Skip to Content

Summary: The Search: Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World by Bruce Feiler

  • Do you feel stuck, unhappy, or unfulfilled in your work? Do you want to find work that you love, that aligns with your values, and that makes a positive impact in the world? If so, you are not alone. Millions of people are reimagining their work lives in the wake of the pandemic, the economic crisis, and the social upheaval of the past few years. But how do you find work that truly matters to you, in a world that is constantly changing and uncertain? In this article, we will review a new book that offers a powerful answer to this question: The Search: Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World by Bruce Feiler.
  • If you are ready to embark on your own search for meaningful work, or if you are curious to learn more about the stories, insights, and tools that Feiler shares in his book, then read on. You will discover how to identify your workquakes, perform a meaning audit, and write your own story of success. You will also find out how to get a copy of the book, join the online community, and access additional resources to help you on your journey. Don’t miss this opportunity to transform your work life for the better. Read on and start your search today.

The Search (2023) provides a roadmap to finding meaningful work. It asks insightful questions and provides many real-life examples of people who, freed from outdated work scripts, have transformed their lives and written their own stories of work and success.

Introduction: Write your unique work story.

These days, more and more people are taking control of their working lives. And that often means walking away from their jobs without having the next one ready to go. An unprecedented million people have been leaving their jobs in the US alone – and that’s every week!

The quit rate – the monthly total of people leaving their jobs – has been steadily climbing. Now, almost one-third quit their jobs every year, and one-third redesign their jobs to pursue other interests or have more family time.

Times are changing. People don’t just want a job – they want a job with meaning. You, too, can take advantage of this new work environment – and, hey, even get the happiness you so richly deserve. But how, exactly?

Well, that’s where this summary comes in. First, you need to revisit what you believe about work. Second, you need to look back and chase your own dream. And third, you need to take control and develop your unique work story.

Book Summary: The Search - Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World

Three little lies about work

So the first thing we need to do is dispel some illusions you have about work. Let’s call them what they are: lies.

Lie #1. I have a career.

For millennia, work hasn’t been viewed favorably. Even in the Garden of Eden, work was simply a punishment for disobeying God. In many languages, the root of the word for work carries negative connotations. In French and Spanish, for example, travail and trabajo, respectively, are rooted in the Latin for torture. But by the beginning of the sixteenth century, many people had gained more control over their lives. Numeracy and literacy improved, agriculture gave way to industry, and a new word emerged: career.

In the early 1900s, Frank Parsons – who’d never held down one job for particularly long – opened an office to assist others in making “good career choices.” His approach gained popularity, leading to the widespread adoption of a visual representation of a person’s career: the résumé. Soon, employers started requesting résumés from prospective employees.

This linear approach to work has been detrimental: deviating from your career path or spending too much or too little time in one job can be detrimental to your résumé.

Today’s world of work is anything but linear. New technologies have emerged, causing shifts in work and required skills. It’s become important not simply to concentrate on periods of stability, but also on periods of instability – when things go wrong, when you realize it’s time for a change. To fully grasp this concept, the author Bruce Feiler has coined the term workquake.

Lie #2. I have a path.

So what does workquake mean? Feiler defines it as “a moment of disruption, inflection, or reevaluation that redirects our work in a meaningful way.” There are many causes of workquakes,including, for example, taking a new job, going back to school, losing employment, the birth of a child – or, as witnessed in the last few years, even a pandemic.

Although workquakes can be scary and destabilizing, they also present opportunities for growth, renewal, and self-reflection. They allow us to re-story our lives. These disruptions are becoming more frequent and diverse, with long-reaching consequences. Feiler says that on average, individuals experience a workquake every two years and 10 months, and that women encounter them 22 percent more often than men.

Effectively, this means none of us has a path anymore. It often means saying goodbye to advice like Follow your dreams or Pursue what brings you joy with determination. Feiler’s research showed that only 38 percent of people were doing something that they dreamed of as a child or teenager, and only 12 percent were following their passion.

So perhaps you need a plan to follow? Well, also no. While some people have a clear plan – they know they want to become a doctor, for example – most people’s plans veer off course at some point due to unexpected encounters, events, or circumstances. Feiler refers to these as butterflies, drawing on the concept of the butterfly effect. In his interviews, he found that everyone who’d experienced an unexpected shift in their work could identify their butterfly – whether that was a person, an experience, or a thing. Feiler’s advice is thus to “follow your butterfly.”

