BarryStaff Inc. Selected as Google’s Featured Business

Featured Business
BARRYSTAFF

Dayton, Ohio
“Our Internet presence was absolutely crucial for us, coming out of the recession”

Doug Barry, Owner
25% annual growth since 2009

Founded as a family-owned staffing franchise in 1980, BARRYSTAFF became an independent company with a new name in 2000. Today they specialize in industrial, clerical and permanent placements. “Most of the staffing we do is in manufacturing,” says Doug Barry, owner of the Dayton-based company founded by his parents. As one of the few local staffing companies left in the area following the recent recession, “we picked up a lot of the work from our competitors who went out of business,” he notes. Doug credits their current growth in large part to the Internet and digital tools from Google.

Doug rebranded BARRYSTAFF in 2010. “We have had to change our total strategy on how we go out and sell, based on social media and the Internet—which has been good,” he explains. Google is part of that strategy. The company uses Google Maps for “getting people from point A to point B, not only to our office but also from their house to the job site.” Employees use Gmail and Google Calendar to keep up-to-date, and Google Search to stay current with both clients and prospects. The staff is also mobile, equipped with smartphones and tablets for complete access to all of their digital tools from anywhere. The company plans to create training videos on YouTube, and to use social media to attract new workers as well as new clients.

Manufacturing is on the rebound in Ohio, Doug says. With fewer local staffing resources available, “companies were looking around for someone who could pick up the slack. We had an Internet presence, and that is where a lot of them found us. It was absolutely crucial for us coming out of the recession, and it has helped us with our growth going forward.” BARRYSTAFF now has four locations—another good economic sign for the Buckeye State.

Check out the story on Google

 

A Job Seekers’ Guide to the Real Meaning of Job Descriptions

We’ve all seen them… job postings that look too good to be true. And like Mom always said, “If it appears too good to be true, it most surely is.”

I’ve been in recruiting for over 20 years. During my tenure, I’ve seen tens of thousands of job descriptions fly across my desk. Some job requirements are very specific, some are vague, a few are humorous, and some are downright misleading.

For those newbie job seekers taking a first look at job descriptions, I thought I would compile a fun little list of what the most popular job description terms MIGHT mean. Obviously, this is a little tongue-in-cheek. So the items on this list may actually have another, more sincere meaning.

A Job Seekers’ Guide to the Real Meaning of Job Descriptions:

IMMEDIATE OPENING
The person who previously held this position suddenly quit and walked out; good luck with training and transition into this role.

ENTRY-LEVEL POSITION
You’ll be making minimum wage… for a long time.

SEEKING ENTHUSIASTIC, FUN, HARD WORKING PEOPLE
We’re actually looking for people who still live with their parents and don’t mind making minimum wage.

JOIN OUR FAST-PACED COMPANY
We have no time to train you; you’ll have to introduce yourself to your co-workers and figure out what to do.

SELF-MOTIVATED
Management doesn’t train and won’t answer questions.

SALES POSITION REQUIRING MOTIVATED SELF-STARTER
We’re not going to supply you with leads; there’s no base salary; you’ll wait over 30 days for your first commission check.

CAREER-MINDED
Female applicants must be childless (and remain that way).

MUST HAVE AN EYE FOR DETAIL
We have no quality control at all.

MUST BE DEADLINE ORIENTED
You’ll be six months behind schedule on your first day.

SOME OVERTIME REQUIRED
Some each night and some each weekend.

SEEKING CANDIDATES WITH A WIDE VARIETY OF EXPERIENCE
You’ll need it to replace the three people who just left.

PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS A MUST
You’re walking into a company in perpetual chaos.

REQUIRES TEAM LEADERSHIP SKILLS
You’ll have the responsibilities of a manager, without the pay or respect.

GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Management communicates, you listen, figure out what they want and do it.

ABILITY TO HANDLE A HEAVY WORKLOAD
You whine, you’re fired.

JOIN OUR DYNAMIC TEAM
Be prepared for motivational tapes, seminars and a lot of non-productive meetings.

COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT
We have the most amount of turnover in our industry.

FUN WORK ENVIRONMENT
Your co-workers will be insulted if you don’t go out drinking with them.

