Feature: Working Joy Into Your Job
Now is the time that many of us actually think about the state of our career. Why? Because it’s a new year, and it seems only fitting to resolve to pay more attention to our work-life health. So, we commit ourselves to spending whatever time and effort it takes to strengthen our occupational expertise and our career management skills and then … well, then the world gets in the way. Our resolution gets overtaken by household chores, requirements at work, the needs of family and a host of other obligations. Before we know it, we’re back in the same, old rut-unhappy, unfulfilled and unrewarded at work.
The tug of obligations, however, is not the only reason we lose our resolve to focus on our careers. In fact, it is not even the primary reason. What really causes our commitment to flag is our uncertainty about how to begin. What is the first step we should take to improve the vitality of our careers?
The answer to that question will sound strange, particularly if you’ve been in the workforce for more than a couple of years. Most of us wander into one career field or another, gain a little expertise, have a little success, and then conclude that where we are is where we ought to be in the world of work. Experience, however, is not necessarily the pathway to a fulfilling and rewarding work-life. It may provide a modicum of comfort-a familiarity that enables us to perform at an acceptable or even superior level-but it does not reliably lead us to satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in our work. To achieve that end, we have to peer inside ourselves. So, the first step in building a healthy career is to figure out what we truly want to be.
Ironically, many people literally have no idea what activities actually give them joy. They spend most of their waking life going off to some job each day without giving any thought at all to the kind of work that would make them genuinely happy. As a consequence, many of them aren’t. Others have been laboring away in the wrong field because it’s what they (or their parents, family, spouse, colleagues or friends) thought they should be doing. For most of these mid-careerists, achieving joy on-the-job is either a dream or an accident. Still others went rushing headlong into a career field because that’s what they decided they wanted to do when they were a teenager or a young college student. Years later, however, they are an entirely different person and find themselves stuck in an occupational field that no longer holds any excitement or challenge for them.
It is possible to avoid these pitfalls, however. You can actually create joy for yourself at work. How? By working at what gives you joy. While it’s undoubtedly a cliché, there is an element of truth in the saying, “Do what you love, and you will love what you do.” The only way to build a fulfilling work-life is to first determine what kind of life is most fulfilling for you. If you understand that about yourself, you’ll set career goals that enable you to be your personal best, to experience the special satisfaction-the sense of fulfillment-that comes from using your unique talents and wisdom to their fullest. Without that knowledge, you are likely to spend a lifetime chasing career goals that bring you little or no joy even in their accomplishment. They may move you up the organizational chart and they may even make you wealthy, but they will not make you happy.
So, how do you figure out what kind of work gives you joy? How do you determine your soul work-the career direction and goals that:
In short, how do you get out of the rut of working at a job and onto the launch pad of working at being you-all and the best of you?
To answer those questions, you must first understand the nature of joy. Too many people today think their purpose for working is the acquisition of material goods. They confuse the car or the house or the latest electronic gadget-things bought after work-with what happens at work. It’s what happens at work, however, that gives you true and lasting joy. Now, I know that for many of us, such a notion is hard even to imagine; we’re so unhappy at work, it’s become a four letter word. The only joy we achieve from work comes via what it enables us to afford. We all know that money can’t bring us lasting happiness, yet we devote our passion to our extra-work affair with consumption. And when we do that, we lose the opportunity to be our personal best. Why? Because research shows that work is the only human endeavor that can make us feel purposeful and excited and connected with what’s important and meaningful to us.
Back in 1991, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book called Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience. In it, he presented the results of his interviews with thousands of people all over the world. He asked each of them when it was during their day that they were happiest, when they felt most satisfied and accomplished. The vast majority-whether they were concert pianists or salespeople, chess masters or school teachers-told him that it was at work. As he concluded, “On the job, people feel skillful and challenged, and therefore feel more happy, strong, creative, and satisfied.”
To achieve that state of joy, however, a person must devote themselves to the right work, work that immerses them in their calling. That’s where we find meaningful passion. Every living person has this fundamental drive, but only a few of us ever bother to pursue it. The rest say they can’t afford to; I believe we can’t afford not to. Each of us is born with this capacity for joyful expression; the first step in building a healthy career, therefore, is to recognize and accept it. I’ll explore that idea in my next column.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. WEDDLE’s Newsletter grows only by word-of-mouth. So, please … tell a friend or colleague (or two) about the newsletter. We’d be very grateful, and they will be too.
Section Two: Site News You Can Use
BostonWorks introduced a new suite of tools designed specifically for job seekers. Called The Job Hunt, it breaks down the job search process into eight categories (e.g., planning and research, resumes, networking) and provides supporting information from the pages of The Boston Globe, a list of recommended books, and links to other online resources to help job seekers accomplish the activities in each category.
HealtheHire.com launched its site to provide employment services for the healthcare industry. According to the Home Page, it offers two key advantages: its specialization in the healthcare segment of the economy and its patent-pending technology enabling job seekers to use Billian’s Hospital Bluebook to compare prospective employers.
National Federation of Independent Businesses reported growing optimism among small businesses in the U.S.. Among the 574 companies that responded to the group’s recent survey, 29% expect to grow in the next three months-the highest percentage in five years-and 19% plan to hire-up from 11% in June of last year. Hiring plans are now at their highest level since the go-go days of 2000. What does that mean for you? If you’re unhappy in your current employment situation or need more challenge in your work, now may be the time to enter the job market. And if you do, make sure that you don’t overlook small and mid-sized firms in your geographic area and industry. Historically, these companies-not the major employers-have been the primary source of employment opportunities in the U.S., and it appears that they are about to play that role, once again.
WEDDLE’s announced the release of its 2005 print catalog. If you’d like to receive a free copy, please e-mail your name, company name, title and postal mailing address to us at email@example.com. The catalog will probably ship in mid January and list all of our publications for the new year. These books will not appear in book stores until March or April, but you’ll be able to order them right away with the catalog. You’ll have special, advanced access to our 2005 Guide to Employment Web Sites, our 2005 Directory of Employment-Related Internet Sites, and our completely updated Guide to Association Web Sites, as well as to several exciting, new titles. If you want to get ahead of the pack, sign up for WEDDLE’s 2005 Catalog today! Sorry-the catalog can be mailed to U.S. addresses only.
Yahoo! HotJobs inaugurated a new service to help job seekers find the jobs most suited to their interests. The “guided search” is part of a new class of tools that provide job seekers with a more intuitive (i.e., job seeker friendly) way of searching the site’s job database. These tools provide a number of benefits, including improved relevancy of search results, the continuous refinement of your search based on parameters that matter to you (e.g., location, freshness of the job, industry, company), and speed.
Section Three: Site Profiles
Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?
1. If you’re a marketing pro looking for a new position with an established employer, which of the following sites would brand your search a success?
2. You’re a surgical nurse who’s just relocated to Atlanta. Which of the following sites would help you sponge up some great employment opportunities with hospitals in the area?
3. You’re an experienced CFO who enjoys working on a contract basis. Which of the following sites would help to maximize your ROI when searching for a temporary senior level financial position?
Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005 Guides and Directories
Post full time jobs: Yes
Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All
Distribution of jobs: National – USA
Number of jobs: 2,628
Salary levels of jobs: $76-100K/yr, $101-150K/yr
Offer a job agent: Yes
Resume database: Yes
How long are resumes stored: 180 days
Restrictions on who can post: Must be in the industry
Other services for job seekers: Career and job search information on-site, Links to other sites with job search and career management information, Resume database with a confidentiality feature, Listserv for networking.
Answers to Site Insite
1. All but BrandBuilders.com, the site of a radiator repair and installation company.
2. Only HospitalSoup.com; PatientCare.com is the site of a home healthcare provider, while SuperNurses.com and GreatNurses.com are non-employment resource sites for nurses.
3. All of them.