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Purpose and Meaning in Career Development Applications



Purpose and meaning in career development is a rapidly growing, cross-disciplinary area of research and practice in which counseling and vocational psychology aligns with positive psychology to yield promising applications to career counseling. We provide a brief overview of theory related to purpose and meaning in work, then review six specific areas of application: strengths, positive emotions and flow, gratitude, work hope, job crafting, and perceiving and living a calling. The links of these applications to theory and research are emphasized, and recommendations are offered for how counseling and vocational psychologists might leverage these applications in their work with clients engaged in the career development process.
The Counseling Psychologist
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/0011000014546872
published online 3 October 2014The Counseling Psychologist
Michael F. Steger
Bryan J. Dik, Ryan D. Duffy, Blake A. Allan, Maeve B. O'Donnell, Yerin Shim and
Purpose and Meaning in Career Development Applications
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The Counseling Psychologist
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DOI: 10.1177/0011000014546872
Purpose and Meaning
in Career Development
Bryan J. Dik1, Ryan D. Duffy2, Blake A. Allan2,
Maeve B. O’Donnell1, Yerin Shim1,
and Michael F. Steger1
Purpose and meaning in career development is a rapidly growing, cross-
disciplinary area of research and practice in which counseling and vocational
psychology aligns with positive psychology to yield promising applications
to career counseling. We provide a brief overview of theory related to
purpose and meaning in work, then review six specific areas of application:
strengths, positive emotions and flow, gratitude, work hope, job crafting,
and perceiving and living a calling. The links of these applications to theory
and research are emphasized, and recommendations are offered for how
counseling and vocational psychologists might leverage these applications in
their work with clients engaged in the career development process.
purpose, meaningful work, positive psychology, calling, job crafting
Counseling and vocational psychology have long emphasized themes that
align with the positive psychology movement’s emphasis on human strengths,
positive aspects of functioning, and considerations of what makes life
1Colorado State University, Fort Collins, USA
2University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
Corresponding Author:
Bryan J. Dik, Associate Professor of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins,
CO 80523-1876, USA.
546872TCPXXX10.1177/0011000014546872The Counseling PsychologistDik et al.
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2 The Counseling Psychologist
meaningful (Lopez et al., 2006). This was evident from the very beginning,
when Frank Parsons (1909) first articulated the steps involved in “the wise
choice of a vocation”—a model that encouraged people to seek work oppor-
tunities that optimally fit their strengths and values. Work itself has been
described as inherently positive (Robitschek & Woodson, 2006; but see
Blustein, 2006), and the work role provides a clear domain for expressing
one’s strengths, making meaning, and pursuing a purpose (Dik & Duffy,
2012). This focus on various aspects of human flourishing reflects counseling
psychology’s philosophical emphasis on “hygiology” (Super, 1955), or a
concern with helping people identify, develop, and effectively use their per-
sonal and social resources to thrive (Lopez et al., 2006). In this way, counsel-
ing and vocational psychology target outcomes that transcend narrow
definitions of their domains by broadly advancing individual and societal
well-being. Similarly, positive psychology’s aims are metapsychological in
scope, and its impact ultimately hinges on its successful integration within
the wider discipline of psychology and beyond (Linley, 2006). One key strat-
egy for enhancing collaboration is to focus attention on a small set of desired
positive outcomes that diverse but allied disciplines have in common (Lopez
& Magyar-Moe, 2006). A rapidly growing area of theory, research, and prac-
tice that is pursuing this strategy focuses on purpose and meaning in the
Scholarship and applications related to purpose and meaning fit within a
long tradition of diverse philosophical and religious teachings on the value of
cultivating eudaimonic well-being, which focuses on personal growth,
strengths, and meaningfulness. Such considerations serve as a foundation for
human flourishing (Ryff & Singer, 1998) and contrast with (although are
independent of) hedonic or pleasure-driven well-being. Meaningfulness, in
particular, has been conceptualized as one factor from which happiness arises
(Lent, 2013) but also is a desirable end state. For some, work is little more
than a means to a paycheck, but the accumulating research demonstrates that
many people also want their work to matter in a deeper, more existential
sense. For example, many want their work to facilitate development of their
potential, provide a pathway to purpose, and offer an opportunity to make a
meaningful contribution to the common good (Dik, Byrne, & Steger, 2013).
These and other related concerns have been explored within positive psy-
chology and counseling and vocational psychology alike, although seldom in
a well-integrated manner. Indeed, research and application related to purpose
and meaning at work, undertaken mainly within organizational behavior,
management, vocational, and industrial-organizational psychology, have
been described as highly fragmented (Rosso, Dekas, & Wrzesniewski, 2010).
However, recent work has emphasized a more explicit cross-fertilization of
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Dik et al. 3
ideas and a closer connection between research and practice (e.g., Dik, Byrne,
& Steger, 2013), including several application strategies that are highly rele-
vant to career counseling practice. This article aims to extend these efforts by
describing six promising career development applications (i.e., strengths,
positive emotions and flow, gratitude, work hope, job crafting, perceiving
and living a calling) that may foster purpose and meaning, including their
background, empirical support, cultural considerations, context, and poten-
tial for further development and broader application.
Purpose and Meaning in Career Development
At the heart of research and application related to purpose and meaning in
career development are questions such as “What is my work ultimately all
about?” “What makes my work meaningful?” and “What can I do to make
my work more meaningful?” Definitional clarity is important to help mini-
mize confusion in the process of helping people answer such questions. To
that end, we define purpose as “people’s identification of, and intention to
pursue, particular highly valued, overarching life goals” (Steger & Dik, 2010,
p. 133) and meaning as “the sense made of, and significance felt regarding,
the nature of one’s being and existence” (Steger, Frazier, Oishi, & Kaler,
2006, p. 81). Meaning in work and meaning of work are often used inter-
changeably in the literature, although they are in fact distinct; meaning in
work refers to the amount of meaning people experience (i.e., “How mean-
ingful is your work?”), whereas meaning of work refers to what exactly pro-
vides people with the meaning they experience (i.e., “What makes it so?”).
Naturally, people often have very different answers to these questions. Some
people describe work as meaningless, whereas others describe work as mean-
ingful due to their relationships at work, their experiences, their spiritual out-
look, or the connection between work and the rest of life, among many other
possible sources.
All major career development theories address questions about meaning
and purpose, although often implicitly and indirectly (Chen, 2001; Dik,
Duffy, & Eldridge, 2009). For example, person–environment fit theories
(e.g., Dawis & Lofquist, 1984; Holland, 1959) emphasize helping clients sat-
isfy their interests and values and express their strengths by choosing career
paths or modifying work environments to enable this (Hansen, 2013).
Developmental theories (e.g., Gottfredson, 1981; Super, 1980) focus on the
context in which career development unfolds, and encourage clients to iden-
tify ways to implement their occupational self-concept, a process that neces-
sarily involves reflection on how work may contribute to experiencing
meaning and purpose. Social-cognitive career theory proposes that personal,
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4 The Counseling Psychologist
behavioral, and environmental factors work together to influence well-being
(including the experience of purpose and meaning) through self-efficacy, out-
come expectations, and personal goals, in service of optimal adjustment
(Lent, 2013). Finally, career construction theory addresses purpose and
meaning by describing how people “articulate, author, and enact their life-
career stories in ways that heed the call of the heart” (Hartung & Taber, 2013,
p. 18).