CASUAL WORK ATMOSPHERE
We don’t pay enough to expect that you’ll dress well; most employees are in t-shirts, shorts, sandals and wear earrings (and that’s the men).

SALARY RANGE X-Y
You’ll start at the lower figure… and like it.

FLEXIBLE HOURS
Work 60 hours; get paid for 30.

DUTIES MAY VARY
Anyone in the office can boss you around.

NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED LEADER
A news organization recently broadcast a fraud expose on us.

WHERE EMPLOYEES FEEL VALUED
Those who missed the last round of lay-offs, that is.

COMPETITIVE SALARY
We remain competitive by paying less than our competitors.

WE OFFER GREAT BENEFITS
After 90 days, you can join our HMO, which has a deductible and a co-pay.

PROFIT-SHARING PLAN
The profit is shared amongst the C-suite executives; after that, there isn’t any profit to share.

PENSION/RETIREMENT BENEFITS
After three years, you’ll be allowed to join a 401(k), without any matching contributions.

APPLY IN PERSON
If you’re old, fat, or ugly you’ll be told the position has been filled.

NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE
We’ve filled the job; our call for resumes is just a legal formality.

I would love to hear from those of you who have job description terms I may have neglected to include and define on this list.

 

THE MINIMUM WAGE IDENTITY

Minimum-wage increases could appear on the ballot in as many as 34 states this year. President Obama has also proposed increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10, from $7.25. Who makes the minimum wage, and who would be affected by any of the proposed increases?

All the statistics here apply to those who would be affected by the proposed increase to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. The analysis also includes a number of workers making slightly above $10.10, who, history suggests, would receive a raise if the minimum wage were increased.

Minimum-wage workers are older than they used to be. Their average age is 35, and 88 percent are at least 20 years old. Half are older than 30, and about a third are at least 40.

These patterns are somewhat new. In 1979, 27 percent of low-wage workers (those making $10.10 per hour or less in today’s dollars) were teenagers, compared with 12 percent in 2013, according to John Schmitt and Janelle Jones

They’re split fairly evenly between full-timers and part-timers. Most — 54 percent — work full-time schedules (at least 35 hours per week), and another 32 percent work at least half time (20-34 hours per week).

Many have kids. About one-quarter (27 percent) of these low-wage workers are parents, compared with 34 percent of all workers. In all, 19 percent of children in the United States have a parent who would benefit from the increase.

One in eight lives in a high-income household. About 12 percent of those who would gain from an increase to $10.10 live in households with incomes above $100,000. This group highlights the fact that the minimum wage is not nearly as well targeted toward poverty reduction as the earned-income tax credit, a wage subsidy whose receipt, unlike the minimum wage, is predicated on family income.

Still, a minimum-wage increase does much more to help low- and moderate-income households than any other groups. Households that make less than $20,000 receive 5 percent of the nation’s total earnings, for instance — but would receive 26 percent of the benefit from the proposed minimum-wage increase.

Who Benefits From a Minimum-Wage Increase?

A federal proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, from $7.25, would help some high-income households but mostly low- and middle-income ones.

 

Most are women. Women make up 48 percent of the work force yet 55 percent of the would-be beneficiaries of the increase in the minimum wage.

Most are white, but minorities are overrepresented. Hispanic workers account for 16 percent of the work force but 24 percent of those who would be affected by the wage increase. For African-Americans, the comparable shares are 11 percent of the work force and 15 percent of those who would gain from the increase.

They’ve got some schooling, though less than other workers. Of those who would be affected by the increase, 78 percent have at least finished high school, about one-third have some college under their belts, and about 10 percent have graduated from college. By comparison, 91 percent of the total work force has at least graduated from high school, and 34 percent have completed college.

As with the population as a whole, low-wage workers are more educated than in the past. In the late 1960s, less than half had finished high school and only 17 percent had attended any college at all.

Their earnings are a big part of their family budgets. The average worker in this group brings home half of his or her household’s earnings; 19 percent of those who would get the raise are sole earners. Parents who would benefit from the increase bring home an even larger share of their families’ earnings: 60 percent.

They’re in every state, but are overrepresented in the South. Because most of the states that have raised their minimums above the federal level are outside the South, a national increase would have more bite there. Workers in Southern states make up 17 percent of the nation’s work force but 21 percent of minimum-wage beneficiaries; workers in Northern states make up about the same share of the work force but just 16 percent of those who benefit from the proposed increase.

