Writing my last post on the pros and cons of shift work led me to ponder what matters most in a job and how wildly that varies from person to person.
One of the most sublime pieces of career advice I’ve seen recently was a gem in a comment thread on Ask a Manager. The topic: how to figure out what kind of career you want. I’m happy with mine, but I have a strange fascination with the topics of careers, particularly when it segues into discussions on passion and balance. And I still have a foot in the other camp, because T is one of those drifters himself. Here it is:
“1. Figure out what you like to do for fun in your spare time.
2. Figure out what career track will get you as close as possible to being able to get paid a livable salary, while doing that thing every day. Even if the only thing you love to do is sit around and watch movies, figure out what it is that excites you about it, and find a way to apply it to a career path.
3. Get an education that is broad enough that your skills could be transferable to a different path in case you decide you don’t love the first one. (Get a business degree but minor in marketing. Get a French degree but double-major in education.)”
Overly simplified? Perhaps, but the sentiment is spot on. Enjoying your work isn’t just about enjoying the actual job duties.
Maybe you’re okay with being on call or working rotating shifts. Maybe you do your best work early in the morning or late at night. Or maybe you want to work flexible daytime hours to accommodate your family. Maybe you’re okay with travelling a lot for work. Or working all hours to grow a startup. Personally, I like pretty regular hours.
Hardly needs to be said, but … It’s always nice to not constantly be worrying about whether your job is in jeopardy.
Is it a pleasant place to be in physically? Is it a healthy working space? While my office is always far too cold and dusty, I do sit by a wall of windows. A view of the outside makes a real difference.
Possibly the most important social aspect, because a bad boss or horror colleague can turn a dream job into a nightmare job. Inconsiderate, incompetent coworkers can also ruin things. Sometimes you can ignore them or minimise contact, though. Very few workplaces are ever going to have a 100% awesome staff. You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to get along with them.
Although I’m often more productive when working from home and enjoy the solitude, I’m not a naturally social person so it’s a good thing that I’m forced to interact with others when at the office. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I can only think of three people I’ve ever worked with who really got up my nerves. One fell into the amusing/entertaining category and was thus tolerable, while the other two I actively avoided as much as possible.
The level of autonomy
The thing I would struggle the most with if I had to go back to working in customer service or hospitality like I did in my student days would be the lack of freedom. The strict breaks. The absolute lack of leeway on arrival and leaving time.
I understand WHY those jobs are structured as such, though. It’s a different matter though, when we’re talking roles more in the professional services industry, where you don’t need to be covering your desk all the time. I had lunch with a friend recently who related tales of certain teams at her workplace (an IT firm – not all tech companies are forward-thinking *cough* Yahoo ditching remote working *cough) where staff were kept under an eagle eye and basically treated like children, from the sounds of it. She asked if I could take my lunch hour whenever and if it was strictly monitored – and what about travel time if I went out to eat, did that count? (I picked her up on the way to the place we were going to eat at and I did not check the time ONCE while we were gone.)
I appreciate the flexibility to work around the odd personal appointment and make up time as needed, particularly since I have to attend events on my own time occasionally. Junior or senior, treat your staff like grownups and they will be the happier for it, I say.
Don’t get me wrong. Enjoying what I actually do at work all day matters to me. But that alone isn’t enough. There are lots of other factors that play into job satisfaction and at least some of those boxes need to be ticked.