions provide practical user skills
  • informative poster session
  • the SWIPPA award ceremony highlights special work

Find more information and the registration form here.

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AUTHOR: Alexander Hunziker

Prof. Dr. Alexander Hunziker is director of studies of the EMBA Public Manager and lecturer for Mindfulness, Positive Leadership a.o. at the BFH Wirtschaft.

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