The debate to raise the minimum rage will no doubt rage on, as diverse views persist both in the work force and the halls of politics. But it’s important to know who we’re talking about in terms of those who benefit from the policy. Our workers, including the low-wage sector, have aged and become more educated in recent decades, at the same time that changes in trade, technology, and bargaining power have pushed against their earnings.

 

Fear Can Be a Powerful Friend

By Betty Liu of Bloomberg TV

I was on a plane recently and watched the Felix Baumgartner documentary about his mission “to the edge of space.” Just watching him dive from 24 miles up in the sky, breaking the sound barrier while I was cruising along at 39,000 feet was enough to make me queasy in my seat. (Another glass of wine, please.)

The story behind the daredevil act was engrossing; but the reason why he finally pulled the trigger and did it was even more juicy to me. Here was this young, brash, kind of crazy and fearless guy raring to make history. That’s the story you’ve been told. But the real story is that in the end, good ol’ fear is what glued his butt to the capsule that floated him up to the stratosphere.

What kind of fear? No, not the kind that prevents you from hopping on a motorbike going 100 mph down the speedway, which is likely what Felix does before breakfast every morning. I’m talking about “good fear” — the kind that drives you to do the really hard things because if you didn’t, you couldn’t live with yourself. Like many of us, Felix was fearless and fearful at the same time. At one point, he was so scared about the mission he literally fled the project for several months.

So what did the team do? They found a replacement. And what happened to Felix? He got jealous and returned to the mission. The leaders of the mission knew to tap into that one fear that drives greatness – the fear of regret. It is not a “bad fear” which is the kind that limits you; it is a “good fear” because it motivates you. Can you imagine how Felix would feel if someone else had accomplished what he set out to do?

To bring it back down to earth, literally, let me tell you about my own bout with “good fear.” It came years ago when I was about to make a career switch into television, while also feeling the tug of wanting to take a break and become a mother.

I was worried if I waited too long, the timing would not be right. But then the timing could not have been worse either. I couldn’t understand why I had two desires in my gut at the same time—to both switch into a new career and have a baby.

All these thoughts swam in my head for a while and the fear of moving on one but not the other only paralyzed me. On one weekend, we spent the day with my family in Ocean City, by the Jersey shore. We were sitting in our beach house relaxing when my father could see I was lost in my head.

“What’s wrong? What’s bothering you?”

I told him I was just confused. Starting a family is a huge commitment. And then to try to do that while also looking to switch careers is another big commitment. Not to mention worrying about finding a job and your finances. My then-husband at the time was just starting out in his career, too, so there was no option for me to just sit back and live on his income.

I’m not sure exactly what my father said, but he helped crystallize it for me. I think it was more the fact that he said it rather than the exact words that hit me. Here was my father, a man who wanted me to always go the safe route in my career, telling me to take a risk. Just go for it, he advised, and let the future work itself out.

“Do both and see what happens.”

In that moment, what had been a set of bad fears turned into good fear—I began to fear the consequences of not going for it more than doing it. I thought to myself, if in five years, I was in the same spot as I was now, would I be happy? And the answer was an unequivocal no. There was no turning back.

Last time I checked, we only have one life. Whether your goals are setting world records or plunging ahead to juggle a career and parenthood, your job is to get rid of the bad fear and turn the less-bad fear into good fear that motivates you to strive for the bigger.

 

America’s Employees Don’t Trust Their Employers

Trust plays an important role in the workplace and affects employees’ well-being and job performance. At least that’s what organizational experts say. And the American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey released this week says employee distrust is pervasive in the U.S. Workforce today, despite an improving job market.

One in four workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employers are open and upfront with them.

This lack of trust should serve as a wake-up call for employers,” says David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, head of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “The layoffs, benefit cuts and job insecurity that accompanied the recession put a strain on the employee-employer relationship and people aren’t quick to forget.”

One in four workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employers are open and upfront with them.

Workers reported having more trust in their company when the organization recognizes employees for their contributions, provides opportunities for advancement and involvement and communicates to the workers effectively.