Although these theories offer specific and often empirically supported
strategies for helping clients find or create satisfying work in an unpredict-
able, rapidly changing world of work, none of them were developed to spe-
cifically address questions of what makes work meaningful and what
consequences derive from engagement in meaningful work. Research
intended to directly investigate such questions has typically targeted the
sources (e.g., the self, others, context, spirituality), mechanisms, and well-
being correlates of meaningful work (for reviews, see Rosso et al., 2010 or
Dik, Steger, Fitch-Martin, & Onder, 2013). Three theories of meaningful
work per se show promise in integrating results from this research. The first,
Rosso et al.’s (2010) bidimensional model, proposes one dimension to high-
light differences in how people direct their efforts to create meaningfulness
(i.e., toward the self or toward others) and another to describe differences in
their underlying motivation for doing so (i.e., an agency motive that involves
creating or asserting, or a communion motive focused on uniting). These two
dimensions cross to form four major pathways toward meaningful work:
individuation (expressed in control, competence, and self-esteem), contribu-
tion (focused on impact, significance, and interconnectedness), self-connec-
tion (self-concordance, identify affirmation, personal engagement), and
unification (interpersonal connectedness and social identification). The sec-
ond theory, Steger and Dik’s (2010) work-as-meaning model, proposed that
comprehension and purpose work in tandem to foster a desire for work to
serve the greater good. Their attempts to develop a measure useful for testing
these dimensions resulted in a conceptually related model rooted in three
related facets: the experience of meaningfulness in work, meaning-making
behavior, and greater good motivations (Steger, Dik, & Duffy, 2012). Finally,
Park’s (2012) meaning-making model proposes that people experience mean-
ingful work to the extent that they find congruence between the components
of global meaning and their work experiences, achieved through a process of
fitting their global beliefs, goals, and values with their work activity. None of
these three models have been directly tested, but each provides a starting
point for integrating the growing body of research on meaningful work with
other areas of theory and research, including those that have already gener-
ated useful applications.
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Dik et al. 5
The range of applications designed to foster purpose and meaning in career
development is broad, and includes organizational interventions targeting
diverse work orientations (Pratt, Pradies, & Lepisto, 2013) that boost pro-
tean metacompetencies of self-awareness and adaptability (Hall, Feldman,
& Kim, 2013), foster employee engagement (Kahn & Fellows, 2013),
enhance the perceived meaningfulness of “dirty work” (Ashforth & Kreiner,
2013), and support the integration of spirituality and work (Hill & Dik,
2012). They also include coaching interventions that help leaders identify
and express values in ways that lead to meaningful work (Stober, Putter, &
Garrison, 2013) and that foster a transformative leadership style (Walumbwa,
Christensen, & Muchiri, 2013). Each of these application strategies is
promising, and collectively, they provide a sense of the breadth of theory
and research related to purpose and meaning in the workplace that has
These applications must be considered in light of systemic barriers that
limit people’s ability to obtain or develop meaningful work. Blustein (2006)
argued that decades of research in vocational psychology have focused pri-
marily on privileged groups with high levels of choice in their careers.
Individuals with the privilege of choosing desired careers tend to be from
higher socioeconomic backgrounds, endorse fewer career barriers, and are
more likely to experience meaningful work than individuals without this
privilege (Allan, Autin, & Duffy, in press; Duffy & Autin, 2013; Duffy,
Diemer, Perry, Laurenzi, & Torrey, 2012). To properly apply any of the
aforementioned interventions, it is important to assess, and thoughtfully
account for, the relative sense of privilege and power individuals experi-
ence in their work lives. Such considerations may serve as a useful starting
point to judge the appropriateness and potential success of particular
With this as context, our focus now shifts to provide a more detailed
description of six distinct areas of application that we believe show par-
ticular promise for informing career counseling interventions designed to
foster a sense of purpose and meaning in career development. Specifically,
we review applications that capitalize on strengths, positive emotions/
flow, gratitude, and work hope, as well as job crafting applications and
applications designed to foster a sense of calling. Readers familiar with
the positive psychology literature may find job crafting and calling to be
comparatively novel topics in comparison with the first four, prompting
us to offer somewhat greater detail on crafting and calling applications
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6 The Counseling Psychologist
One route to experiencing meaningful work that has gathered initial support
is using one’s strengths at work. Two approaches currently used are the
Values in Action (VIA) classification system (Peterson & Seligman, 2004)
and Clifton’s StrengthsQuest/StrengthsFinder (Clifton, Anderson, &
Schreiner, 2006). Peterson and Seligman introduced the VIA classification
system for character strengths and virtues, which drew on multiple cultures
and sources to identify 24 core character strengths housed within six virtues.
In this system, character strengths are considered inherently valuable, moral
traits that comprise virtues. People’s top four to seven strengths are consid-
ered their signature strengths (Peterson & Seligman, 2004), or those most
core to a person’s character. According to character strength theory, using
signature strengths should be intrinsically meaningful and contribute to more
meaningful work (Seligman, 2002; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005).
In fact, Seligman (2002) argued that using one’s signature strengths at work
transforms jobs into callings, which he defined as meaningful work done for
its own sake. Therefore, people who have regular opportunities to use their
strengths at work should report higher levels of meaning.
Multiple controlled studies have demonstrated that when people identify
and use their signature strengths in daily life, their well-being increases
(Proctor et al., 2011; Proyer, Ruch, & Buschor, 2013; Quinlan, Swain, &
Vella-Brodrick, 2012; Seligman et al., 2005). Although none of these studies
have included meaning as an outcome measure, several have found correla-
tions between character strengths and meaning in life (Littman-Ovadia &
Steger, 2010; Peterson & Park, 2012; Peterson, Ruch, Beermann, Park, &
Seligman, 2007), with certain strengths, such as religiousness, hope, zest,
gratitude, and love, tending to correlate with meaning more strongly than oth-
ers (Peterson & Park, 2012). The use of signature strengths also correlates
with meaning in life (Littman-Ovadia & Steger, 2010). Therefore, character
strengths are clearly related to the experience of meaning in life.
Initial studies also suggest that these results can be translated to the work
domain. For example, employees who use four or more of their signature
strengths at work are more likely to view their job as a calling (Harzer &
Ruch, 2013) and, similarly, the congruence between work activities and sig-
nature strengths predicts meaningful work (Harzer & Ruch, 2012). Higher
levels of signature strengths are also associated with higher meaning for vol-
unteers and employees (Littman-Ovadia & Steger, 2010), and the character
strength of zest predicts meaningful work (Peterson, Park, Hall, & Seligman,
2009). In contrast to meaning in work, calling may play an intermediate role
in the relation between strengths and well-being. For example, Gorjian (2006)
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Dik et al. 7
found calling to mediate the relation between transcendence character
strengths (i.e., hope, gratitude, and spirituality) and job satisfaction.
Furthermore, Allan and Duffy (2014) found that people with low calling had
the strongest relation between strengths use and satisfaction. They speculated
that people low in calling have the most to gain from using their signature
strengths, as they may not already have a strong source of satisfaction.
Therefore, using character strengths is associated with greater meaningful-
ness at work, and calling may moderate and mediate the relation between
character strengths and well-being.
Peterson and Seligman (2004) argued that the character strengths listed in
the VIA system are ubiquitous and universal, and studies have supported this
claim with a wide variety of cultures (Biswas-Diener, 2006; Shimai, Otake,
Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2006). However, several studies have also found
within- and between-culture differences in the amount that people endorse
certain strengths, the contribution of particular strengths to well-being, the
importance of perceived strengths, and what strengths are encouraged through
societal institutions (Biswas-Diener, 2006; Littman-Ovadia & Lavy, 2012;
Shimai et al., 2006). Therefore, clearly, cultural context is important.
