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Americans are Seeking ‘Meaningful Work’

Author and researcher Bruce Feiler crisscrossed the country, trying to understand the roots of shifting attitudes towards work. He collected 400 extensive life stories of Americans in all 50 states, interviewing everyone from CEOs and mom-and-pop proprietors to schoolteachers and line workers. Feiler concluded that “unprecedented numbers of Americans are walking away from their jobs, rethinking their routines and breaking away from traditional expectations.”

Fifty million Americans quit a job in the last year, and another third of the workforce is renegotiating where, when, and how they work. Three-quarters of Americans in a recent survey said that they plan to look for new work this year.

Feiler discovered a shift: “Today’s workers are increasingly rejecting the script that has long defined the American Dream. They rebuff the notion that each of us must follow a linear career—lock into a dream early, always climb higher, never stop until you reach the top."

His data shows that the average worker goes through a moment of disruption or reinvention every two and a half years—what he calls a “workquake.”

In the end, fewer Americans are searching merely for work these days; more are searching for work with meaning. Some still emphasize wealth and status, but others stress service, self-expression, or personal fulfillment.

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