Although a majority of workers report being satisfied with their job overall, less than half said that they are satisfied with the growth and development opportunities (49%) and employee recognition practices (47%) where they work.

More than a quarter (27%) of U.S. workers said they intend to seek new employment this year.

The survey also found that workers who feel valued by their employer are more likely to be engaged in their work. Employees who feel valued were significantly more likely to report having high levels of energy, being strongly involved in their work and feeling happily engrossed in what they do.

Additionally, those who felt valued by their employer were more likely to report being satisfied with their job (92% of those who felt valued vs. 29% of those who do not) and to say they are motivated to do their best (91% vs. 37%) and to recommend their employer to others (85% vs. 15%).

Employees who felt valued were also less likely to say they feel stressed out during the work day (25% vs. 56% of those who do not feel valued) and more likely to report being in good psychological health (89% vs. 69% of those who do not feel valued).

While more than six in 10 employed adults say they can effectively manage the work stress they experience, almost one-third report typically feeling tense or stressed out during the workday.

The most commonly cited sources of work stress:
• Low salaries
• Lack of opportunity for growth and advancement
• Unclear job expectations
• Job insecurity
• Long hours

“The emphasis in recent years on employee wellness is a step in the right direction, but the psychological factors are often overlooked,” says Ballard. “It’s clear that an organizational culture that promotes and supports openness, honesty, transparency and trust is key to a healthy, high-performing workplace.”

“It’s clear that an organizational culture that promotes and supports openness, honesty, transparency and trust is key to a healthy, high-performing workplace.”

An acquaintance of mine works as a mid-level manager at a vendor whose largest customer is currently experiencing significant pressure on their business. After seeing headcount in his office get reduced by half during the past 12 months, he went in to see the general manager, and found out…nothing. Here is what he said about the meeting.
“While I don’t believe that senior managers at most organizations intend necessarily to be ‘secretive’ or ‘sneaky,’ it’s all about perception. So when my boss is not able to look me in the eye and give me a straight answer to an important – and direct – question, the perception is that there are secrets within the organization and the result is going to be a lack of trust. I know company leaders can’t tell you everything, but I do believe that all employees have a right to know certain basic things, like whether your job is in immediate jeopardy.”

A lack of trust in the workplace is bad for business, and can impact the bottom line. The APA says when a sense of trust is missing, workers may put in less effort or otherwise subvert their employers’ goals.

“Employees want to know that there are fair processes in place and a sense of equity” in the exchange between their efforts and the compensation (monetary and otherwise) they receive in return, said Ballard.

 

Email is Not a Form of Communication

Effective communication is never one sided, but that’s exactly what you get with email. One person writes and transmits; the receivers read and reply. These monologues are never, ever effective dialogues as there is a time delay that allows too much room for misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and miscommunication. Email strips away not only the tone, and too often the context, from the message, but it also removes the very essence of efficient and effective human conversation.

Is email bad? Of course not; it’s just poorly used by too many people. Salespeople, leaders, customer service staff, recruiters, and, for that matter, anyone in business can breathe new life into their relationships by simply picking up the phone or meeting with someone for a brief dialogue.

Email is not a form or communication; it’s a means of transmission and documentation.We’d all do well to use it just for transmitting a contract or proposal, or sending one to two sentences, at most, to schedule a meeting or confirm a time for a call. Otherwise, let’s all have real conversations, versus the fakery that poses for one in our emails inboxes.

When to Bring Up Your Baggage in a Job Search

By S. Ricker

Just like in dating, job searching can sometimes cause you to look back on your past at some of the baggage you’ve collected. But while your date may be forgiving of poor communication skills or your fear of commitment, hiring managers aren’t necessarily as understanding.

So when you bring baggage to your job search, such as gaps on your résumé or looking for jobs out of state, you’ll have to discuss the subject carefully and at the right moment. To help figure out timing, consider these tips for addressing your job-search baggage.

Save the cover letter for why you’re qualified
A cover letter may seem like a natural place to address any concerns a potential employer may have, but in a competitive job market, your first impression can’t be made up of reasons to doubt your capabilities.

