The Millennial Mentor – The Pursuit of Purpose

Get Ready! It’s the Newest and Biggest Generation in the Workplace, Primed to Make a Difference You Can’t (and Don’t Want To) Ignore. This series offers career advice for the Biggest Generation since The Baby Boom, by The Millennial Mentor.


By Robyn Tingley

We’ve all heard that Millennials bring a different mindset to the workforce. Above money, they value balance, and working in a job that gives them a sense of purpose.

While this desire to have purpose-driven work is laudable, it’s easier said than done. Realities of student debt, monthly cell phone payments, and starting families inevitably creep into the equation.

Most people aren’t even clear on their purpose. Harvard Business research shows that fewer than 20% of leaders they’ve taught are clear on their own individual purpose in life. These are the top educated, experienced achievers who seem to have all of the advantages. So what about those just starting out?

How to tap into one’s calling is a topic I get asked about a lot by career starters. The truth is that you don’t wake up one day and say ‘Ah ha!…I know that THIS is my reason for existing and it’s where I’m going to focus all of my energy’. It’s just not that simple. Most people have to work at finding their purpose in life. Getting clear on what you are driven to achieve is key to being able to realize your most bold professional and personal goals. Here are a few steps to get you started:

Let yourself dream – by the time most people enter the workforce, they’ve suppressed some dreams, and maybe even forgotten how to let themselves dream. They have become preoccupied by their daily responsibilities and routine. Find a quiet space, set a timer for one minute. Write down all the things you believe you are driven to achieve in life. Do you want to bring reliable and safe water to billions who don’t have it? Write a best seller? Inspire people through art? Become a philanthropist? Be an amazing parent?

Know your zone – Take another minute for each of the following questions (60 seconds forces you to use your gut instinct). What do you value in life? What are you so good at that you could teach it? When do you lose track of time? Now look for similarities between your dreams and the answers to these questions.

Reality check it – Take your list and share it with parents, teachers, and colleagues. Ask them to help you identify jobs that support your interests. This process is key to making sure you are fully exploring your options. These people know you best and can help you brainstorm about jobs that exist and relationships you’ll need to develop.

Act – It’s up to you. Nothing takes the place of action. You need to try a few things and gain hands-on experience to know if you are on the right track. Don’t get caught up in finding the perfect job that makes you happy every day. It doesn’t exist. Life is full of challenges and you’ll need to improvise, but these few steps can help you lay the groundwork to ensure your compass is pointed in the right direction. 

Robyn Tingley’s career has taken her around the world as an international executive in Human Resources and Communications. She is the founder of, an organization dedicated to workplace diversity, gender equality, and helping people succeed.

Other articles in the Series —

Millennial Envy — an introduction to this unique generation

Networking: An Investment in Your Future

Welcome to the C-Suite! 3 Ways to Boost Your Personal Brand

 Make Your Resume Work for You: 5 Ways to Stand Out with Recruiters

Take Back Your Happy – 5 Steps

 Attitude — An Inside Job

 The Pursuit of Purpose

4 Simple Ways to Shine in Meetings

Stressed Out? 4 Tips to Manage Your Workload

Millennials & Money — 4 Ways Employers Can Help