It was first obvious during the 2018 Super Bowl when viewers saw something surprising aside from the Eagles beating the Patriots, the ads were different. Normally funny (and even raunchy) bits made to promote products like beers and cars, the ads in 2018 featured a significant shift to storytelling arcs about ethos for the companies who make the products themselves. Companies across the globe were vying to be the most values-driven, knowing that Americans were looking to feel better about where they spent their consumer dollars.
And, it’s manifesting in the workplace in different ways for different types of workers.
Millennials want to work for companies that make them proud. An overwhelming majority of millennials identify purposeful work as a key factor for choosing between employment options. Purpose enables leaders to motivate employees, companies to connect with customers, and workers to understand their role in the larger system. And, it all starts with a connection to work.
Mid-career professionals looking to gain new skills transition to the nonprofit sector. The “generalist professional” nature of the nonprofit sector means that each staffer handles more responsibilities. The nonprofit sector simply does not have the luxury of hiring as many specialists. Therefore, corporate professionals who once were pigeonholed as “just finance,” for example, can take on roles in the nonprofit sector that include finance, operations, and administration. Mid-career professionals can connect directly through a broader portfolio of work to the causes they want to serve.
Experienced executives are proving to be the best entrepreneurs. In fact, a recent study by the Kauffman Foundation found that the average entrepreneur isn’t actually a college student creating Facebook in a dorm room at Harvard, but is 39 years old. Further, experienced workers-turned-entrepreneurs were five times more likely to be successful than their younger counterparts, partly because they can self-finance, but also because they have had the time to experiment with different professional paths, roles and responsibilities, and they know better what kind of work brings out their best talents so that they can work in consonance.
Professionals of all ages are looking for more alignment with who they are and what they do. Purpose-driven cultures tend to have different perspective on the metrics that really matter because they allow employees to bring their whole selves to work, not just the drone for the task at hand. A culture that values purpose doesn’t award martyrdom badges for all-nighters or face-time with the boss, but rather focus on what should actually count: the actual progress toward the shared goal of the cause, the community, or the company.
Baby Boomers want to make their final professional chapters meaningful. In a recent study by Stanford University and Encore.org, one-third of Americans over 50 — nearly 34 million people — stated that they were seeking to fill their time with purpose beyond just self. Baby Boomers, not ready to put their well-earned tool boxes on the shelf to gather dust, are seasoned and wiser and know that their formidable skills can be game-changing. When faced with more free time and longer lifespans than ever, these Boomers are looking for ways to create a second career (paid or unpaid) that focuses on giving back.
The outraged, the unfulfilled, and the disappointed simply want more. We are living in a time of upheaval and uncertainty. We are witnessing and participating in unprecedented political change, experiencing the growing pains that come with revolutionary technological advances, and facing challenges that come with increased interconnectivity. Every day, we wake up feeling with an unprecedented acuteness like the work we do needs to matter.
At the heart of each of these conversations is consonance, and how we can build our careers around it. I had to figure out what mattered to my clients; I had to figure out what mattered to me. Now it’s time to figure out what matters to you.