“This weakens your application right from the start,” says Cheryl E. Palmer, career coach and owner of Call to Career, a career coaching firm. “My advice is to keep it positive in the cover letter and avoid touchy issues. If you have a strong résumé, the recruiter will follow up with you, and if they have questions about your background, they will ask those questions during a screening interview. But with the cover letter and résumé, you at least want to make the first cut.”

Addressing résumé gaps
If there are gaps of empty time on your résumé, an employer will likely be curious as to what you were doing. Palmer suggests waiting for the interviewer to bring this up — but be sure to have an answer ready. “The answer that you give needs to be clear enough so that it does not provoke more questions,” she says. “So if the company that you worked for closed, and you were unemployed for a period of time after that, you need to explain that the company closed and tell the interviewer what you did in-between jobs. Hopefully you can truthfully say that you were doing contract work or updating your skills by obtaining a certification.”

As Palmer mentions, employers want to know that your career was a part of your life even when you weren’t working, and they want to know how you stayed involved with your field. Whether it was volunteering, pursuing more education or simply reading industry publications, show how you made the most of your time.

When you’re overqualified
There are plenty of reasons a job seeker may be interested in a position that’s a rung lower on their career ladder. Just know that interviewers will want to understand your reasoning. Yes, you can bring your experience to the role, but if an interviewer believes you’re only interested in the job until you can find something better, he probably won’t take the risk of hiring you. Instead, point to why this match makes sense.

“If you have been in management but are being interviewed for a staff position with no managerial responsibilities, you may talk about how you realized that you prefer to be in a position where you can focus on being an individual contributor and do your best work. After all, not everyone is cut out to be in management,” Palmer says. “Or you might enthusiastically talk about your interest in the mission of the company that you are applying to instead of focusing on the fact that it is a step backward for your career. The bottom line is that you need to convince the interviewer that your taking the position will be a win-win for both parties.”

Bringing up relocation
By applying for a job that’s a significant distance away from you, you may think it’s obvious that you’re willing to relocate. However, employers can sometimes see this as a gray area in a candidate’s qualifications.

To help take away doubt, Palmer says, “Typically, when it comes to relocation, you are competing against local candidates. And not all employers are willing to pay for your relocation. If you are in a position to pay for your own relocation, and you know that the employer will not do it for you, it is appropriate to mention in the interview that you are willing to relocate at your own expense. This will put you on an even playing field with local candidates.”

 

How Improv Comedy Helps Employers

“The skills we apply on stage — things like working as a team, building on ideas, thinking on our feet, communication — those apply to more than just comedy. We can also apply them to the business world,” says Lillian Frances, owner of Chicago Comedy Company, where she runs corporate training and development workshops for businesses based on the rules of improvisational comedy.

For those unfamiliar with it (or who’ve never seen “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), improvisational comedy — or improv, for short — involves a group of people creating comedy on the spot, getting suggestions from the audience and immediately creating a scene. Because it is unscripted, improv teaches those who practice it how to think on their feet, listen to others and be team players — skills that come in handy in the business world as well.

It’s no wonder so many companies rely on improv as a way to train their employees with crucial business skills and build stronger teams. Chicago Comedy Company is just one of many companies that offer corporate improv workshops for companies of every size and industry. (Second City, iO and UCB are also known for their corporate training programs.)

Saying “Yes, and…”
Perhaps one of the most valuable skills improv teaches is the ability to say “yes,” a concept that has become foreign to many of us today. “In the real world, people tend to say ‘no’ a lot, so when we talk about “yes, and…” [one of the basic tenets of improv] and embracing a new idea, it’s pretty mind-blowing for people,” Frances says.

To help people understand the “yes, and…” concept, Frances pairs people up and asks them to start a conversation where every time someone speaks, they must start by saying, “No.” Then they start a second conversation, where every sentence must start with “Yes, but…” Finally, a third conversation starts, wherein every sentence begins with “Yes, and…” The point of the exercise is to help people see what it feels like to hear “no” all the time — and how powerful saying “yes” can be in opening up the lines of communication and generating ideas.

At Chicago Comedy Company, the customizable workshops can last anywhere from a few days to one hour. No matter the length, however, the results are pretty powerful. Frances says the transformation she sees in people from the beginning of the workshop to the end is “amazing.”

