A lot of people are bored with their jobs. In a recent Gallup poll, 70 percent of workers described themselves as "emotionally disconnected," not engaged or actively disengaged from their work.
One popular form of dealing with day job doldrums is volunteering, which provides a sense of purpose and inspiration that workers lack in cubicle life, says Aaron Hurst, who ran a nonprofit organization for 13 years that connected professionals to pro bono work and volunteer services.
The problem, says Hurst in the New York Times, is that there are far more volunteers than useful volunteer positions, and "demand to volunteer masks a broader problem in our society."
Professionals that Hurst worked with felt that their pro bono work was rewarding because they were contributing to a greater good, but also because it provided personal growth and a sense of teamwork and purpose in working with other professionals.
"If people are finding satisfaction in self-expression and personal growth, as well as teamwork, then that suggests that they don't have to search outside of work for meaning," says Hurst, who notes that the reward was often not from the larger goals of the nonprofit, but the way that the work was performed.
The solution to making a job more than just a job is "job crafting," according to Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski, who did a study last year that compared people who had the same job. Some felt like "cogs" in a machine and some found real meaning in their duties, she told the Huffington Post. The difference? Attitude and approach.
"Job crafting" is taking a careful look at your role and switching up the "number, type and nature of your tasks and relationship to them," says Wrzesniewski. Identify your strengths and the things that you enjoy, and leverage them to increase your engagement in the office. A personal connection can lead to a different attitude, and "celebrating more of what you like" allows you to be more authentic at work, she says.
Hurst interviewed Cornerstone Capital Group, where the chief executive asked employees to identify the best parts of their jobs, then made small adjustments to "refine" their work flows and boost meaning.
"We cannot meet this demand by looking to 'causes' as the primary driver in our careers and place the burden on nonprofits to fulfill this need," says Hurst. "We need to cultivate self-awareness to take ownership for creating purpose in our work."