Work meaning patterns combine dimensions such as work centrality, expressive versus economic work goals, entitlement versus obligation societal norms into a holistic picture of the over time evolution of the meaning of work. Data from a longitudinal study in eight European countries are used to empirically establish major work meaning patterns and to study their stability during the early career. Further, some potential determinants of these work meaning patterns are analyzed and their consequences for the later career are considered. Statistical analyses include: cluster analysis, multiple discriminant analysis, analysis of covariance combined with multiple classification analysis, analysis of variance, and chi square analysis. Five cross-national work meaning patterns are identified for machine operators in their third year of labour market participation. One third of the sample remain in the same work meaning pattern over a time period of two years, while two third change their pattern membership. Respondents' age, country, prior work environment, and their prior work socialization behaviours and outcomes have an impact on work meanings held two years later. In addition the work meaning pattern shared by the respondent allows to predict subsequent career enhancing strategies and effort expenditure at the job.