Finding Purpose at Work through Efficacy Projects
The most common reason that many of us struggle with finding meaningful work is because we lack something called efficacy.
Efficacy is having “the ability to produce a desired or intended result.” I.e.; you can set a goal, create a plan and achieve it. You have a clear outcome necessary. You know what you need to do and you get it done.
When I worked in events, I thrived because it was all about efficacy. Plan an event, sell a certain number of tickets, secure a certain amount of speakers and set a schedule. There was an event date – it was executed, and then we were done. Bullseye. So much efficacy, so little time. I was able to see the fruit of my labor, be rewarded with a successful event, and my peers and managers knew that I had done my job well.
On the other hand, as an assistant I have very little obvious efficacy. Much of my time is spent putting out fires, fixing problems, setting meetings, and making life easier for my boss. That’s my job description. Most of the time, I only receive acknowledgment when something goes wrong. Being an assistant means having very little efficacy.
So what do you do if you’re in a job that doesn’t provide you adequate opportunities for efficacy?
For starters, look at what is in your control.
What can you manage? What is within your vision? For example, I took on a major financial project for my bosses to ensure that they didn’t get weighed down with receipts. I had to find about 400 transaction logs in their email accounts – it was WILD. The project took me a few full working days, but every single day I logged off feeling accomplished and rewarded (even though no one knew that I had done the work). I made opportunities for efficacy because I so desperately craved them. I needed them.
You can also look at existing issues within your workplace and build efficacy for yourself. Maybe there’s a project that doesn’t have someone managing it? Step in and help. You have more power than you think, especially if you’re willing to take on a project that no one else wants to deal with.
Not finding efficacy in your role?
Look outside of work for opportunities to set goals and achieve objectives. One of the ways I found efficacy outside of work was through pageants. There was a clear deadline (competition day), a clear outcome (placement), and clear steps to prepare (talent practice, interview training, wardrobe prep, etc.) Even when work was beating me down, I knew I could find efficacy in my extracurricular activities.
Steps to Efficacy:
– Clear deadline or endpoint
– Clear outcome
– Clear steps
How can you find that in your existing job?
What are the ways that you can reward yourself for achieving efficacy?
Are there wins that you can track each day or each week to help remind yourself that you are making progress?
I had a talk with a friend who is struggling with meaningful work. She’s so talented and creative, and she’s worked for the same organization for the past 8 years. But she knows that she wants to do something different now. She is ready to make a change. I’m so excited to watch her jump into something new! Hopefully with far more efficacy available.
Look for that – in new jobs, new opportunities, new chapters – find the efficacy, or create it, and your work will feel far more meaningful.
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Jane Kennedy lives in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and works in criminal justice reform. When she’s not working or writing, she’s probably catching up with friends on FaceTime, getting lost in Rock Creek Park, quoting C.S. Lewis, or trying to recreate Salt and Straw ice cream at home.