Dear Shannon

Dear Shannon: Create a purpose statement and unleash your impact

Frederic Legrand-COMEO
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon could be described as the epitome of the purpose-oriented worker. Here he speaks at COP21.

Last month I delivered the Keynote speech at Hitachi's WIN Summit for Women in Innovation. As I told them my story, I was humbled by ones I got in return of how each individual in that room — women of all career stages at job functions — was spending each day trying to bring a sense of purpose into her work.

Six years ago, shortly after having my second son, I left the corporate world and created my own dream impact job when I founded Walk of Life Consulting. I traded in my regular paycheck, job security and a 40 percent higher salary for flexibility and a role that better aligned to my true purpose — to get more change leaders into their dream jobs to save this planet. 

I saw a gap in the market from my years of recruiting, hiring and managing that help was needed for professionals wanting to reinvent themselves to make a difference to the world through their careers.

Turns out, I’m not the only one. Today we are witnessing a movement of impact professionals building their careers around a sense of purpose. Over the past five years, there's been an explosion of interest in purpose-driven leadership and a drive towards non-traditional roles. In August, the L.A. Times called this movement the end of the "Era of Big Work."

A company called Imperative, which advocates for purpose-oriented workers, recently released a study in partnership with New York University where they surveyed 6,300 people in the U.S. about their work orientation — either that they were orientated with purpose or without purpose.

Purpose-oriented workers have a mission that links to their life's meaning, their calling. In the study they found that 28 percent of 150 million workers in the U.S. are purpose-oriented from baristas to Fortune 100 CEOs.

Women and people over 55 were more likely to be purpose-oriented. The remaining 72 percent define work around financial gain, social status and advancement.

What I found most interesting is that purpose-oriented workers thrive as employees and human beings at significantly higher levels on every measure. Here are just six traits that stood out to me. They:

  1. are dynamic, curious and self-advocates
  2. consistently outperform their peers
  3. are 50 percent more likely to be leaders
  4. are 65 percent more likely to have fulfillment in their work
  5. have stronger relationships and bonds with colleagues
  6. speak up for themselves at work

When clients come to me wanting more meaning in their work lives, I try to help them get clearer on their purpose. I frame their purpose into a "statement" — a purpose statement.

Your purpose statement is not what you think you or "it" should be. It’s actually framed around the who you can’t help being. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do your job and why.

Your purpose statement should be specific and personal, resonating with you and you alone. It doesn’t have to be aspirational or cause-based ("Save the whales" or "Feed the hungry"). In fact, it might not necessarily be all that flattering ("Be the thorn in people’s side that keeps them moving").

Mine is, "To pioneer ways of enabling others into action towards their life’s meaning."

So, tell me, do you have an invigorating sense of purpose that ignites your passions?

For some bespoke advice on defining your purpose and incorporating it into your personal brand, get in touch with me at Walk of Life Consulting. 

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