What meaning do you experience as a result of your work? "Human beings all over the world need to work for a whole host of reasons, including our basic human desire to contribute to something bigger than ourselves--to matter," write consultants and authors Moe Carrick and Cammie Dunaway in their first book, Fit Matters: How to Love Your Job.

It's a growing need in today's workplaces for employees to want to do work that is meaningful. Research from Career Advisory Board found that 71 percent of millennials reported meaningful work is the most important career factor. Even executives in a McKinsey study placed meaning as a top influence on satisfying work. Yet, finding work that meets your individual needs so that meaning is experienced can be difficult. Cutting through the clamor, drama, and fatigue associated with working today takes focus. More than that, however, is it requires that you do work that matches the season of your career. Carrick and Dunaway call this work fit.

The authors explain work fit this way: It's when your expectations, values, personality, and skills are congruent with the company's values, culture, purpose, and available work. Carrick and Dunaway caution that it's not about "fitting in." To fit in often means you compromise part of who you are to avoid drawing attention to yourself, to be like everyone else. Conversely, when your job isn't the bane of your existence you bring your best self to work. You can do your best work.

When Work Isn't a Fit

Work consumes most of your available waking time. Its influence on your wellbeing can be significant. Consider the impact of chronic stress on your mental health.

In one organizational study, the financial impact of 25 prolonged physical and mental health problems--depression, anxiety, back pain, arthritis, obesity, for example--was alarming. Just for mental health disorders, indirect costs from lost productivity exceeded employers' spending associated with contributions to health plans and pharmacy expenses. The stress from a work mis-fit exacts a toll from employees and impacts the bottom line.

When Work Fit . . . Fits

Carrick and Dunaway devote an entire section of their book to help you to find or assess if work is congruent with what's important to you. Their counsel is indicative of today's distracting world, a world that will help you easily lose yourself if you're not mindful. Consider the deleterious effects social media has on us: comparisons of ourselves to somebody who appears to have a better life than our own or has received more likes for their pictures or insights; fear of missing out (FOMO) on something "cool," "new," or "fun." This digital age cuts deep if we don't develop or already have a keen sense of identity. We "bleed" for all the wrong reasons.

For you to find work fit, it takes self-examination of what you hold important. It requires seeking feedback that helps you grow. It demands you exert the time to develop your talents. Without doing the self-work, you are prone to whims that mislead you.

Fortunately, Carrick and Dunaway provide a map of sorts to guide your self-examination. Included in their book are these "six elements of work fit."

  1. Meaning Fit: Finding significance in your work
  2. Job Fit: Experiencing alignment in your responsibilities with your strengths and talents
  3. Culture Fit: Believing there is congruency between what you and the company hold important
  4. Relationship Fit: Experiencing belonging at work because of meaningful relationships
  5. Lifestyle Fit: Enjoying a life outside of work
  6. Financial Fit: Believing there is financial fairness in how you're compensated for work

Each of us deserves to have a job we love. Equally as important is that we feel we are valued, wanted, and can be ourselves while at work. You can use the six elements above to guide your exploration of work fit and develop a plan to have a job you love.

The authors do warn, however, that not all elements may be present at any point. The question that you need to answer is this: Are the elements you value most present at this stage of your career?

Is This All Just Hippy-Dippy Thinking?

Skeptics of work fit might question its value. After all, isn't an employee's paycheck enough for doing his job? Why does a business now need to consider meaning and belonging? If that's what employees want, then they can find it on their own, right?

Expectations about the employment contract have changed. Employees want to work in a positive culture. They want growth opportunities.

Carrick and Dunaway cite research in Fit Matters that when an employee doesn't fit the company's culture, it costs the business between "50-60 percent of that individual's annual salary." Simply consider the recruiting costs or time invested in training the employee. It's a poor investment hiring or keeping employees that don't have work fit. Also, consider lost productivity or poor quality when employees do work that takes more than it gives.

A positive, optimistic work climate is a significant contribution to customer retention. Work fit is a significant influence on what it feels like to work on a team, in the company.

In today's competitive labor market, businesses need to create an employment competitive advantage. To attract talented people, leaders need to create a workplace where people want to spend most of their time.

Work fit is a shared responsibility; both the business and the employee need to work together to realize the benefits. It's a mismatched relationship if only one of the two wants or advocates for it. But when both continuously invest time to evaluate and mature the relationship, the job ceases to be the bane of employees' existence. This outcome is a win-win for everyone.