Lie #3. I have a job.

Virtually nobody has just one job these days, they have multiple jobs. Indeed, Feiler’s research revealed that the average person has three-and-a-half jobs. Many people use the word job broadly, encompassing not only paid work but also anything that involves responsibility, such as serving on nonprofit boards or taking care of their children. Even if we exclude unpaid work, Feiler found that 63 percent had more than one job. And then, of course, we also work on our relationships, parenting, social media, and our bodies. Every role is a job. Feiler refers to this new way of defining work as Work360. Within it, he says, there are five jobs everyone has.

Let’s start with your main job. What exactly is that? Is it your primary source of income, the activity that occupies most of your time, or maybe your primary source of meaning? Perhaps it’s not even possible to say. Fewer than half of Americans now have what could be called a main job – actually, only 39 percent do.

Next, you might have a side job – often referred to as a side hustle – that provides more money, meaning, future options, or a combination of those. It might act as a vehicle for becoming self-employed while you support yourself through your main job. Feiler found that around 75 percent of people have at least one side job.

The third type of job is the hope job. This is something you do in your spare time – perhaps you write novels or sell homemade cookies – hoping that at some stage it will develop into something bigger. Incredibly, 89 percent of people have a hope job, ranging from writing a memoir, creating comic books, or making jewelry, to performing burlesque or starting a new business. Whatever it is, we’re prepared to sacrifice our free time if such a job makes us happy.

The fourth job type is the care job, involving caring for someone else – child, parent, or neighbor, for example. Such jobs rarely make money, but they provide us with meaning.

Lastly, there are what Feiler refers to as ghost jobs. These are often deeply personal and unsettling, resembling a job in their impact. Astoundingly, 93 percent of Feiler’s participants experienced inner battles that felt like jobs. Ghost jobs can involve workplace discrimination, such as racism or sexism, struggles with self-confidence, or financial worries. Everyone encounters such ghosts from time to time, and it is crucial that we acknowledge their existence rather than allowing people to suffer in silence.

So now we’ve covered three lies about work. But are there any truths? Well … there is one.

There’s only one truth about work

Work is changing – that much you know by now. We’re facing increased instability and uncertainty – but at the same time, we also have more freedom, options, and opportunity. But who can help us navigate this new world of work?

So here it is. It shouldn’t come as any surprise. The one truth about work: You, and only you, can help yourself and provide the direction you need. And that’s what we’ll cover here.

Stop to think for a moment about what work and success mean to you.

Work is a delicate balance of time, effort, and money on one side, and meaning, purpose, and happiness on the other. Success, on the other hand, can be defined as how that balance aligns with your life in general. So does your work fulfill how you see yourself? Does it reflect your values and align with the values of your family, community, and country?

These days, you don’t need to conform to society’s definition of success. Instead, you need to take charge of your own success story and define exactly what success means to you. How exactly? Well here are three steps that can help you define it, collectively forming what Feiler calls a meaning audit.

The first step of your audit is to evaluate your past. Reflect on your initial thoughts about work. Were there dream jobs you didn’t pursue? Did you abandon versions of yourself along the way? Think about what you’ve been told about work, money, and success. Bring to the surface any long-buried themes in your life. Many people discover their true vocation through some personal emotional exploration.

Now, on to the second step: examine your present. Ask yourself what your priorities are. What matters to you right now? How does that differ from two, five, or ten years ago? What is your primary focus? Is it you, the people you love, or your community?

In a world where we can be who we want to be, do, live, and believe what we want, and are free to love as we want, we can find ourselves overwhelmed – paralyzed by the abundance of choices. No wonder, then, that when it comes to writing our own stories, we often experience writer’s block!

This is where the ABCs of Meaning come into play. A for Agency is what you do, make, or create – your autonomy, freedom, and mastery. B for Belonging encompasses your relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and loved ones. And C for Cause is your mission or purpose. These aspects are your I, we, and thee parts of your story. Consider how much time you spend on these. Have they changed over time? What is important to you now?

