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Being a leader takes practice. We’re excited to share our latest experiments and lessons learned.

Rachel Parsley
Friday, January 13, 2017

At the start of each New Year, as many of us do, I make resolutions. Some have stuck with me, and many (too many!) have fallen by the wayside. As another new year rolls around, I’ve decided this year’s resolution is to explore and further define my professional purpose.

Purpose is defined as “The reason why something is done. An object or end to be attained; an action in the course of execution.” Simply by definition, it’s clear that we all likely have a great many purposes, because we have many things to do, many reasons to complete them, and many goals to reach.

All of the things we do each day in our personal life, our professional life, our hobbies, with our families, and with the people that surround us, play a role in one, if not all, of our purposes.

You could say my purpose is to be a daughter, sister, mother, aunt, cousin, friend, or co-worker. My purpose might be as a baker, organizer, coupon-clipper, meatball maker, singer, reader, traveler, or wine lover. My purpose could be as a listener, a talker, a joke teller, a consoler, an analyzer, a writer, an adventurer, an event planner, or a brainstormer. And the list goes on and on…

I know that I am good at and enjoy all of those things. They provide a sense of purpose for me in my personal life and some spillover to my professional life too. Defining your purpose from a personal perspective is relatively easy. It’s just the things that come to mind when you’re asked to describe yourself on a very basic level: who you are and what you like to do. It’s interesting that by default, that just by being you, personal purposes are established.

It is a bit harder, I think, to define your professional or career purpose. This is especially true, for instance, if you’re new to your role, if you’re working on things that are challenging or are outside of your area of expertise, or if you made a major career change after many years of working for the same department or company.

Think about it this way: professional purpose, at its core, is a combination of what you love, what you’re great at, what you’re paid to do, and is something that the world needs.


What you love. Passion should definitely play a role in your job. It might be that you absolutely love working with the public, drafting correspondence, brainstorming, or managing a budget. More than likely, you won’t love every aspect of your position, but what you like most about your job is likely your passion and that overlaps with:

What you’re great at. This incorporates not only what you love about your position, but also what you do best. Perhaps your favorite part of the workday isn’t making spreadsheets or replying to emails, but they are areas in which you excel and are ways in which you are able to contribute to your team. Your passion for what you really like to do combines with what you’re great at, which makes your profession, and that overlaps with:

You are paid for it. They say that if you find a job you like, you’ll never have to “work” a day in your life. It also goes without saying that most people need to work and be paid for their work. A profession you enjoy and are good at and are paid for naturally becomes your vocation. That overlaps with:

The world needs it. The world needs a variety of talents and skilled workers to keep going. Your career should be one that leads or supports an effort you feel strongly about. This becomes your mission and becomes part of what you love.

It’s not easy to identify a core or sole purpose in life, let alone in your professional career. In our roles at work, we serve many purposes, and those purposes are ever-changing. It’s sometimes easy to forget how we got where we are in the career world, and once we’re there, it can be hard to remember from day-to-day how to challenge ourselves, learn new things, and take on new tasks.

This year, my resolution is to focus on my central professional purpose. To be mindful that although I have many purposes in life, I also serve many purposes in my career. I am grateful to have a job that I love, that I’m great at (if I do say so, myself!), that pays me fairly, and that allows me to contribute to the needs of the world. I enjoy going to work every day; my job challenges me, excites me, and keeps me on my toes. My passion for my position is furthered even more because my personal and professional growth is encouraged and fostered.

I invite you to reflect on your professional purpose. It’s something we don’t do very often, but we really should. Oftentimes, we simply just keep going through the motions day after day and don’t stop to think about all the reasons we’re in this world and doing the work we do. Allowing yourself a moment to reflect upon why you’re in the role you are, what you truly enjoy about it, and to acknowledge what you’re really good at, as well as to note the contributions you are making to your profession, is an enlightening and encouraging reminder that you have true purpose.