Character strengths may be mostly universal, but culture likely shapes which
strengths are encouraged and connect most strongly with meaning. However,
research is needed that directly addresses how culture influences the connec-
tion between strengths and meaningful work.
As mentioned previously, StrengthsQuest (Clifton, Anderson, & Schreiner,
2006) is another method of understanding the origin and use of personal
strengths. This approach focuses on talents, and differs from Peterson and
Seligman’s (2004) character-based theory in that a talent is considered a natu-
ral predisposition to excel in some area (e.g., a genetic predisposition),
whereas a strength represents an ability developed from this talent through
experience, skill, and knowledge. The goal of StrengthsQuest is to encourage
people to identify their talents and focus on developing their strengths, rather
than only improving on their weaknesses. People’s talents are measured with
the Clifton StrengthsFinder, which assesses 34 themes of talent. StrengthsQuest
has been applied in a wide range of settings, including education, career
development, and the workplace, and its proponents have argued that the
approach leads to increases in workplace productivity and employee well-
being (Hodges, 2004).
Several research findings suggest that developing strengths at work may
be related to meaning in work. Although none of these have shown a direct
link, strengths-based interventions increase a host of well-being variables
that are in turn related to meaningful work, such as subjective well-being,
hope, and self-efficacy (for a review, see Hodges, 2004). However, the most
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8 The Counseling Psychologist
important of these variables is engagement, a central pillar of well-being in
positive psychology, along with pleasure and meaning (Seligman, 2002).
Several studies have linked developing strengths to employee engagement at
work (Black, 2001; Clifton & Harter, 2003), which is in turn related to mean-
ingful work (Ghadi, Fernando, & Caputi, 2013; May, Gilson, & Harter,
2004). For example, meaningfulness has a strong positive relation with
engagement (May et al., 2004), and meaningful work mediates the relation
between transformational leadership and engagement (Ghadi et al., 2013),
and between job enrichment and engagement, and work role fit and engage-
ment (May et al., 2004). Therefore, strengths-based interventions may be
important for creating engagement in work, and meaning in work may play
an important role in this process.
To summarize, using strengths may provide a significant sense of meaning
in work. This may be especially relevant for person–environment fit theories,
in that matching one’s strengths to particular work environments, or finding
new ways to use one’s strengths at work, may be critical for enhancing one’s
perception of fit, which in turn may foster a sense of meaning in work
(Hansen, 2013). To leverage this possibility, career counselors can help cli-
ents identify, develop, and find new ways to use their top strengths in their
work, as can organizations looking to help employees experience a stronger
sense of meaning. This holds promise for both the individual well-being of
workers and, in turn, the broader success of organizations as a whole.
Positive Emotions and Flow
Two central constructs within positive psychology are positive emotions and
flow. Whereas positive affect concerns the external expression of emotion,
positive emotions are what people feel internally. The experience of positive
emotion is central to feeling happy, and hundreds of studies have shown that
individuals who experience more positive than negative emotion in their
lives also report being more fulfilled (Fredrickson, 2013). Not surprisingly,
researchers have found this same link when studying positive emotion spe-
cifically in the workplace. For example, in a review, Brief and Weiss (2002)
delineated how the experience of positive emotions at work is related to cre-
ative problem solving, helping behaviors, job satisfaction, and less intention
to withdraw. To put it tersely, when people feel better at work they work bet-
ter. Not only that, but positive emotions may provide a foundation for indi-
viduals to experience meaning at work.
Findings such as those described above point to the importance of career
counselors working with clients to increase their experience of positive emo-
tion in the workplace. How? Drawing from the robust literature on building
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Dik et al. 9
positive emotions in general (Algoe & Fredrickson, 2011; Fredrickson,
2013), building positive emotions at work is not merely about trying to “be
more positive.” Rather, it is about seeking and creating situations that induce
positivity. In their review, Lyubomirsky and Layous (2013) noted several fac-
tors that are critical to boosting positive emotions. First, individuals need to
actually perform a positive activity, ideally one that is a good fit for their
interests, skills, and values. Second, individuals should engage in a handful
of activities (between two and four; Schueller & Parks, 2012) to maximize
the potential effect, while minimizing hassle. Third, activities that individuals
feel supported in, confident about, and motivated to do are more likely to
result in increased positive emotions. These same principles can be applied to
the workplace. Counselors are encouraged to work with clients to examine
their work tasks and work relationships. Then, using the job crafting strate-
gies described below, counselors can work with clients to find ways to
increase positive (and decrease negative) tasks and relationships by focusing
on engaging in specific goal-directed behaviors. Encouraging clients to be
open and curious to new activities may be a key route to building more posi-
tive emotions.
Career counselors might also work with clients to experience flow states.
Popularized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is a state in which an indi-
vidual is completely focused and immersed in a goal-directed activity that
often leads to success (Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2009). According to
flow theory, these states emerge when a person is engaged in an activity that
she or he is highly skilled at and also finds highly challenging. When per-
forming this activity, people often lose track of time, awareness, and self-
consciousness. During a flow state, people are highly engaged, and often
experience a boost in self-esteem and a sense of purpose (Nakamura &
Csikszentmihalyi, 2009). To study this concept, researchers typically analyze
qualitative interview data where creative individuals discuss entering a flow
state and/or track people using experience sampling methods to understand
how flow states emerge (Fullagar & Kelloway, 2009; Nakamura &
Csikszentmihalyi, 2009). It is not surprising that when employees experience
flow at work they also experience heightened satisfaction and performance
(Csikszentmihalyi, 2004; Demerouti, 2006; Fullagar & Kelloway, 2009).
Because flow states occur at points of high engagement and challenge, they
are precisely the type of experiences that make work feel meaningful.
Csikszentmihalyi (2003) has extensively addressed how flow can be
increased on individual and organizational levels. Outside of work, flow nor-
mally occurs in active leisure pursuits such as painting, playing music, or
gardening. Helping clients build flow experiences involves targeting activi-
ties at which they are skilled and that they find challenging, and encouraging
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10 The Counseling Psychologist
clients to invest sufficient time in these activities to experience meaning.
Performing these activities outside of one’s paid employment can allow cli-
ents who are in untenable work situations to reap reward from nonwork activ-
ities that demand energy and focus, and are often tied to larger life goals.
Csikszentmihalyi (2003) suggested that helping employees experience flow
at work is a responsibility of the organization. Organizations can give
employees clear goals, provide immediate feedback regarding their pursuit of
these goals, and consistently challenge employees with new tasks while being
aware of their capacity to succeed. However, we suggest that counselors
describe flow and explore with clients if they have experienced flow in work
or leisure. If so, collaboratively strategizing how these experiences might be
incorporated into the workplace could lead to an increased sense of
Gratitude is, simply, the conscious practice of being thankful and giving
thanks. When practicing gratitude, people aim their attention at benefits they
have received, acknowledge that some external force—whether fate, faith, or
other people—has provided them this benefit, and express their appreciation
to their benefactor (Emmons, 2003; Emmons & Mishra, 2011). Gratitude has
been conceptualized as both a trait and a state. Dispositional gratitude refers
to an individual’s threshold for recognizing and responding with gratitude to
others’ benevolence in a positive outcome (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang,
2002), whereas gratitude as a state indicates a momentary feeling of grateful-
ness (Emmons & Mishra, 2011). This distinction implies that, although the
basic level of dispositional gratitude may differ between people, gratitude
can also be deliberately cultivated (Emmons & Mishra, 2011). Indeed, grati-
tude was one of the earliest positive psychology constructs for which targeted
interventions were developed and tested; and counting one’s blessings, writ-
ing thankful letters, and making gratitude visits to people who had helped,
soon became staples of applied positive psychology (Seligman et al., 2005).