Not your ordinary training program
One thing that makes improv so effective as a business training tool, Frances says, is the fun, interactive approach. “With these workshops, employees aren’t just listening to a lecture — they’re actively doing these exercises, so they remember it more.”
Still, these trainings are most successful when they reach all parts of the organization. “You can teach all of HR about ‘yes, and…,’ but if it’s not ingrained in the entire corporate culture, it’s not going to be as effective,” Frances says. And that includes leadership as well.

When Email Isn’t Getting It Done. Time to Pick Up the Phone

In workplaces everywhere, digital has become the default communication method. Emails and IMs fly back and forth all day. But, sometimes, there’s just no substitute for picking up the phone.

Prefer a keyboard to a handset? Many people do. But phone aversion, even a mild case, might work against your career goals. There are simply times when having a phone conversation is more productive and appropriate.

Here are four situations where it’s best to pick up the phone:

Situation No. 1: You still haven’t resolved an issue after three emails
Some things are just too complicated to work out over email. If you’re still nailing down the details of that new project after several email exchanges, it’s probably time to pick up the phone and talk in real time. Often, you can clarify in five minutes what might still be cloudy after a dozen emails.

After you hang up, quickly recap any decisions or action steps with one final email. This will ensure everyone is on the same page and has a written record of what was agreed to.

Want to avoid this situation in the first place? Reconsider any email that stretches beyond three short paragraphs. Many people lose focus — or simply stop reading — after the first few sentences (what they can see without scrolling). Keep it to one point or question per email. And save more complex discussions for phone calls or meetings.

Winning phone tip: Some professionals view unexpected phone calls as an interruption. Try sending an email or IM to see if the person is available for a quick chat.

Situation No. 2: You’re hoping to develop a new relationship
In the business world, relationships matter, and it’s hard to grow strong ones by email alone. Face-to-face is best, but when you’re not in the same office or city, a few phone calls can be almost as effective.

Make a point to pick up the phone and talk to your new networking contact, colleague, client or vendor regularly. If you struggle to make it a priority, program an automatic reminder that pops up on your calendar.

Then use these chats to slowly learn more about what matters to the other person — everything from career and business goals to hobbies. You’ll discover a lot through tone of voice and conversation styles alone. And it’s easier to accomplish just about any business task when you have a strong relationship.

Winning phone tip: Try starting with a simple, “It’s so good to hear your voice. How are you?” before jumping into business. A little small talk goes a long way.

Situation No. 3: You need something ASAP
Technology makes all sorts of things faster, but when it’s truly urgent, a phone call can be the quickest way to get what you need. Think scheduling job interviews, hiring a new contractor or securing approvals on deadline.

Are you reluctant to pick up the phone? Know that it can cost you. You might miss out on the perfect job candidate if your email gets lost in that person’s inbox. Or you could blow a project milestone because you didn’t call the three people who needed to approve the new website copy.

Winning phone tip: No answer when you phone? Don’t rely on voicemail alone — many people are slow to check it. In truly urgent cases, leave a voicemail, then follow up with an email to double your odds.

Situation No. 4: It’s a sensitive topic
If you’re breaking bad news or discussing something sensitive, you’ll want all your interpersonal skills at your disposal. It’s much easier to convey tone with your voice than with words on a screen, and if there’s a misunderstanding, you’ll be able to address it in real time.

Pick up the phone to discuss HR issues, missed deadlines, negative feedback or general conflict. People respond better when you take the time to actually talk them through something. And everyone is less likely to get heated when they’re not hiding behind a screen and keyboard.

Winning phone tip: Nervous? Jot down your main points on paper and run through them before the call. Start with something positive if you can, but don’t drag out bad news by stalling.

Email is a powerful tool, but don’t let it become a bad habit. The next time you start typing a new message, stop and think about whether it’s the best medium for your message. Would a phone call work better? If the answer is yes, back away from the keyboard and start dialing.

 

The No. 1 Feature of a Meaningless Job

Ask people what they want in a job, and meaningfulness looms large. For decades, Americans have ranked purpose as their top priority—above promotions, income, job security, and hours. Work is a search “for daily meaning as well as daily bread,” wrote Studs Turkel after interviewing hundreds of people in a striking array of jobs. Yet all too often, we feel that our work doesn’t matter. “Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people.”

