I’ve been revisiting some Stoic texts and came upon this quote from Seneca’s Dialogues in a letter to Paulinus: “Those who choose to have no real purpose in life are ever rootless and dissatisfied, tossed by their aimlessness into ever-changing situations.” A person’s purpose is their driving force, the catalyst that keeps them on task while the world changes around them. This got me thinking about my purpose and consequentially the power of purpose in the workplace.
It should be no secret that ServiceNow is a purpose-driven business. The company’s goal is to make the work people do more efficient and beneficial to those doing it (“Making the world of work work better). That purpose drives the platform, the applications, the sales teams, services, etc. We all rally around this concept because it is something we all want: a more efficient workplace where less effort is put into redundant and repetitive tasks, and therefore free to handle the big, new, innovative part that drives passion. Because employee values align with this purpose the company is successful, not just financially but also culturally. People want to come to work, they want to succeed, and they want to see happy customer reactions to their innovation.
The same thing applies to any company in any industry. Values drive the culture, which again drives success. Purpose aligns values, becoming a driving force for employees to power through long, difficult, stressful sessions. The result becomes personally rewarding because they know that those long hours they put in realize their purpose.
An individual’s purpose heavily impacts their career choices. It can help them weather some tough times, knowing their efforts are of value to them even if the value is lost by others. Leadership changes, market shifts, and even role changes can be weathered as long as the individual can align their purpose as well. It also means that should that purpose ever come into conflict, employees are more likely to look elsewhere.
Looking back at my career, those places where I enjoyed working most aligned with my purpose: contributing to the growth of others. Whether working in customer service, technical support, or teaching, I’ve enjoyed the job most when I’ve been able to share knowledge with others to help them grow. As a manager, my most satisfying experiences come from seeing someone grow within their career. When I look for career advancement opportunities, this purpose is my litmus test: will I achieve my purpose in the new role? Whenever my job deviated from that purpose or didn’t allow me to realize that purpose, I would often find myself frustrated.
Purpose has a powerful impact on someone building their career. By catalyzing their goals they put their whole effort and being into the job. They can find it easier to bring their whole self, and that’s a powerful thing. Career movement will still have the same drivers (better pay, lifestyle, etc.), but the impact that person will have at each stage of their career will be felt. They are no longer “tossed by their aimlessness into ever-changing situations.”