Finding Meaning During The Great Resignation

frozen wave against sunlight

Millions of members of our workforce left their jobs during the great resignation. 

I suspect many left because they didn’t find their work meaningful. 

Work without meaning is one of the biggest reasons creatives want to make a change in their careers. 

I am inspired and driven in my position, but the pandemic fundamentally changed how I now define meaningful work. 

Before the pandemic, my mindset was to work my ass off and add in time with family beyond the normal structure one might imagine to be healthy. It was not uncommon for me to come home from work for dinner or to coach a softball game before I got my computer back out in order to work far into the early hours of the morning. My mindset was that if I pushed my time commitment towards family I could ultimately find balance. To some extent, this mindset worked and it has been a great joy to be very present in the lives of my young children. 

The pandemic helped me realize this wasn’t a sustainable way to live my life. 

Here are a few realizations:

  1. My commute to work is a gigantic time-suck. On average, it takes me about 45-minutes to get to and from work. That’s over an hour and a half every day that is lost. Over time, that adds up.

  2. When working from home, I no longer “stay a bit longer to wrap some things up.” Pre-pandemic, my wife and I had a constant battle. She wanted to know when I would be home so she could plan for the evening and I was often caught with “one last thing” at 4:45pm. On countless occasions, I would stay well into the evening, missing out of everything from dinner to tucking the kids in at night. During the pandemic that stopped completely. Whatever I couldn’t complete by 5pm ultimately waited until the next morning. I never would have imagined doing that before the pandemic but guess what, I still have my job.

  3. The pandemic also brought a new landscape for how we raised our kids. All of a sudden, carting them all over creation for guitar, drama, softball, baseball, etc. abruptly stopped. They survived and, honestly, seem happier. Being home allowed me to be more deeply connected to my family than I was before the pandemic. It’s as though the intensity at work became secondary to building a deeper relationship with my kids.

  4. From a workflow perspective, I can’t be on a screen longer than the workday. Before the pandemic, my day would be broken up between work on my computer and meetings across campus or in my office. The varied work gave my brain a chance to reset before going back to work at my desk. During the pandemic, I was on my screen for the entire day, which ended up being incredibly exhausting. About half way through, I stopped being on my computer at 5pm and focused on reading in the evenings.

Although the time of 100% work from home is far in our past, the pandemic changed how I define meaningful work. Here are three things that keep me inspired to work and I hope they give you some food for thought as you consider your path towards a career with meaning: 

  1.  I’m able to make an impact. I took my current job because I knew it would put me in a position to make a difference in the lives of young artists. The further I go into my career the more I want my work to provide a lasting impact on those I serve.
  2. My work is flexible. My work has meaning because I am free to pursue the things that I believe most align with the job I’ve been given. I’m at an organization that gives me the freedom to create programming and develop content based on things that are of value to me. This is because I have built up trust from the leadership at my place of work over a number of years. When it comes to meaningful work, flexibility matters.
  3. My work is valued. Meaningful work can come in a number of ways but one of the biggest reasons I keep showing up is that I feel that work I do in my current position is valued. Do not underestimate the role that feeling valued plays in your pursuit of meaning. 

The great resignation will continue for some time until employers can support their employees desire to find meaningful work and, unless some combination of all three points are addressed above, I suspect it will be difficult for employers to retain creatives on their team. 

What do you think is necessary to find meaning in the workplace? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below. 


Like what you read here? Join my newsletter below to receive weekly tips just like this, designed to help creatives like you navigate the most important decisions in your life and career.  

Posted inBlog

Published by

Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: