Feature: The Four Principles of Career Fitness
This is the second in a multi-part series on Career Fitness, a vital regimen for building a successful work life. To read previous columns in the series, please click here to visit the WEDDLE’s newsletter archive.
If everyone can be a winner in achieving Career Fitness, just what is it and how do you do it?
Career Fitness is a philosophy of working and a set of commonsense exercises for building a healthy work life. It is founded on four principles:
I’ll explore the first principle here and the other three in my next columns.
Living a healthy career doesn’t hurt; it stretches.
That’s an important distinction. Physical fitness experts have discovered that the old adage, “No pain, no gain,” is wrong. In fact, it’s a surefire way to hurt yourself. The same is true in our working lives. “No pain, no gain” is just as wrong in the world of work, and it’s just as potentially harmful.
For many of us, work has become something to be endured, a dull or unpleasant way to earn a living. That kind of experience leaves a person feeling wasted and even abused. Career Fitness, on the other hand, views work as a chance to play. In essence, work becomes a way to push yourself into new realms and to have the experience of meeting a challenge and feeling accomplished and special for having done so. The guiding principle in leading a healthy career, therefore, is “no joy, no gain!” If you approach your career with this perspective, your work is the way you strive to be your personal best. And, the wondrous thing is that everyone can achieve that objective!
No joy, no gain
This notion is not overwrought sentimentality or wishful thinking or ostrich-like behavior in the face of a tough job market and demanding work environment. A seminal book called Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience, written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, explains why. It contains the results of thousands of interviews with working men and women all over the world. The purpose of the interviews was to determine how people felt when they most enjoyed themselves. The survey included those who work in “special” jobs which seem more like play than work-artists, professional athletes, musicians and even chess masters-as well as those who held “regular” jobs in all fields of work. The interviews covered both their time on-the-job and the time they spent in leisure pursuits.
The survey results were startling. The vast majority of the people surveyed reported that work-far more than leisure-gave them a sense of accomplishment. Why? Because, Csikszentmihalyi surmises, “On the job, people feel skillful and challenged, and therefore feel more happy, strong, creative, and satisfied.” No one pretends that work is all fun. Quite the contrary. It confronts you with difficult, even demanding goals. However, it is also the one sure way to strive for and reach those objectives. The resulting sense of accomplishment, the extraordinary feeling of fulfillment that you earn in doing so, is both unique to work and the true meaning of career advancement. It comes not from the position you hold in an organization, but from what you do with the position.
If you use your job to stretch your skills and knowledge, if you use it to be your personal best, then your work transcends simple labor and becomes as joyful as play. Csikszentmihalyi’s survey reveals that no other endeavor gives you a similar opportunity. It’s up to you, however, to build the challenges that hold meaning for you into your work. As he writes, “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” In essence, optimal experience is something that we make happen.
A job is nothing more than a position on the organization chart until you invest it with the opportunity to create joy for yourself. That’s your responsibility and your opportunity. By redefining work as an inner quest for personal accomplishment, you capture one of the most powerful sources of happiness in life.
Thanks for reading,
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Section Two: Site News You Can Use
CareerJournal.com recently noted that a growing number of employers are now erecting filters to keep spam from reaching employee computers. Unfortunately, these filters also often block out resumes. How can you be sure your resume gets through? The site offers the following tips: First, remove words from your resume that filters associate with spam (e.g., “free,” “expand,” “trial”) as well as any exclamation points and colored backgrounds. Then, run your resume (and any cover letter you may subsequently write) through your own spam filter (by e-mailing it to yourself) to make sure it survives. Also, it’s best to send your resume to an employer by pasting it into the body of an e-mail message. Do not send it as an attachment (unless directed to do so by the employer), as such messages are often viewed as virus carriers and automatically deleted.
Harris Interactive released the results of a survey which found that two-thirds of American adults did not use all of the vacation time to which they were entitled. Not surprisingly, Americans now enjoy fewer days off than workers in any other industrialized country. The average in the good old U.S. of A. is 10.2 paid days of vacation. Compare that to 20 days in most European countries, 35 days in Sweden, 15 days in China, 25 days in Australia and 17.5 days in Japan. Wanna’ complain? Log onto WorkToLive.info and join a grassroots campaign to get a Federally-mandated 15 vacation days a year.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis offers a way for you to check on the purchasing power of your annual salary. Its calculator will tell you how much you should be earning today in order to keep up with the rising cost of living (as measured by the Consumer Price Index). For example, if you earned $50,000 in 1999 and, with annual adjustments, now earn $54,000, you might be in for a nasty surprise. The calculator would tell you that to have the same buying power today that you had in 1999, you should be earning $56,152.46.
Lucas Group, an executive search firm, and The Wall Street Journal report that contract work is up among U.S. companies. According to Lucas, employers’ willingness to hire contract or temporary employees is up 124% in the past year, bringing the total number of Americans employed as contractors to 2.3 million in the first quarter of this year. What does this mean for you? While most of us probably prefer a full time position, the alternative of contract or temporary work does have a number of advantages, particularly in a tough labor market. First, it can help get you back into a paying position quickly, and second, it can give you a way to strut your stuff with an employer and, perhaps, transform your temporary job into a permanent position.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has listed the fastest-growing job markets in cities with fewer than 650,000 workers. They are: Kokomo, IN; Laredo, TX; Green Bay, WI; Dover, DE; Charlottesville, VA; Pine Bluff, AR; Boise City, ID; Reno, NV; Lake Charles, LA; and Texarkana, TX. Not everyone can or wants to relocate for a job, but if you have the flexibility to move, these cities offer a better-than-average job market, with anywhere from 45,900 to 237,000 jobs open in July of this year.
Section Three: Site Profiles
Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?
1. If you’re an experienced pediatrician looking to join a fast-growing private practice, which of the following sites would be a prescription for frustration?
2. You’re a successful high school football coach who has just relocated to a new area. It may be the middle of the season, but you need a new job. Which of the following sites would make you a winner?
3. You’ve been previously employed as an Accounts Payable clerk, but left the workforce to care for your kids. The kids are now in school and you’d like to get back into finance, so which of the following sites can you count on?
Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2004 Guides and Directories
America’s Job Bank
A WEDDLE’s 2004 User’s Choice Award Winner
Post full time jobs: Yes
Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – Part time
Distribution of jobs: National – USA
Number of jobs: 1,091,245
Salary levels of jobs: Not Reported
Offer a job agent: Yes
Resume database: Yes
How long are resumes stored: 60 days
Restrictions on who can post: Must be registered on site
Other services for job seekers: Career and job search information on-site, Links to other sites with job search and career management information
Answers to Site Insite
1. VeryBestBaby.com, a site that provides information on prenatal care.
2. All but Coach.com, the site of the upscale leather retailer by the same name.
3. All but AccountsPayableNetwork.com which does not offer a job board.