In a lunch-time discussion with one of my friends today, we have talked about what would it be for an ideally happy job… What an interesting question? And as I usually see, if we don’t ask, we don’t find the answer. So, what is it, Mr. Ideally Happy Job?
For me, the answer is simple. It must be a job that makes you… happy, feel happy, feel great to go to work once you wake up every morning and even in the weekend. A job that you don’t complain, if you have to spend extra time late at night to finish your tasks. And even better that though you work long hours, your health is still in good condition, as your work is more about entertaining you, rather exhausting you.
However, what is really it? I would attribute two properties to my ideally happy job: contributing and learning.
The very first one about a happy job is the one which you can really contribute at work. As you can imagine, if you come to the office, work throughout the day, and you work a lot. Yet, at the end, you find out that your sweat and blood don’t really help make the business of your company (can’t help boost sale, can’t help make your clients happy, you may work like hell on something, yet that something is not what you customer wants, …) You feel useless, right? And that would demotivate you a lot, as you just learn that you completely waste your time. Yet, that scenario is still somewhat positive. Because at least, you focus and you try your best. What if you come into the office, and …you don’t like to do anything. You try to delay your tasks, debate with your co-workers about things that are not necessary help to contribute to the result. It’s much worse than the first scenario. Yet, it has the same influence and impact. You have the same feeling: Waste. That’s the whole reason you don’t feel great. You will feel exhausted everyday. And that’s how your life starts going down the hill. You deserve much more than that, I would say.
Now, imagine if you come to the office, work throughout the day, and your work a lot. And you can see the shining eyes from your customers who you serve. You receive compliment about the quality of the products you have produced. You see that your co-workers love what you do, as together with their effort, it makes a great service or product that the group can offer your customers. Certainly, you would feel great, not because of the achievement itself, but the meaningful feeling that you experience from what you do: contributing.
If you can be a contributor at work, you’ll find it a happy job. And in order to be able to contribute, it would not just need your effort, it would also demand the culture, the environment, the people at work as well. If you find a negative culture, environment at your company, it’s harder to contribute everyday, till the point you surrender. And that is the time it becomes not a happy job.
Assuming that you can be a contributor at work everyday and you find it great everyday once you come to work. Then, in a longer-run, I would add one more property into the happy job. That is the ability for you to learn at work, to become more and more everyday. It is actually a basic need of human being: to evolve. So, if you don’t see yourselves improving after a long time, that demotivation would go back to visit your soul. While you can feel great for a long time, if you are still able to contribute at work, I believe you’ll find boring if you don’t see that you are learning after a long time. You would feel like you are obsolete and old. Here, by saying becoming more and more, I don’t mean to get higher position in the corporate ladder nor higher salary. Instead, I mean the knowledge and experience you really learn by doing your job. A few things I can name here… You become more and more of an expert in your field, for example a world-class software developer or tester. You get a lot of domain knowledge through what you do (banking, finance, healthcare, education, …) Or it is just simple that you learn how to deal with people who are always the hardest-to-deal-with-animals :). And if you can see you can improve your knowing everyday, it certainly give you a great feeling. And that is happiness.
In brief, you can check if you currently have a happy job or not by simply answering the question: Can you be both a contributor and a learner at work? If not, you will need to answer the next question: How can you be a contributor and a learner at work? If you can’t find the answer to that latter question in 6-12 months, you may want to find another job. These two contributing and learning property are also an input for employers. Employers: If you don’t create job / company to provide contributing and learning opportunities for your employees, it’s no surprise that people would not be effective in your companies and they would leave soon.
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