As the college advisor at RMLC, I come in contact people searching for “something” all the time; but finding “something” that gives life meaning (and at the same time pays the bills) can be very challenging.

One reason this is so difficult is because everyone finds meaning in different places. Some give back, maybe working for a homeless shelter or a food kitchen gives you a sense of accomplishment. Or maybe searching for a cure to a disease might be what comes to mind. But the truth is, many people would be happy to just be able to feed their children or pay for an after school program. We all want to get out of bed every day knowing we are heading out to something that is personally fulfilling, something that enriches our lives and the lives we come in contact with.

I see a wide range of demographics in my job. There are always the fresh, young people looking for that first step into the real world. Many of these young people are just starting to make a path in their lives that they will follow for many years; these first steps on that path may determine the journey their life might take. Others are older; they find themselves looking for a new career or even second career. Often with this older set of people, their children have finally all gone off to school and they find a big void in their lives, emotionally and activity wise. These caregivers suddenly face an overwhelming amount of free time and that caregiver need is left unfulfilled.

So what does it mean to have a fulfilling career? The bottom line is most of us have to make money. We need to be able to pay the rent and put food on the table. But how can we tread that fine line between leading a fulfilling life while still making living?

Start by defining “meaningful career.” Keep in mind there are lots of people that volunteer who will never receive a dime for their service and do some of the worst jobs ever, but it enriches their lives and motivates and fulfills them. Does cooking tickle your fancy, or does a few dollars put away for your child’s college fund? Do you get that feeling when you teach people, or perhaps when you’re being a leader in your community or church?Meaningful is what makes you happy, whether it is money, status, or giving, it’s what gives you that warm fuzzy feeling.

Not every job will have a meaning. You will probably have to create something that’s important to you. If you take the initiative to give importance in a task or job at hand, it suddenly has meaning. Providing for your family might be the ultimate goal, but finding something to be passionate about will offer you a reason to be better at it, enrich your life, and your employer’s at the same time. Being the initiator in a recycling program at work, or starting up an after work softball team can transform a job into a passion.

Remember to keep your eyes open and look for those simple things that have a purpose and a meaning to you, this will make you a better employee and a happier person overall.