I heard someone in a lift one morning complaining about her work. “My job sucks,” she said to a friend. Never one to pass up an opportunity to coach on the fly, I turned, smiled and said, “what would you rather be doing?” She looked back embarrassingly. I quickly apologised for eavesdropping. The awkwardness did not stop there. We exited the lift only to meet again in a line up at the same café. She turned to me and said, “You know, I really wanted to be an actor.” I told her that she should pursue that passion and she replied. “That’s just not realistic. I have bills and a lifestyle.”
This got me thinking. We are made to feel guilty for not pursuing, what we think, is the job of our dreams; because doing what you love is the mantra of many life coaches. In fact I heard Donald Trump trumpeting this message in an interview. But what if we pursue our dream job and not like it? I have met some people who have pursued their passion and left a high paying executive job to start a new business only to end up losing a lot of money. They ended up hating, what they thought was, their dream. You don’t get to hear about such stories, because in personal development circles, it does not sell books and coaching programs.
I believe that we all should work. Working completes us and contributes to our HAPPINESS. But do we have to go so far as to say that we should all do what we think we love. If so, no-one would want to do the unsexy or uncool or unpopular jobs. Not everyone can be a Beyonce or Tom Ford or Steve Jobs. So there must be a better way to cater to that human need of being happy at work. I believe there are three ways.
1. Master your Craft
If you are good at what you do, you will start to love it. Competence builds confidence and with confidence comes self-belief. So master your craft by performing your job to the best of your ability. You can do this by learning from others at work – be mentored by a top performer. Alternatively you can read and research your industry. Attend conferences and/or enrol for short courses. Really get to know your product or service and how it affects your customers. Practise improving your accuracy before you go for speed.
2. Focus on Making a Difference
We are charitable by nature. We are happiest when we making a contribution. Therefore we are highly motivated by the results of our work. When we see the connection between our work and how it impacts on other people’s lives, it makes us happy to know that we are making a difference in society. We value ourselves in equal proportion to the value we add to society. In fact recent research shows that organisations who are focused on purpose before profit tend to have the highest staff and customer engagement; and ironically the highest financial returns (See Firms of Endearment published by Wharton Business School).
3. Have Fun
Work in an environment that fosters fun in the workplace and incorporates fun activities for staff throughout the week. There have been many studies done supporting the fact that having fun at work improves creativity, innovation and customer engagement. i.e. happy staff equals happy customers. Gary Kelly, CEO of SouthWest airlines once said that, “People rarely succeed at anything unless they are having fun doing it.” Adopt that as your personal motto, but remember that having fun at work does not mean wasting time on frivolous activities that are not work related. It means having fun in the context of your work.