The final step is to create your future. Using the insights from steps one and two, begin to construct your future. Of course, the process isn’t easy, and you might not be in control of everything that comes, but if you want to find meaning in your work, don’t fall into the trap of just updating your résumé, applying for jobs, and doing interviews. Those steps come later, if at all. If you’re not sure where your story is heading, you can start by asking yourself six fundamental questions – which we’ll explore in the next section.

Who, what, when, where, why, and how?

For each of these questions, you need to ask yourself about your past, present, and future in a similar way to the meaning audit you just carried out. So let’s go.

Who? Who do you want to be? Begin by contemplating your past. What were the work-related values imparted by your parents? Were there any negative aspects they instilled in you? Then, think about who is the dominant who in your life right now. Is it your boss, spouse, parent, child, lover, or someone else? Perhaps you’ve encountered a transitional person who’s entered your life at just the right moment and guided you. Finally, think about the kind of person you want to be. Try completing the sentence “I want to be the kind of person who …” Learning to be your own who can be very fulfilling.

What? Consider this as the plot of your story. What exactly is it that you want to do? Try completing the sentence “I want to do work that …” To assist you, again reflect on your past, present, and future. Think about your role models from childhood. What aspects of their character did you admire? Was it their integrity, charisma, or something else? Next, think about your current work. What are the best and worst things about it right now? What emotions arise when you’re working? Finally, in light of your answers, revisit that question of what it is you want to do.

When? When is often something we neglect. Begin by asking yourself when your work story started. When did the energy first take hold? Perhaps it was as a child, or as an adult, or perhaps you’re still waiting. Whenever it was, it likely marked a break in time initiating a new chapter. Now think about the present. Is it the best time to take new steps? Should you plan first or follow your intuition? Continue as you are, or take the plunge now? Finally, here’s the next sentence to complete based on your observations so far, “I’m at a moment in my life when …” Remember, this isn’t a forever answer – things will change in the future, too.

Where? Here’s your sentence for your where: “I want to be in a place that …” To help you answer, reflect first on where you most desired to be as a child. Was it home, the garden, in a forest, or somewhere else? What drew you to that place? Next, think about where you want to be right now. And finally, return to the statement about where you want to be in the future. This might need you to think about moving from a place where you feel uncomfortable to a place where you can authentically be yourself.

Why? Now it’s time to reflect on your purpose. As always, begin by reflecting on the past. What recurring patterns of pain are there in your life? What childhood obsessions do you still have? Are there problems you’ve been trying to solve forever? Feiler found that answers to these questions mostly concentrated on five themes: injustice, helplessness, escape, identity, and money. Next, think about the kind of stories that resonate with you. These stories often shape the narrative of the stories you want to tell. Finally, complete this sentence to explore your why: “My purpose right now is …” What do you want it to be?

How? How is the most practical of the questions; it’s how you are going to make everything happen – or, as Feiler puts it, transitioning from “once upon a time” to “happily ever after.” First, consider the best work-related advice you ever received. Was someone able to help you? Who was that someone, and what wisdom did they share? Next, think about change. The most pressing question here is, How can you give yourself permission to change? However you go about it, it’s essential to grant yourself that permission. And now here’s your concluding statement: “The best advice I have for myself is …” The answer to this lies within you, waiting to be discovered.

Write out all of your completed statements to see the draft of the next chapter in your work story. Build on it from there.


Let’s finish this summary with a set of four rules for your future success.

Rule 1: Dig for success. Follow your own script, which you’ll find by digging deep into your memories and discovering those buried dreams.

Rule 2: Success is collective, not individual. No one succeeds alone – so forget the idea of self-reliance and find your community.

Rule 3: Find your success in meaning. Forget what anyone else thinks success means. What meaning do you ascribe to success?

And finally, Rule 4: Your success is your story. It’s what you want it to be – not a destination, but rather a narration with no fixed ending. Your story is a work in progress – and you own it.

About the Author

Bruce Feiler


Corporate Culture, Career Success

I highly recommend “The Search” to anyone seeking meaningful work in a post-career world. The book provides valuable insights and practical advice for finding fulfilling work, and its focus on values, passions, and community make it a standout in the field of career development. Whether you are just starting your career or looking to make a change, “The Search” is an essential read.



In “The Search: Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World,” Bruce Feiler embarks on a thought-provoking journey to explore the concept of meaningful work in an era where the traditional career path is no longer the only viable option. Feiler, a renowned author and journalist, delves into the changing nature of work and provides valuable insights for individuals seeking purpose and fulfillment in their professional lives.

