Baumeister and Vohs published 'The pursuit of meaningfulness in life' way back in 2002 but maybe the existence of this paper has been kept secret. If not then why haven't we all been made aware of it? According to Psyblog four factors are involved:
Purpose - this could be living happily ever after, going to heaven or even (whisper it) found at work. Whatever it is, meaning in life comes from reaching goals and feeling fulfilled. Even though fulfilment is hard to achieve because the state fades, people need purpose.
Values - people need a moral structure to work out what is right and what is wrong. There are plenty to choose from: some come from religion, others from philosophy and still others from your friends and family.
Efficacy - people want to make a difference and have some control over their environment. Without that, the meaning of life is reduced.
Self-worth - we all want to feel we're good and worthwhile people. We can do this individually or by hitching ourselves to a worthy cause. Either way we need to be able to view ourselves in a positive light.
I am in no position to provide empirical verification of this framework; however, I must say that it has appeal. And it would appear to have application to careers work.
Not everyone finds their life's purpose at work. This being the case, then how can a client find a career that will accommodate purpose in another area of life? In many cases, how can work be made to align with purpose, if at all possible?
What are the client's values and will they align with any given career or job? What can we do to help a client ellucidate their own value systems? One traditional way is presented elsewhere in these notes but there are probably more up-to-date approaches that circumvent a person's attempts to fool themselves.
Sometimes we sense that a client may have general feelings of inadequacy. Is there something we can do to help? What kinds of work seem to lead to the greatest feelings of adequacy in a client? Is there a danger that the careers worker could stray outside of their area of competence in dealing with this problem? What community resources are available?
Does the client have a healthy sense of self-worth? How much does this really have to do with their occupation? Will the change in self-worth that arises from having a career plan prove to be illusory? What can or should a careers worker do in the face of poor self-worth on the part of a client?