In fact, some have argued that gratitude interventions are the most effective
tools that positive psychology has produced (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010).
A substantial literature has linked both dispositional and state gratitude to
greater well-being (e.g., Emmons & McCullough, 2003; see Wood et al.,
2010, for a review), and theorists have proposed that these links can be
explained by the emotional, cognitive, and coping aspects of gratitude
(Emmons & Mishra, 2011). For example, expressing gratitude stirs positive
emotions, helps create expectations that good things happen in life, and
allows people to emphasize their blessings and positive relationships during
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Dik et al. 11
adversity. Several people have proposed that these benefits should apply to
people in workplaces as well (Emmons, 2003). After all, people work hard
and make contributions to their organizations, and perhaps gratitude is an
entirely appropriate response (Gibbs, 2009). Expressing gratitude may make
individual workers feel better, but interpersonal dynamics may also spread
well-being benefits to grateful people’s coworkers by improving organiza-
tional citizenship behaviors, reinforcing a norm of reciprocity, teamwork, and
altruism, or ensuring that workers feel recognized for their contributions.
According to the Kelly Services Global Workforce Index (Kelly Services,
2011), feeling unappreciated is the top reason why people leave their jobs,
suggesting that workplace gratitude may aid in retention and in creating a
stable work environment.
Despite gratitude’s prominence within positive psychology and the prom-
ise for workplace gratitude, few researchers have explored gratitude in orga-
nizational or career development contexts. There have been only a handful of
studies investigating gratitude at work, and these have typically examined
small samples in an abbreviated range of professions. For example, gratitude
was negatively associated with burnout among 65 workers from diverse men-
tal health professions (Lanham, Rye, Rimsky, & Weill, 2012). Other research
has shown an association between gratitude and burnout as well, such as
among teachers in Hong Kong (Chan, 2010). Lanham et al. (2012) also found
hope to fully mediate the relation of gratitude with burnout and job satisfac-
tion, pointing to another way that gratitude might affect workplaces. Gratitude
has also been associated with a sense of meaning in life and personal accom-
plishment (Chan, 2010; Graham & Barker, 1990), corporate social responsi-
bility toward social and employee concerns (Andersson, Giacalone, &
Jurkiewicz, 2007), and job satisfaction (Lanham et al., 2012; Waters, 2012).
There have been two studies of gratitude interventions among Hong Kong
teachers that show improvements in life satisfaction and positive affect
(Chan, 2010) and life satisfaction and burnout (Chan, 2011). This latter study
suggested that gratitude interventions were only effective for people who
reported high levels of meaning in life prior to the intervention. However,
given the very small sample in this study (N = 63), and the even smaller num-
ber of people for whom the intervention worked (n = 24), it is plausible that
this result reflects random sample variations. To summarize, the broader lit-
erature on personal gratitude, and some encouraging though limited research
in organizations, suggest that gratitude may be a viable source for increasing
purpose and meaning at work.
Career counselors are encouraged to focus on the cognitive, emotional,
and behavioral components of gratitude to increase purpose and meaning in
work. Lambert and colleagues (2009) found that positive reframing mediates
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12 The Counseling Psychologist
the relationship between gratitude and sense of coherence. After establishing
a client’s baseline level of dispositional gratitude (e.g., using the Gratitude
Questionnaire; McCullough et al., 2002), a career counselor can work with
the client to help identify what work already provides for her or him, and to
encourage viewing negative circumstances (e.g., “I have a low-paying job”)
in a positive light (e.g., “My work still provides for my family’s needs”), in
ways that increase a sense of meaning in work (e.g., “My work is meaningful
because it provides for my family’s needs”). The counting blessings interven-
tion (Emmons & McCullough, 2003) may assist a client in the practice of
focusing on the positive aspects of work. The emotional component of grati-
tude can also be explored in a career counseling session to identify which
aspects of one’s work may induce a thankful mood. A person may experience
gratitude in response to others’ help or recognition, or via the pay or benefits
the work provides. Counselors can also incorporate behavioral interventions
such as writing a gratitude letter to a coworker or to customers who have
expressed appreciation for the client’s work. By increasing state gratitude
through these interventions, individuals may be able to experience the bene-
fits of gratitude in their work, such as more positive relationships, more effec-
tive coping with stress, or satisfaction with work regardless of the level of
extrinsic reward it provides.
As counselors practice these gratitude interventions with clients in a career
development context, they should be aware of potential differences in how
gratitude is experienced or expressed across diverse groups. For example,
one study reported that women tend to have higher trait gratitude than men,
which may suggest greater difficulty for men to express gratitude (Kashdan,
Mishra, Breen, & Froh, 2009). Similarly, as gratitude has long been under-
stood as a Christian virtue (Emmons & Kneezel, 2005), it may be useful to
pay attention to how religious individuals versus nonreligious individuals
may differ in expressing gratitude and how they may react to gratitude inter-
ventions intended to facilitate purpose and meaning in work.
Work Hope
Drawing from Snyder’s (2000) research on hope, Juntunen and Wettersten
(2006) initiated scholarship on work hope, “a positive motivational state that
is directed at work and work-related goals and is composed of the presence of
work-related goals and both the agency and pathways for achieving those
goals” (p. 97). Research on work hope is new, but has shown that the con-
struct is associated with several academic and career-related criterion vari-
ables. For example, work hope partially mediated the relationship between a
sense of calling and academic satisfaction among U.S. college students
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Dik et al. 13
(Duffy, Allan, & Dik, 2011), was linked to self-esteem and self-directed deci-
sion-making among Ukrainian college students (Yakushko & Sokolova,
2010), and was a robust predictor of achievement-related beliefs among
urban high school students enrolled in a work-based learning program
(Kenny, Walsh-Blair, Blustein, Bempechat, & Seltzer, 2010).
Beyond these positive academic and career-related outcomes, Juntunen
and Wettersten (2006) also suggested that work hope may play a key role in
helping individuals pursue and experience meaningful work, which syncs
with evidence that hope may be a component of life meaning (Feldman &
Snyder, 2005). Furthermore, the three components of work hope (i.e., pres-
ence of a work-related goal, pathways, and agency) share conceptual overlap
with the postulated dimensions of meaningful work described previously. For
example, a work-related goal can be extended to a broader purpose in work,
such as to serve the greater good (Steger & Dik, 2010) or to find congruence
between the components of one’s global meaning framework and one’s work
experiences (Park, 2012). Similarly, the pathways to achieve the work-related
goal may align with Rosso et al.’s (2010) four pathways to meaningful work,
Steger and Dik’s (2010) meaning-making behaviors, and Park’s (2012)
emphasis on fitting global beliefs, goals, and values with work activity.
Agency is not directly mentioned in these models, but each assumes that
people actively engage the process of pursuing and creating meaningful
These conceptual linkages suggest that building a sense of work hope may
help clients in career counseling foster a sense of meaningful work. Juntunen
and Wettersten (2006) developed the Work Hope Scale (WHS) not only for
use in research but also to help facilitate client consideration of work-related
goals, pathways toward goals, and agency. Counselors can assist client explo-
ration and articulation of these three components of work hope, and can help
clients generate career development goals that may stem from, and contribute
to, a broader sense of purpose in life. Identifying meaningful pathways may
help enhance the agency of clients as they pursue these goals. Of course, here
as well, it is important for counselors to account for different levels of base-
line work hope that may exist based on cultural factors. Research has not
found the level of hope to differ by age or gender, but those who struggle
psychologically and academically tend to have lower levels of hope (Juntunen
& Wettersten, 2006). Economic disadvantage may also place a particularly
low ceiling on work hope; when clients experience less work hope due to
circumstances beyond their control (e.g., less access to education), additional
environmental pathways (e.g., accessible opportunities) along with individ-
ual pathways should be explored (Juntunen & Wettersten, 2006). Yakushko
and Sokolova (2010) also suggested that career counselors working with
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14 The Counseling Psychologist
immigrant youth take time to discuss the impact of pressure from family on
career goals and help foster exploration of one’s own career goals. Finally,
Park-Taylor and Vargas (2012) proposed that counselors working with urban
minority youth can familiarize clients with the concept of work hope using
questions that address its three components (e.g., “What do you want to be
when you grow up?,” “How will you get there?,” and “How will you stay
motivated toward such a goal?”).