 

What makes a job meaningless? After more than 40 years of research, we know that people struggle to find meaning when they lack autonomy, variety, challenge, performance feedback, and the chance to work on a whole product or service from start to finish. As important as these factors are, though, there’s another that matters more.

Consider the following jobs. They all meet some of the criteria above, yet about 90% of people fail to find them highly meaningful:
• Fashion designer
• TV newscast director
• Revenue analyst
• Web operations coordinator
• Airline reservation agent
• Graphics animator

Why is meaning missing in these jobs? They rarely have a significant, lasting impact on other people. If these jobs didn’t exist, people wouldn’t be all that much worse off. By contrast, here are the jobs that are highly meaningful to virtually everyone who holds them:
• Adult literacy teacher
• Fire chief
• Nurse midwife
• Addiction counselor
• Child life specialist
• Neurosurgeon

They all make an important difference in the lives of others. Not convinced yet? Here’s a taste of the evidence on the link between helping others and meaningful work:
• A comprehensive analysis of data from more than 11,000 employees across industries: the single strongest predictor of meaningfulness was the belief that the job had a positive impact on others.
• Interviews with a representative sample of Americans: more than half reported that the core purpose of their jobs was to benefit others
• Surveys of people around the world: in defining when an activity qualifies as work, “if it contributes to society” was the most common choice in the U.S.—but also in China and Eastern Europe. On multiple continents, people defined work more in terms of contributing to society than as getting paid for a task, doing a strenuous activity, or being told what to do.
• Studies of people who view their work as a calling, not only a job or career: Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski, widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on the meaning of work, shows that a core element of a calling is the belief that your work makes the world a better place.

Enriching the Meaningfulness of a Job
Becoming a neurosurgeon isn’t for everyone. The good news is that there are steps we can take to make jobs more meaningful—for ourselves and others.

In many cases, our jobs do have an impact, but we’re too distant from the end users of our products and services. Think of automotive safety engineers who never meet the drivers of their cars or medical scientists who don’t see a patient. By connecting directly with these end users, we can see our past and potential impact. When university fundraisers met a single student whose scholarship was funded by their work, they increased 142% in weekly phone minutes and over 400% in weekly revenue. When radiologists saw a patient’s photo included in an x-ray file, they wrote 29% longer reports and made 46% more accurate diagnoses.

This is why leaders at John Deere invite employees who build tractors to meet the farmers who buy their tractors, leaders at Facebook invite software developers to hear from users who have found long-lost friends and family members thanks to the site, and leaders at Wells Fargo film videos of customers describing how low-interest loans have rescued them from debt. When we see the direct consequences of our jobs for others, we find greater meaning. “The greatest untapped source of motivation,” Susan Dominus explains, “is a sense of service to others.”

Of course, some jobs are simply not designed to have a major impact on others. In these situations, people often make the mistake of treating their job descriptions as fixed, overlooking the fact that they can take initiative to alter their own roles. Wrzesniewski, Jane Dutton, and Justin Berg call this job crafting—adding, emphasizing, revising, delegating, or minimizing tasks and interactions in pursuit of greater meaning. For example, hospital cleaners who lack patient contact stepped up to provide emotional support to patients and their families, and technology associates began volunteering for mentoring, teaching, and training roles.

When people craft their jobs, they become happier and more effective. In an experiment at Google, colleagues and I invited salespeople and administrators to spend 90 minutes doing the Job Crafting Exercise—they mapped out ways to make their tasks and interactions more meaningful and contribute more to others. Six weeks later, their managers and coworkers rated them as happier and more effective. When they developed new skills to support more significant changes, the happiness and performance gains lasted for at least six months.

Like all things in life, meaning can be pushed too far. As the psychologist Brian Little observes, if we turn our trivial pursuits into magnificent obsessions, we gain meaning at the price of manageability. When the weight of the world is on our shoulders, we place ourselves at risk for burnout.

Yet most people are facing the opposite problem in their jobs, of too little meaning rather than too much. Against this backdrop, the chance to help others can be what makes our work worthwhile. “Suffering ceases to be suffering once it finds a meaning,” wrote Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search For Meaning. “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself—be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is.”
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Adam Grant is a Wharton professor and the author of Give and Take a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller on the hidden power of helping others