Y’all know I read a lot. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success gets into what makes going to a job worthwhile. It has three simple factors:
- Autonomy – You may have a task in your job, but rather than being micromanaged in that task, you get to choose how it get’s done. A book I recently read called What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson talked about a former lawyer, now turned long-haul truck driver, who loved this change in his life. Before, as a lawyer, his life was dictated to him. Now he has an assignment to pick up or drop off at a certain time. How he gets there, or what route he takes, or when he leaves, is entirely up to him. Autonomy is very important to feel you have some power and thus feel you control your own destiny (and happiness), verses conceding power to someone else.
- Complexity – if you have the same mundane task, day after day, you’re not going to feel awesome about coming to work every day. During one of my summer internships, I spent time doing some work at a GM plant that allowed me full access to the plant during slow times. I walked the plant and watched the dead-eyed people put a stereo in the dash, or screw four screws into a door. You could tell they punched the clock, day after day, just for a paycheck. Maybe there were a few outliers, but complexity wasn’t a reason why people took that job.
- Effort and Reward – a real connection – when you toil all day and no one appreciates what you do that sucks balls. Or if you fuck up and no one rides you, at least a little, where does the motivation come from (or where does it come from, asshole [for my wife who doesn’t like sentences to end in a preposition])? The answer is: unless you are appreciated at work, life isn’t that awesome. There should be some reward or penalty for effort. If not, you are relying on motivation entirely from within – which is a gamblers mind.
It’s been no secret that despite two-out-of-three, I am not happy at my current position, though there are weeks that are pretty good on occasion. Item 3 (effort/reward) is the big one, from the day-to-day client to my direct boss. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, the arbitrary 40 Hour Workweek does not promote efficiency, more conformance to the norm.
I’ve been looking, and had an interview for a newly developed position at a good company (typical corporate structure – very formal interview which I haven’t done in a while, and did fine), but wasn’t selected. Other interesting prospects are out there, some that I have connections within, so we’ll see how the future shapes up. Still working on the side (related to this site) at things I want to roll out over the next 4-6 months. I am just about done reading the book Choose Yourself! by James Altucher that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit. Even if I stay where I’m at, I’m still working for an exit strategy that is slowly building behind the scenes. I’ll tease out more in about six weeks.
Anyway, if you aren’t happy where you’re at in your work life, you aren’t alone. I try and maximize my happiness away from work, and do what I can to not let the B.S. at work get me down. Plus, despite my bitching, I am grateful to have a job that pays well and allows me the flexibility to balance work and life. I’m doing additional training on my own outside of work to build my professional skills, and maybe it will help or maybe it won’t, but I’m not going to sit static. Hopefully you aren’t either. Hopefully you’re keeping an eye on opportunities, keeping in touch with your network, maintaining some interesting training, and doing what you can to stay fresh. And hopefully you’re saving up an FU stash so that if you finally can’t stand it, you can pull that ripcord and bail.