Job Crafting
Wrzesniewski and Dutton (2001) noted that “job boundaries, the meaning of
work, and work identities are not fully determined by formal job require-
ments. Individuals have latitude to define and enact the job, acting as ‘job
crafters’” (p. 179). Job crafting refers to a process by which employees
actively shape the work experience to meet their work-related needs (Berg,
Dutton, & Wrzesniewski, 2013), using one or more of three distinct strate-
gies: task, relational, and cognitive crafting. Task crafting involves an active
change in responsibilities, such that individuals add or drop tasks, or adjust
resources to spend more or less time on particular tasks. Relational crafting
refers to changes in how, when, and with whom employees interact. Finally,
cognitive crafting involves changing the way individuals think about their
job-related tasks. These three strategies parallel the active and reactive adjust-
ment styles proposed by Dawis and Lofquist (1984) in their Theory of Work
Adjustment (TWA), with active adjustment referring to changes a person
makes to the self, and reactive adjustment referring to change made to the
environment, both of which enhance person–environment fit. The goals of
job crafting align with positive psychology’s emphasis on taking personal
initiative to leverage one’s strengths in ways that promote human
Early empirical investigations of job crafting are promising. In a correla-
tional study of teachers, collaborative job crafting was positively associated
with performance, satisfaction, and job commitment (Leana, Appelbaum, &
Shevchuk, 2009). A qualitative study found that employees with “unanswered
callings” may benefit psychologically (e.g., experience positive emotion)
from employing job crafting techniques (Berg, Grant, & Johnson, 2010).
Finally, perhaps paradoxically, Berg, Wrzesniewski, and Dutton (2010) found
that employees in lower social status with clearly defined positions reported
more freedom to craft their jobs than those in higher social status positions,
who reported significant constraints to job crafting due to their own expecta-
tions and pressures. Research is needed on job crafting interventions, which
are designed to help career counselors assist clients in creating opportunities
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Dik et al. 15
to experience and enhance a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. For
example, the Job Crafting Exercise ( encourages people
to think of their work responsibilities as malleable and to identify new routes
to work satisfaction and meaning. Building on this mindset, the intervention
offers concrete steps for putting task, relational, and cognitive crafting into
Task crafting. Task crafting can include adding, emphasizing, or redesigning
tasks. Adding new tasks, such as a highly artistic paralegal volunteering to
design invitations for a law firm’s holiday party, can help clients enhance the
fit between the job and their strengths. Emphasizing preexisting interests and
strengths can also bolster meaning, as is the case when a client who enjoys
organizing files approaches the supervisor to inquire about spending more
time engaged in this task. Finally, clients can redesign aspects of their work
that they find unpleasurable. For example, a client who feels discomfort mak-
ing phone calls in front of other people throughout the day in an open office
configuration may chunk the task into a 2-hr time block and ask a supervisor
for access to a private office for those 2 hr each day.
Relational crafting. Relational crafting, which typically focuses on shaping
brief social interactions at work, includes building, reframing, and adapting
relationships. A client may benefit from building new relationships at work,
such as by regularly inviting new coworkers to coffee or lunch, thereby
enhancing a sense of meaning by satisfying the fundamental need to belong
(Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Wrzesniewski, Dutton, & Debebe, 2003). Cli-
ents can reframe existing relationships as well by approaching them in new
ways. For example, an office assistant who feels the supervisors are unap-
proachable may decide for the next 2 weeks to learn something interesting
and personal about each one. Such an approach may change the way the
office assistant connects with people with whom previous relationships had
only been superficial. Finally, a client may adapt workplace relationships by
offering to help others with their tasks and allowing others to reciprocate.
Besides strengthening these relationships, this strategy may open the door to
new work experiences, some of which may prove valuable or rewarding.
Cognitive crafting. Cognitive crafting strategies include expanding, focusing,
or linking perceptions. To expand perceptions, clients may take a step back
and reflect on the broader purpose of their work, viewing a retail sales posi-
tion (for example) as an opportunity to help people find the right products so
that they can experience more enjoyment or convenience in life, rather than
as simply a way to pass time or hit sales quotas. Alternatively, it may benefit
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16 The Counseling Psychologist
some clients to narrow their perspective on their work to those aspects they
truly enjoy, such as by considering the aspects of the job they find meaningful
(e.g., getting to know customers personally) as a reward for less desirable
aspects of the work (e.g., completing tedious order forms). Finally, linking
perceptions provides an opportunity to create mental connections between
existing tasks and relationships, interests, outcomes, and values. For exam-
ple, a client who works in customer service may value entertaining and mak-
ing people feel at home. The client may leverage this value to transform a
work task she or he finds aversive, such as responding to customer com-
plaints, by viewing the complaint process as an opportunity to ensure that the
customer feels heard, valued, and supported. Job crafting, like TWAs adjust-
ment model, promotes the idea that choosing a career path is not the end point
of career development, but rather a beginning. Job crafting has also been
linked to greater job satisfaction and meaning in work (see Berg et al., 2013,
for a review), which makes job crafting well-suited for clients who experi-
ence considerable constraints in job opportunities and advancement, such as
those in low social status jobs or those with disabilities. Job crafting tech-
niques may assist clients in forging a niche within a highly complex world of
work, yet also should be approached with caution. One potential negative
consequence is that it may place undue responsibility on the employee, rather
than on the employer, to improve a less-than-desirable employment situation;
another may be psychological distress, as job crafting calls for ongoing atten-
tion to aspects of the self that may remain dissatisfied (Berg et al., 2010).
Future research should identify the relative efficacy of various job crafting
strategies, and test the possibility that client factors (e.g., occupation or job
role, race/ethnicity, gender) may moderate the effects of job crafting on key
Finally, another way that purpose and meaning can be cultivated in the work-
place is through the development of a calling. A sense of calling is present
when a person feels summoned to pursue a particular career path that aligns
with a broader sense of life purpose, and that fosters expression of prosocial
values (Dik & Duffy, 2009). The construct fits well within the positive psy-
chology movement by focusing on the core concepts of purpose and altruism,
specifically within the work role. Like most fundamental concepts of positive
psychology, people can actively pursue a calling and, by doing so, experience
enhanced well-being. In a recent review of the literature, Duffy and Dik
(2013) noted an upsurge of scholarly interest in the construct, citing dozens
of studies completed in the last 5 years that have demonstrated consistent
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Dik et al. 17
results. Perceiving—and especially living—a calling has been linked to a
host of positive outcomes, most notably the experience of meaning at work.
Because a calling is so integrally tied to an individual’s overall sense of
meaning in life, it is not surprising that those living out a calling also view
their work as highly meaningful.
Findings such as these highlight the need to understand how individuals
from diverse backgrounds can discern, and live out, a calling at work.
