Helping Millennials Discover Life Purpose: A Narrative Approach
By Danielle Menditch
Studies have shown that Millennials value meaning, mentorship, flexibility and community in the workplace. Even in popular culture such as the HBO series “Girls”, the main character, Hannah quits her position at GQ, a corporate advertising firm disguised as a magazine, because she does not want to lose her creative mojo to consumerism. Although Hannah is passionate about writing, she feels she has a higher purpose to be the voice of a generation - which she could not accomplish at GQ.
To explore the intersections of passions with strengths, interests, personality and values is not enough. It’s important to discover life purpose with this population. Many Millennials commonly struggle with passion burnout. Without understanding the deeper purpose that drives a person, it is easy for our clients to get in job positions where they lose sight of the bigger picture, even if they are passionate about their work.
What is Purpose and Why is it Important?
Passion can be described as something that excites you and purpose is a bigger reason for being on this earth. If Millennials can begin the self-discovery process and tap into higher purpose at a young age, they may avoid floundering from career to career. Additionally, they can provide a larger contribution to their field because they build expertise and are happier. Moreover, companies benefit from having Millennial employees who have an idea of who they are and the impact or footprint they want to leave behind.
The Narrative Approach:
One of the ways to help a Millennial client explore their higher purpose is through a narrative approach that taps into their story of overcoming their biggest obstacle or pain. Even when there was a difficult time, something has driven our clients to get out of bed whether it was talking to families and friends, a hobby, creative project or work.
Think about the child cancer survivor who becomes an award-winning cancer researcher or a women who had gone through divorce becomes an industry-leading financial planner with the focus of empowering women.
A narrative approach uses storytelling to share a problem, identify themes throughout the story and understand how the story has shaped the person’s perspective.
How to Use the Narrative Approach:
Journaling and storytelling - You can tap into the story of overcoming an obstacle or struggle by having your client journal and share parts of their story in which they feel comfortable. One of the ways you can avoid going into a therapeutic role is to have your client complete the exercise in third-person because third-person allows your client to tell their story from a bird’s-eye perspective.
Help your client understand the deeper motivation behind their story - The craft of really tapping into higher purpose is the ability for you to be able to help your client sift through their story and understand their underlying motivation. This may even include helping your client make a new meaning of their story. Paraphrasing, summarizing and asking clarifying questions helps the client hone in on their deeper motivation.
Help your clients understand how life purpose fits into their career - Some clients will live out their life purpose through their career while others will not; however, their career may be a means to provide money and/or free time to deliver their life purpose.
Reiterate higher purpose throughout the remainder of the career development process - Once higher purpose is identified, it is important for it to be reiterated through the remainder of the career development process. Tapping into higher purpose throughout the process creates the drive for your client to not waste a moment because they are one step closer to their dream job or living out their higher purpose. The tedious tasks such as writing a resume or cover letter is infused with meaning because it helps the client not only obtain a job, but achieve the higher purpose.
When to not use this exercise - This exercise is not developmentally appropriate for someone under the age of 21. I have only used it with clients over the age of 24 and only when they have demonstrated they are mature and mentally stable. If you have an inclination that your client may be struggling with mental health issues, do not use this narrative exercise. Use your best judgment and only use this type of exercise when you have developed a strong rapport with your client. Even if you decide not to tap into the story of overcoming obstacles, you can still ask questions about motivation or try to explore themes they share with you.
Identify Your Higher Purpose
Before I have my clients complete this exercise, I briefly share my story. I was born partially deaf and was bullied as a young child because my hearing and speech were impacted by my disability. As an outcome, I learned to carefully listen to others, read body language and ask thoughtful questions to better understand a situation. My disability has helped me recognize the strengths and gifts I see in others. I live out my higher purpose by helping others recognize their gifts and live out their potential.
One of the reasons my clients hire me is due to the fact that I can articulate my life purpose. You decided to become a career consultant most likely for really wonderful reasons and your life purpose has something to do with it. The most important step to helping your clients through this narrative approach is to go through the process yourself.
Danielle Menditch, MSW, CDF, is a Career Consultant with over a decade of experience working with Millennials. She has been coaching high school, college students and young professionals to help them discover a meaningful career path. As a Millennial herself, she recognizes that her higher purpose is recognizing the gifts in others and helping her clients live out their potential. Danielle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.