How to find more meaningful work

I’m an accountant by trade, but I’ve been furloughed during Covid and had a lot of time to rethink. I’ve done some volunteering during the pandemic [helping out with vaccines] and I realise I want to do something more meaningful, where I can directly help other people. I’m not sure, however, where to begin to find out what that might be. How do I get started?

light bulb ideas


Covid has changed the way we think about work and the part it plays in our lives. For some this means focusing on work which feels more purposeful – activities which make a difference rather than simply bringing in a pay cheque.

What makes work meaningful is very individual. It might be about directly helping people, contributing to society as a whole, working creatively, or producing things of great quality.

Think about the kind of work you feel is worth getting up for on a cold Monday morning. What kind of people do want to be around? What kind of tasks do you find energising? What kind of outcomes seem relevant and meaningful?

That’s why experimenting with work ideas is a good idea, because it’s hard to understand what roles are really like without getting close to them. Volunteering, short-term placements or contracts, are all useful forms of exploration, but so is a good conversation.

Curiosity is the greatest driver here – always wanting to find out more about a particular sector – wanting to find out what’s round the next corner. Talk to people who you believe are in fascinating jobs. Talk in particular to people from your professional background who have built on their skills and experience and moved on to other, perhaps surprising, kinds of work.

New kinds of jobs and only work sectors are being invented almost daily, so commit to a programme of organised curiosity. Reach out, find out, follow your nose, and keep asking ‘where should I look next?

*John Lees is one of the UK’s best-known career strategists and author of 15 books on work and careers. How to Get a Job You Love (now in its eleventh edition) regularly tops the list of best-selling careers books by a British author and was twice selected as the WH Smith Business Book of the Month.

John is speaking in How to find a job you love on 25th November 2021, 1pm until 2pm. The event is one of our panels during the first National Older Workers Week which runs from 22nd November. The week will include a series of online events for employers and candidates with leading experts and employers. There will also be a panel discussion on the results of our survey of older workers’ experience of Covid and their attitudes towards their working lives, a best practice event on everything from eliminating age bias in the recruitment process to returner programmes and lifelong learning and an event for line managers on managing multigenerational teams. Find out more and register for the free events here.

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