Research has found that individuals from diverse religious, socioeconomic,
and cultural groups are approximately equally likely to experience a sense of
calling (Duffy & Autin, 2013; Duffy & Dik, 2013; Duffy & Sedlacek, 2010;
Hagmaier & Abele, 2012), but that those individuals with higher levels of
education and income are more likely to report that they are living out their
calling (Duffy & Autin, 2013). This distinction between having and living a
calling is important and suggests that strategies are needed not only to help a
client discern a calling, but to implement it as well. Several practice-focused
articles (e.g., Dik & Duffy, 2014a, 2014b; Dik et al., 2009) and a recent book
(Dik & Duffy, 2012) have been devoted to this topic, and below we build on
these contributions to offer several practical suggestions.
Discerning a calling. Often when the term calling is used colloquially, people
conjure up images of someone hearing a voice from God directing them to
pursue work as a police officer, minister, doctor, and so on. However, this
type of experience is the exception rather than the rule (Dik & Duffy, 2012).
In qualitative studies with people who perceive a calling to their work, most
describe a discernment process that unfolds through long periods of explora-
tion, as opposed to one “aha moment.” In a study that directly examined
where individuals felt their calling originated, most noted that their calling
arose by finding a career that was a perfect fit for their values, interests, and
personality (Duffy, Allan, Bott, & Dik, in press).
Accordingly, the process of helping clients find a calling is in many ways
analogous to the traditional person–environment fit-based career counseling
process—assisting clients in understanding their unique strengths and locat-
ing a job or career that best matches these strengths. However, there are
important differences in helping clients find a job or career versus a calling.
These differences mainly relate to how a calling is unlike a job or a career in
that it arises from some type of summons, may be the primary source of an
individual’s life meaning, and is explicitly prosocial in nature. When working
with clients who hope to find their callings, counselors should facilitate self-
and environmental exploration, verbalizing to clients that discerning a sum-
mons to a particular career will occur by actively engaging in a strategic
information-gathering and decision-making process, rather than passively
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18 The Counseling Psychologist
waiting for a direct revelation. People with callings often describe “hearing”
a call after encountering work that is an excellent match for their unique gifts,
and actively discerning one’s gifts and matching environments is a necessary
first step.
It is common for clients to feel that multiple lines of work are a match for
their gifts. When this occurs, explicitly incorporating the meaningfulness and
prosocial aspects of a calling is a good way to help clients differentiate career
options. Work tends to be meaningful when the job fits with an individual’s
larger life goals or purpose and when the job is making a tangible difference
in people’s lives. Counselors are encouraged to work with clients to link their
career and life goals, such that pursuing a particular career is seen as part of
a larger path of purpose in life. Counselors may also encourage clients to
focus not only on personal fit when choosing a career path but social fit as
well. For example, a recent study asked people what gives their work mean-
ing, and the vast majority of participants noted helping others or contributing
to society as the primary source (Allan et al., in press). Intriguingly, this find-
ing was consistent across social class groups. This study—along with dozens
of others that have linked prosocial attitudes and behavior at work with job
satisfaction (Grant & Berg, 2011)—suggests that working in a job that helps
others is a key path to a sense of purpose and meaning at work. When helping
clients discern their callings, counselors are encouraged to facilitate explora-
tion of career paths that foster reflection on the impact of their work on others
or, more broadly, on the greater good.
Living a calling. Although many individuals sense that they have a calling,
only a subset report that they are currently living out that calling. Barriers
related to class, race, gender, disability, and education make it difficult for
many individuals to feel a sense of work volition, leading to an inability to
pursue the career to which they feel called (Duffy & Autin, 2013). The good
news is that a calling is a dynamic process. In fact, most qualitative studies
have found that callings tend to change or adapt over time, and that people
living their calling typically engage in an active and ongoing process of sus-
taining and enhancing their sense of calling in their careers (Dik & Duffy,
2012). This suggests not only that living a calling consistently requires effort
but also that, theoretically, people can transform nearly any job into a calling
if they are willing to work for it and if external constraints allow it. Career
counselors can aid clients in this process by facilitating the growth of job
crafting skills and by encouraging prosocial behaviors in the workplace.
Job crafting is an effective way to adapt a work environment to enable
pursuit of a calling; counselors are encouraged to be familiar with these tech-
niques. Furthermore, living out a calling is best accomplished when
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Dik et al. 19
individuals feel their work is closely connected to the greater good.
Encouraging clients to pursue prosocial values in their work is important not
only in discerning a calling but also in living one out. Counselors are advised
to work with clients to find ways they can use their work to help others, or to
more directly help others in the workplace. Linking what clients do at work
to a broader impact can enhance a sense that they are living out a calling, and
promotes purpose and meaning in their careers.
Summary and Conclusion
Counseling and vocational psychology values are in many ways intertwined
with values espoused by the positive psychology initiative. This observation
is nothing new, of course, and does little to address the highly salient need to
integrate scholarship and applications emerging from each source in a way
that offers a coherent ongoing agenda for research and practice. Because pro-
fessionals who can potentially benefit from research and practice related to
purpose and meaning in work are diverse across both academic subdisci-
plines (e.g., vocational psychology, management) and practice settings (e.g.,
counseling centers, employee assistance programs), the potential for contin-
ued fragmentation is high without deliberate efforts to bring these diverse
streams of work together. This article represents one such deliberate effort.
To help encourage integration rather than fragmentation, we have reviewed
six promising areas of research and practice—strengths, positive emotions
and flow, gratitude, work hope, job crafting, and approaching work as a
calling—that draw together counseling psychology and positive psychology
in ways that are making a difference for clients with career development
We urge readers to continue this effort in two primary ways. First, we
encourage researchers to establish a stronger base of empirical support for
these applications, particularly by conducting randomized controlled trials.
Of primary importance is an investigation of the boundaries of these applica-
tions. For whom are they more or less effective, under what conditions, and
in which contexts? What roles do culture, privilege, power play with respect
to these questions? Research also can explore the extent to which such appli-
cations actually foster individual and community health across a wide spec-
trum of potential individual, organizational, and societal beneficiaries.
Second, we encourage the continued creative and innovative development of
applications that assist in enriching people’s careers and lives with more pur-
pose and meaning. Such efforts, we hope, will avoid a narrow focus on siloed
input streams and instead draw broadly across the full range of available
scholarly and applied resources. In doing so, we renew Lopez and
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20 The Counseling Psychologist
Magyar-Moe’s (2006) encouragement for counseling psychologists to focus
on socially significant, strength-based research and practice that helps people
more effectively leverage their strengths to experience more satisfying,
meaningful, and purposeful lives.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publi-
cation of this article.
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Author Biographies
Blake Allan is a doctoral student at the University of Florida. In addition to working
as a therapist and instructor, he conducts research on the intersection of positive,
counseling, and work psychology. Specifically, he researches what makes work
meaningful, focusing on helping behaviors and sociocultural factors that constrain
access to fulfilling employment.
Bryan J. Dik is an associate professor in the counseling psychology program at
Colorado State University. His BA in psychology is from Calvin College and his PhD
is from the University of Minnesota. His research interests focus on career develop-
ment, especially perceptions of work as a calling; meaning, purpose, religion and
spirituality in career decision-making and planning; measurement of vocational inter-
ests; and career development interventions.
Ryan D. Duffy is an associate professor in the counseling psychology program at the
University of Florida. He received his BA from Boston College in Human Development
and Philosophy and his MA and PhD from the University of Maryland. His research
interests are broadly in the areas of vocational and positive psychology, and he spe-
cifically focuses on the study of work volition and calling.
