The answer to this question depends on how you define “making a difference”.
For some, it’s about having enough latitude and autonomy to make effective decisions; for others, it might be engaging in work that supports a cause or the greater good. However you define this value will provide important clues about where you’ll find a good fit.
At midlife and beyond, finding meaning in work emerges as a key goal, and replaces competency-building as a top spot in your job search criteria. Research now shows that making a difference becomes more and more important as you age.
An increased awareness on time passing and your own mortality can instill a compelling desire to leave a mark and make a contribution. This desire may send you off in a new direction where you create a legacy to leave behind, or, in a less dramatic way, you might simply reframe your current work and find ways to make a difference without ever leaving your job.
Here are a few steps you might take to address your need to make a difference:
- Give yourself a couple of months to evaluate your current job and the opportunties to make a difference right where you are working.
- Begin each day with the question: How might I make a difference today? Then be on the lookout for ways you can respond to a need.
- Acknowledge the ways you already make a difference. If they don’t seem to be “enough”, then ask yourself what’s missing.
- Identify the specific skills and abilities you currently use at work. Ask yourself if applying these in another venue would be more satisfying.
- Before making a drastic change that you have not researched, consider finding a volunteer opportunity in the community to test out a contribution you’d like to make.
- If you decide to go in another direction, you will need to consider how to “re-brand” yourself through your resume, Linkedin profile and cover letter.
- Make sure that the way you present yourself is consistent with the new way you want to be seen.