Defining a Meaningful Business Career

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 16, Issue No. 5a
September 1, 2017

By Dan Coughlin


Three words. Meaningful. Business. Career.

I’ll explain them in reverse order.


Your career consists of what you do to make a living. You might have one job or twenty jobs during your career. You might work for one organization or ten organizations during your career. You might work in multiple industries. You might start your own business. You might start thirty businesses. However you do it, your career is a long-term commitment of your time, talent, and energy toward making a living. If you work forty hours a week for fifty weeks a year for forty years, you will invest 80,000 hours into your career. That’s a big commitment. Take it seriously.


To us, the word business means achieving desired results. If you don’t achieve desired results, you are not in business for very long. This is true in for-profit businesses, but it’s also true in the business of not-for-profits, healthcare, and education. Whatever you do for a living you have to produce desired results, otherwise you won’t be able to continue in that role.


The word meaningful is about having an important purpose in your work. Yes it’s important to make money and have financial stability and strength. That’s purposeful because you need that money to serve the various areas of your life and the people in your life. Yes it’s important to make progress in your career and not remain stagnant. It’s also very important that you know why you are doing what you are doing. Knowing your why provides you with the fuel for long-term sustained effort to give your best every day. Your purpose is your engine.

Three Questions

  1. What is your job right now?
  2. What measureable goals are you trying to achieve?
  3. Why do you do what you do?

As long as you’re clear about your answers to those three questions you can build a meaningful business career one day at a time.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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