Does My Work Really Matter?

We all want our work, our contributions to matter. We want our effort to count, to have real meaning, and to know in no uncertain terms that the time we spend is moving the needle forward.

Not only do we want this to be absolutely clear for our team and the business that we work for but we also want to know that it’s also moving the needle forward for ourselves, professionally.

It took me a while for me to come around to the realization that much of the reason that I was unhappy with my work was because I simply couldn’t understand or tell if the work that I did really mattered.

In many cases I could easily justify away any suspicion and, as a consequence, convince myself that the work that I was doing was really helping the company move things forward but, over time, I have spent less time lying to myself and less time in self-deceit.

And, eventually, I came around to the realization that I wasn’t being valued and the work that I did could be easily done by someone else; I was no longer really being challenged and the environment wasn’t built in a way that would allow me to maximize my strengths, my talents, and my gifts.

As a result, everyone was getting the short-end of the proverbial gift and it was ultimately up to me to gather the courage to move on or die a very slow death. Thankfully, there’s only been one time where I’ve experienced a slow death – all the rest I’ve been either fired or I’ve been able to move on at my own discretion.

A few things that helped me answer the internal question as to whether I was providing real value, that the work that I was doing really mattered, were the following:

  1. Could I tangibly and explicitly measure my impact?
  2. Did I ever feel that my work was irrelevant? Or rather, how relevant were my contributions to the greater mission?
  3. Could I be easily replaced? Would I care if I was?
  4. Did leadership recognize my work or the value that I was creating or was I just a “cog” in the machine?
  5. How do I feel about the rate of my personal and professional development? Perhaps related to my “Rate of Learning“.

These aren’t easy questions to answer all the time, but, what I’ve realized is that I’ve gotten better at not lying to myself about the answers when I was able to answer them honestly.

And, to be honest, for the most part, in my heart-of-hearts, I knew the answers already – it just took the courage to say them aloud and then, of course, to do something about it.