Life can feel pretty rotten as a designer sometimes.

You spend years honing your skills, and then along comes a client who thinks he can do a better job in 5 minutes… AND IN POWERPOINT.

The resentment builds up and up and up, until you’re left wondering if you even want to be in the design industry any more.

You want to scream at the top of your lungs...

"I’m a designer… not a screwdriver!"

So how do you know if your job is worth sticking around for or not?

Because whilst every job has good and bad patches… no-one wants to hang around waiting for good times that ain’t gonna come.

What you need is a framework to assess where you’re at…

Three traits that define meaningful work

Here are some yardsticks you can use to size up your current role.

This is probably the easiest one to measure — you’ll know instincively if the work you are doing is genuinely new and innovative. (It has to be the right kind of creativity too, not just for the sake of it).

Does your work make the world better in some way? Is it making a difference to the people and the places that matter to you? (I’ve spent several periods doing really good work that I got no public credit for, and/or during which I didn’t have any client contact, and neither felt good).

Whilst craving recognition for your work is a slippery slope, the desire to feel that you’re doing work the world actually needs is a perfectly natural one.

Impact isn’t only about making a big splash for the sake of it — it’s also about being connected to other people.

Some degree of autonomy is a basic requirement for sustainable happiness. It’s not just about being in control, but knowing inside that the actions you have choosen to make are important. I’ll go as far as using the “M” word here… motivation. The more control you have, the easier it is to be motivated. (Good bosses know this of course, and will do everything they can to let you do the thinking for them).

Once you've sized things up, what next?

If your work is severely lacking in one or more of these areas, it might be time to have a chat with your boss about how you’re feeling, or even to move on to something different.

(And if quitting sounds too drastic right now, side projects and hobbies can also be a great way to make up for things that are lacking in your nine-to-five).

Whatever the situation, taking stock of your creativity, impact and control and is a surefire way to start feeling better and get a handle on what needs to change.

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Posted to Undesign in 2016.

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