Maeve O’Donnell is a doctoral student in counseling psychology at Colorado State
University. She received her undergraduate degree at Seton Hall University in Honors
Psychology in 2008 and her master’s degree in sport and performance psychology
from the University of Denver in 2010. Her primary areas of research include positive
psychology, health psychology, and the intersection between those two areas of study.
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28 The Counseling Psychologist
Yerin Shim is a doctoral student in counseling psychology at Colorado State
University. She received her BA and MA at Ewha Womans University in Seoul,
Korea, where she developed the Korean version of the Calling and Vocation
Questionnaire (CVQ-K). Her current research is focused on the experience of mean-
ingful work among individuals with socioeconomic disadvantage, and the develop-
ment and evaluation of meaning-centered interventions for college students.
Michael F. Steger is an associate professor of counseling psychology and applied
social psychology at Colorado State University. He received his PhD with a dual
specialization in counseling and personality psychology from the University of
Minnesota. His research interests concern better understanding the factors that pro-
mote human flourishing and ameliorate psychological suffering. In particular, he has
focused on researching how people generate the sense that their lives are meaningful,
as well as investigating the benefits of living a meaningful life.
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... At that time, counselors had in hand a different and complex problem to tackle and since then, vocational counseling has taken a different toll for the benefit of people with any kind of disability (Pope, 2000). As overall society and personal views keep changing, vocational counseling seems to be evolving into a psychosocial field in which vocational counselors help people to relate their meaning of life to a career path (Dik et al., 2019;Dik et al., 2015). Therefore, vocational counseling can be defined as an ongoing interaction between counselor and client with the primary focus on vocational assistance or work-related issues (Swanson, 1995). ...
... Therefore, vocational counseling can be defined as an ongoing interaction between counselor and client with the primary focus on vocational assistance or work-related issues (Swanson, 1995). Vocational counseling may be considered personal counseling underskirt by the same fundamental theories and practice methods as any counseling in general (Dik et al., 2015;Pope, 2000;Swanson, 1995). ...
This paper proposes a concept of supervision at a vocational counseling setting. Using the Integrated Developmental Model with triadic supervision for trainees employed at YGS Placement Service agency will facilitate client welfare and counselor in training development. Along with supervision comes evaluating and assessing trainees' competence. Using the Counseling Competency Scale, the Supervisee Levels Questionnaire-Revised, and reflective journaling will benefit the supervision experience. Determining the level of development of trainees using the integrated development model is the first step to organize and plan the supervision meetings.
... Furthermore, even when participants described finding meaning in the same organisational practices as researchers have found with adult professionals, these could be for different reasons. Therefore, whilst several scholars provide-based on present understandings of meaningful work-strategies for employers to enhance work meaning for employees (see, for example, Dik et al., 2009Dik et al., , 2015Lease et al., 2019;Lysova et al., 2019), it should be recognised that these may not be beneficial for all employees or in all work contexts. The findings highlight the subjectivity of meaningful work. ...
Full-text available
Experiencing meaningfulness at work is important for employee engagement, individual performance, and personal fulfilment. However, research surrounding meaningful employment has predominantly focused upon the experiences of well-educated, adult professionals. To expand theoretical understanding of this concept, this paper investigates perceptions of meaningful employment among youths from Northern England (aged 16–18) with a history of involvement in crime. Interviews demonstrate that young offenders’ criteria for ‘meaningful work’ differ from existing research and is influenced by their self-concept and inherent values as youths from chaotic and impoverished backgrounds. This highlights the subjectivity of this concept. Nonetheless, the findings also indicate that there are instances where work itself makes a broader contribution in discovering meaning, and therefore, certain organisational practices are experienced as meaningful by both young offenders and adult professionals. Thus, this study demonstrates the importance of surveying diverse populations to reach a more comprehensive understanding of meaningful employment.
... Showing appreciation or being thankful should be encouraged especially among nurses whose patient's life relies on their behaviour and attitude. Dik et al.(2014), showed that individuals who are grateful feel better, and their wellbeing helps them see their colleagues in a more positive light, thereby improving organizational citizenship behaviours and strengthen reciprocity, teamwork, and altruism in organizations. ...
Full-text available
Drawing from the spillover, social exchange, broad and build theories, the researchers examined the predictive role of gratitude and flourishing on organizational citizenship behaviour among nurses in Enugu State, Nigeria. Three hundred and fifty (350) nurses (15% male and 85% female) took part in the study. The nurses were conveniently selected based on their availability and willingness to participate in the study. Three instruments were used in the collection of data; which are: Gratitude Scale,
... In this context, both standardised and qualitative career counselling activities aimed at fostering self-knowledge about interests, characteristics, skills and values can be further defined as ways to discover a client's "superpower", and to serve as core resources to manage the transition (see Hirschi et al., 2018). The concept of character strengths emphasised in SuperBetter is also gaining prominence in the field of career counselling (Dik et al., 2015). Strength-focused career interventions have already demonstrated promising results in increasing self-efficacy (Owens et al., 2016) and self-esteem (Littman-Ovadia et al., 2014) among clients, both of which, in turn, are considered core protective factors in mitigating the negative effects of vocational indecision and indecisiveness (see Udayar et al., 2020, for a meta-analysis). ...
Full-text available
Meeting the psychological, social, and economic challenges of career transitions requires people to be increasingly flexible and hardy. In this article, we propose that envisioning one’s life as a game can foster well-being, coping strategies, and success with career transitions. The SuperBetter approach (McGonigal, 2015. Superbetter: A revolutionary approach to getting stronger, happier, braver and more resilient. Penguin) is presented as a metaphor that can provide clients with a new perspective for their lives and career narratives. The way each component of this metaphor can contribute to individuals’ well-being, motivation and success throughout career transitions is detailed. Implications for practice and research are discussed.
... Extending beyond academic meaning, across samples of college students, meaning in life was positively related to indicators of wellbeing (e.g., King et al. 2006;Steger et al. 2006), self-efficacy (DeWitz et al. 2009, and optimism, self-esteem, and positive life regard (e.g., Steger et al. 2006). Meaningful work in adult samples has also been shown to be positively related to well-being (Arnold et al. 2007), life satisfaction, and meaning in life (Dik et al. 2015). ...
Full-text available
College presents a number of challenges to new students. Few studies have examined how students’ strengths may positively impact their college experience and what factors may promote or impede their success. This study examined the relationship between strengths use and academic satisfaction, academic meaning, and leadership, as well as the influence of two environmental moderators—strengths barriers and environmental support. Participants included 371 newly matriculated undergraduate students at a large, public university in the United States. Results partially supported our hypotheses and revealed a number of important relations. Specifically, strengths use did not predict academic satisfaction; however, strengths barriers negatively predicted academic satisfaction and environmental support positively predicted academic satisfaction. Further, neither strengths barriers nor environmental support moderated the relationship between strengths use and academic satisfaction. Strengths use and environmental support positively predicted academic meaning, and strengths barriers negatively predicted academic meaning. Moreover, strengths barriers and environmental support did not moderate the relation between strengths use and academic meaning. Finally, strengths use positively predicted leadership, and strengths barriers negatively predicted leadership; however, environmental support did not significantly predict leadership. Strengths barriers, and not environmental support, moderated the relation between strengths use and leadership. Implications of these findings are discussed.
Recent research suggests that meritocratic beliefs impact future-oriented activities. However, relatively little attention has been given to concomitant work outcomes, such as employee creativity. This study examines how the meritocratic beliefs of newcomers relate to employee creativity. We explore a serial mediation model where the meritocratic beliefs of newcomers heighten their meaning of work and learning adaptability, which increases employee creativity. We use questionnaires to survey 212 full-time employees from 10 manufacturing enterprises in China, who had joined their companies for less than a year. The results show that positive serial indirect effects of the meritocratic beliefs of newcomers on employee creativity via increased meaning of work and learning adaptability. Overall, the results provide new insight that may advance theoretical and practical implications on the pathways in which meritocratic beliefs may enhance employee creativity.