Overview of the Book:

Feiler’s book is divided into three parts. The first part explores the current state of the workforce, where technological advancements, demographic shifts, and economic changes have led to the decline of traditional careers. In the second part, he examines alternative ways of finding meaningful work, such as freelancing, entrepreneurship, and passion-driven careers. The final part offers practical advice on how individuals can adapt to this new landscape and find purpose in their work.

Book Synopsis:

In “The Search,” Bruce Feiler explores the challenges of finding meaningful work in a post-career world. He argues that the traditional model of a single, lifelong career is no longer relevant in today’s rapidly changing job market. Instead, he proposes a new approach to work that emphasizes flexibility, creativity, and a willingness to experiment.

Feiler draws on his own experiences as well as interviews with over 200 people, including entrepreneurs, artists, and nonprofit leaders, to illustrate his points. He highlights the importance of finding work that aligns with one’s values and passions, and provides practical advice on how to navigate the search process.

Key Takeaways:

  • The traditional career path is no longer the only option: Feiler highlights how the gig economy, automation, and remote work have created new opportunities for individuals to define their own career paths. He emphasizes that the traditional notion of a career is no longer the only way to find success and fulfillment.
  • Meaningful work is not just about passion: Feiler argues that meaningful work is not solely defined by passion but also by the desire for purpose, autonomy, and a sense of impact. He encourages readers to explore various fields and opportunities to find work that aligns with their values and interests.
  • The importance of lifelong learning: Feiler stresses the need for continuous learning and skill-building in today’s rapidly changing job market. He advocates for embracing lifelong learning and staying adaptable to remain relevant and competitive.
  • The rise of the “portfolio career”: Feiler introduces the concept of the “portfolio career,” where individuals create a diverse portfolio of work, skills, and experiences that bring them fulfillment and income. This approach allows for flexibility, adaptability, and the opportunity to explore various fields and interests.
  • The role of technology in shaping the future of work: Feiler examines how technology is transforming the job market and creating new opportunities for remote work, freelancing, and entrepreneurship. He emphasizes the importance of understanding and leveraging technology to find meaningful work in the 21st century.
  • The significance of community and networking: Feiler highlights the value of building a strong professional community and network. He encourages readers to seek out mentors, collaborate with others, and engage in networking opportunities to expand their professional circles and foster growth.
  • The need for resilience and adaptability: Feiler stresses the importance of developing resilience and adaptability in the face of professional uncertainty. He encourages readers to embrace failure and view it as an opportunity for growth and learning.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Feiler’s book offers a comprehensive and engaging exploration of the changing job market and the search for meaningful work. One of the book’s greatest strengths is its accessibility and relatability, making it a valuable resource for individuals at various stages of their careers. Feiler’s use of real-life examples, case studies, and interviews provides a rich and nuanced understanding of the topic.

One potential weakness of the book is that some readers may find the content too anecdotal or lacking in concrete, actionable advice. While Feiler offers practical tips throughout the book, some readers may prefer more structured guidance on how to navigate the post-career world.


In conclusion, Bruce Feiler’s “The Search: Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World” is a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of the changing nature of work and the pursuit of purpose in later stages of life. It combines personal anecdotes, research, and practical strategies to guide readers on their own quest for meaningful work in a rapidly evolving professional landscape. Whether you’re approaching retirement, considering a career change, or simply seeking more fulfillment in your work, this book offers valuable insights and inspiration to help you navigate the post-career world.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars


I highly recommend “The Search” to anyone seeking meaningful work in a post-career world. The book provides valuable insights and practical advice for finding fulfilling work, and its focus on values, passions, and community make it a standout in the field of career development. Whether you are just starting your career or looking to make a change, “The Search” is an essential read.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

    Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

    Your Support Matters...

    We run an independent site that is committed to delivering valuable content, but it comes with its challenges. Many of our readers use ad blockers, causing our advertising revenue to decline. Unlike some websites, we have not implemented paywalls to restrict access. Your support can make a significant difference. If you find this website useful and choose to support us, it would greatly secure our future. We appreciate your help. If you are currently using an ad blocker, please consider disabling it for our site. Thank you for your understanding and support.