How to ask your boss for a more meaningful job

While a paycheck is important, many people question trading their time for money. According to a McKinsey survey, 70% of employees in the US say their job defines their purpose and nearly half are rethinking the type of work they do due to shifting priorities during the pandemic.

Instead of leaving your current employer to find a job that’s more fulfilling, though, it’s possible to find a greater sense of purpose where you are, says Soon Yu, author of Friction: adding value by making people work for it.

One of the greatest benefits of work is that effort has meaning. It can be learning something, teaching something, or getting better at something and being able to demonstrate mastery. Much of the reward of a hard day’s work is knowing who you helped, how you moved the business forward, or what you proved to yourself today. Often these times are based on periods when you faced adversity and overcame it.

While companies are realizing that they must provide opportunities for professional development, mentoring, and career advancement, employees can and should start asking for them. However, how you approach your request will likely affect its success.

How to frame the question

Don’t leave the application in your lap, says Ken Coleman, author of From Paycheck to Purpose: The Clear Path to Doing the Work You Love. “You could create a bit of unnecessary tension, even if you’re ultimately helping your boss,” she says. “Instead, you can be like a lawyer in court and guide them down the path to what you’re really asking about.”

Do this by casting a vision. Coleman recommends displaying a hunger wrapped in humility. For example, “I am grateful for this company and the job that I have. I want to grow professionally and have been looking into my heart and examining my talents, what I love to do and the results that matter to me.”

“I call this talent, passion and mission,” says Coleman. “Talent is what I’m good at. Passion is what I love to do. And my mission speaks of the values ​​and results that I want my work to generate.”

Then ask for what you need to get there, such as additional training, new assignments, or additional responsibilities. Be sure to connect effort with anticipated results, showing your boss what to expect from you in the future.

“Draw a picture for your boss of what you’ll look like when you use the specific talents,” says Coleman. “You want to add more value to the company. That kind of specificity and vision projection will draw them in as participants and help gain their buy-in.”

For example, you might say, “Do you think there’s an opportunity to make a slight adjustment to my current job? I spend half my day doing work that I love, and I’d like to increase that to 80%. I think the additional time I spend on that type of work will generate [this benefit].”

Yu agrees that it is important that your application demonstrate the added value you will bring to the company. Another good way to frame the question is to say, “I’d like to get better at what I do, but I need help. I am willing to spend more time and effort if you are willing to help me. I’d really like to take a course, that connects with this project I’m working on. I am happy to share what I learn with the team.”

“Your boss would have to be an asshole to say ‘no’ to that, especially if you come in with some concrete things that would help your dominance and autonomy,” says Yu. “If he is under his authority, the boss is likely to put you on trial.”

But don’t ask if you’re not willing to put in more time and effort. “If you fall flat on your face, the chance of you getting the second favor may not be that great,” says Yu.

Meaningful work is also meaningful to your boss

Managing employees who excel in their roles and add value to the company will reflect well on bosses. “Now you are his protégé,” Yu says. “If it is within the authority of him or if they can defend or defend him, they will try to provide him with the opportunity to [put] meaningful work in practice.”

“There is humility [in] saying, ‘I want to bring more to the table,’” adds Coleman. “That is usually very attractive. The thing about that kind of posture is that you’re bringing your leader into the equation, and you’re not just saying, ‘Hey, I want this.’”

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