Creating a joyful workplace is not the same as dealing with issues of stress, fatigue, burn-out, and resilience. It requires a proactive approach to augment feelings of worth, appreciation, and well-being in the members of the team. The sense that one is pursuing worthwhile, valuable activities requires a wholesale commitment to the mission, vision and values of the organization. These tenets are often created through an organic consensus of collegial workmates and then put to action by a leadership team. Reassessing the goals and virtues of the organization at appropriate intervals leads to ongoing loyalty and commitment to the team and a positive attitude. Well-being is addressed through the creation of a bright and cheerful physical and psychosocial workplace that offers programs that encourage mindfulness, humor, playfulness, and fitful lifestyle choices. The sense that one’s work is appreciated and valued stems from an attitude of gratitude on behalf of all levels of the organization including management and peers where such encouragement flourishes. Those expressions of appreciation may be in the form of celebrations in the workplace and/or compensation and benefits that appropriately value the contributions of the employee. The organization’s executive team should be dedicated to crafting an environment that leads to delighted, healthy employees.
This chapter describes evidence-based happiness techniques that are highly relevant for workers in the tourism and hospitality industries. Although happiness creates success for many stakeholders, there is limited evidence on how to increase the happiness of workers in these industries as the focus has predominantly been on the happiness of the customers. The authors fill this gap in the literature by presenting three proven interventions that are particularly relevant to these sectors: job crafting, acts of kindness, and gratitude exercises. The chapter explains what these concepts are and how they work. It also provides specific examples of how they can be implemented into tourism and hospitality organisations.
Full-text available
The aim of this study is to examine whether there is a relationship between employees’ perceptions of gratitude and perceptions of psychological capital, and whether expressing gratitude in written form for 21 days’ changes employee’s perception of gratitude and psychological capital. This study comprises of 3 phases; in the first phase on-line psychological capital and gratitude scale were applied to 115 employees, and then in the second phase, the volunteers were asked to write three items they were grateful for that day by clicking on the link sent to them for 21 days. In the last stage, psychological capital and gratitude scales were applied again to the 21 subjects who list their gratitude for 21 days. In order to motivate the participants to participate in the experiment for 21 days, video training on “Coping with Stress” was given as a gift to the subjects who continued to work. At the end of the 21 days, the subjects who continued for 21 days were asked by e-mail about the changes they observed in themselves. As a result of the study, it has been found out that there is a significant relationship between employees’ perceptions of gratitude and psychological capital and writing gratitude for 21 days changes the subjects’ perceptions of gratitude and psychological capital positively.
Full-text available
Employees' perceptions of meaningful work have been argued to be important in influencing positive outcomes such as effectiveness and job performance. Given the dominant role of leadership in affecting work outcomes, transformational leadership is examined as a key situational factor in enhancing employees' perceptions of meaningful work. This paper provides an integrative framework that illuminates the processes underlying the relationship between transformational leadership and meaningful work. Important factors are identified that mediate and moderate the transformational leadership-meaningful work relationship.
Full-text available
We review the literature on work as meaning and propose a theoretical model of factors that support engagement in meaningful work. We argue that meaningful work arises when people have a clear sense of self, an accurate understanding of the nature and expectations of their work environment, and understand how to transact with their organizations to accomplish their work objectives. We argue that this comprehension of the self in work provides the foundation for people to develop a sense of purpose and mission about their work that both motivates their engagement and performance and helps them transcend their own immediate interests to achieve concern for their contributions to their organization and the greater good. We describe potential and documented benefits of meaningful work to individuals and organizations and provide some suggestions for practical applications and future research.
The effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. In Studies 1 and 2, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life events or social comparison); they then kept weekly (Study 1) or daily (Study 2) records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. In a 3rd study, persons with neuromuscular disease were randomly assigned to either the gratitude condition or to a control condition. The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.
In four studies, the authors examined the correlates of the disposition toward gratitude. Study 1 revealed that self-ratings and observer ratings of the grateful disposition are associated with positive affect and well-being prosocial behaviors and traits, and religiousness/spirituality. Study 2 replicated these findings in a large nonstudent sample. Study 3 yielded similar results to Studies 1 and 2 and provided evidence that gratitude is negatively associated with envy and materialistic attitudes. Study 4 yielded evidence that these associations persist after controlling for Extraversion/positive affectivity, Neuroticism/negative affectivity, and Agreeableness. The development of the Gratitude Questionnaire, a unidimensional measure with good psychometric properties, is also described.
In this chapter, we explore the relationship between the protean career orientation (PCO) and meaningful work. Branching out from the idea that the meaning of work is an individual’s interpretation of what work means to her or him personally (Wrzesniewski, Dutton, & Debebe, 2003), we consider meaningful work to occur when individuals find their work to be personally purposeful and significant (Pratt & Ashforth, 2003) and/or valuable and worthwhile (Hackman & Oldham, 1976; Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001). Specifically, we aim to understand how people who are protean—that is, self-directed and self-managed (Hall, 2002, 2004a; Hall & Associates, 1996)—in their career orientations seek, maintain, create, and change the meaningfulness of their work, both at a given, single point in time and throughout their careers. We argue that because people with a strong PCO, by definition, are more self-directed and driven by personal values than are people with a low protean orientation (Briscoe & Hall, 2006), they are more likely to change organizations, jobs, or occupations to achieve meaning in work (Hall, 1976, 2002). We revisit these core protean career concepts within the context of meaningful work. First, we discuss how the PCO may act as a moderator between personal choices and the outcome of meaningful work. Second, we examine how the protean metacompetencies (self-awareness and adaptability) may influence a person’s achievement of meaningful work. Third, we adopt a life-span perspective to consider how the protean orientation affects meaningfulness over a lifelong career. Finally, we address workplace applications and key boundary conditions (economic and social–political context and the nature of one’s personal values).
In this original and major new work, David Blustein places working at the same level of attention for social and behavioral scientists and psychotherapists as other major life concerns, such as intimate relationships, physical and mental health, and socio-economic inequities. He also provides readers with an expanded conceptual framework within which to think about working in human development and human experience. As a result, this creative new synthesis enriches the discourse on working across the broad spectrum of psychology's concerns and agendas, and especially for those readers in career development, counseling, and policy-related fields. This textbook is ideal for use in graduate courses on counseling and work or vocational counseling. © 2006 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
This chapter examines the nature, contextual and dispositional antecedents, contingent behavioral consequences, and moderating effects of prosocial motivation at work. Prosocial motivation-the desire to protect and promote the well-being of others-is distinct from altruism and independent of self-interested motivations. Key antecedents include relational job design, collectivistic norms and rewards, transformational leadership, and individual differences in other-oriented values, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Prosocial motivation more strongly predicts persistence, performance, and productivity when it is intrinsic rather than extrinsic; citizenship behaviors when it is accompanied by impression management motivation; and performance when manager trustworthiness is high. Prosocial motivation strengthens the relationships of intrinsic motivation with creativity, core self-evaluations with performance, and proactive behaviors with performance evaluations. Future directions include studying the conditions under which prosocial motivation fuels unethical behavior and harm-doing, collective prosocial motivation, behavior as a cause rather than consequence of prosocial motivation, new organizational antecedents of prosocial motivation, and implications for social entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility, and the natural environment.