Love Your Job But Feel Pressure To Advance?


There’s a lot of reasons why employees want promotions and to advance their career. Some want the prestige of the title that goes with a role, the increase in salary, some even crave the extra workload and responsibility involved while many cite the opportunity to influence and direct staff; “I really want to make a difference.”

We’ve come to a point in many organizations where if you don’t advance yourself within a few years, you’re cut loose; you’re not performing up to expectations. It’s true! There are organizations that promote from within and expect front-line staff to move up in seniority and stature, creating opportunities for new staff in entry level roles. The thinking is that employees are most effective when they started on the bottom and as they rise in the organization, they have the memories and experience of having been on the bottom, so they carry that knowledge first-hand as they advance.

So you might be feeling that in order to fit in, you’ve got to throw your name in the next job competition for a promotion – even when you’re perfectly happy in your current role. There’s advice out there to this effect too; “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

Hold on. Go back to that very first line in this blog. Did you even notice how I used the words, “promotions” and “advance”? I bet you just read along taking both these words to mean the same thing. In other words, to advance your career you need a promotion. That’s a widely held assumption and belief that’s just not true. Here’s my personally held belief: If you want to make the biggest impact in an organization; make a real and lasting imprint on how your customers/clients/ etc. experience interacting with your company, work on the front line.

Now many people will argue that if you stay on the front line in an entry-level role, you’re not ambitious and you’re going to stagnate. I like to tell those people that while they are entitled to their opinion, I don’t share it. I myself have been an Employment Counsellor now for 12 years in the organization, 4 more before that as a Caseworker and those positions are at the same level on our organizational flow chart. So that’s 16 years employment at the same level in the same organization.

Now while I’ll happily admit I’ve not got a promotion in our organization, I’ll also tell you I’ve never sought one. Have I advanced myself though? Absolutely! I’ve evolved and developed my skills; worked on various committees and contributed fresh ideas and been open to change that’s happened and continues to happen where I work.

My reputation for competence, dependability, program development, creativity and service excellence has enriched my work life and I’m a much more effective Employment Counsellor now than I was not just 12 years ago when I started, but I like to think better than any of the years before. I’m advancing my knowledge, working to improve my service delivery, overhaul workshops and create new ones, stretch myself by learning best practices and sharing my knowledge.

Believe me, when I feel I’m just putting in time and stagnating, I’ll be aggressively seeking to move on – within or beyond the organization. I’m much more concerned about floating along and not developing personally than my employer could ever be. I never want to be, ‘that guy’; the one that everyone knows should be put out to pasture, riding off into retirement or let go because I’m flatlining. You think I’m not advancing? Just try and keep pace with me. Oh and that’s not arrogance by the way – that’s personal confidence and drive; two qualities you want in your employees no matter where they are in the hierarchy.

So now to you. When you’ve got your own performance review coming up, you may feel some expectation to indicate your plan for career advancement – in other words a promotion. I can’t tell you what you should say or how you should feel about that. I’d hate to contribute to your release from a position if the company’s policy is you only work in a role so long and up you go or out you go!

What I will say to you is this though; you can be incredibly effective and impactful on the front-line where you interact first-hand with those you’re in business to serve and interact with. You are the face of the organization, the ambassador for how they perceive the company; you hold that organizations reputation in your hands as much as your own. If you excel in your role, show up every day (well most days – we’re human after all) energized and work with drive and passion, why would you risk giving up what so many are longing for in their own careers?

Moving up doesn’t bring any guarantee of increased happiness and fulfillment. In fact, many a happy and productive employee has moved up and found the new job isn’t all they hoped it would be. They were happier and better suited to work on the front line, but in some companies, there’s no going back. That is the ultimate sign of failure in some places. What a shame.

If you love your role on the front line, show up happy, work with passion and deliver service excellence, my goodness feel validated in your present job!

 

 

Career Planning Isn’t Mandatory


So here’s something that might surprise you; long-term career planning and mapping is NOT a mandatory requirement for career happiness and success. Well, that statement certainly flies in the face of the advice some very well-meaning professionals will give. And quite frankly, even the ones that acknowledge it isn’t absolutely mandatory will be wrong if they believe that only a small percentage of people reach career happiness without long-term planning.

Here’s why I believe the majority of people need not stress about the lack of some grand long-term plan.

First of all, when you’re in your teens and making choices about what courses to take in high school in order to eventually end up in college, university or a trade, you’re only basing these choices on the very limited exposure you’ve had in life to the world around you. You’re in your early teens and the people you’ve interacted with, the jobs you’ve acquired knowledge of are extremely confined to the ones you’re going to learn of in the next decade of your life. In other words, excepting some of course, it’s highly likely that with all the jobs that exist in the world – and will emerge in your future that don’t even exist in your teen years – the odds that what you want to do at 15 and 16 years of age will be what you’ll want to do until you’re 65 is very low.

In fact many high school graduates will take a year off before deciding what to do or what school to attend, simply to give themselves a year to make a better choice career-wise. Some will even do what they call a victory lap; another year of high school classes after graduating.

Further evidence are the people in first year university classes who take 5 very different subjects, just praying and hoping the light bulb goes on in that first year, and something grabs their interest. Maybe the first year classes include World Religions, Introduction to Philosophy, British Literature, Introduction to Sociology, and Introduction to Psychology. Oh by the way, these 5 were my own in year one. As it turns out, Sociology caught fire and so I loaded up with future courses to eventually graduate with a degree in Sociology.

In transitioning from a teen into a young adult, it is normal to expand your knowledge of various jobs and careers. As you start interacting independently with the world, responsible more often for things yourself, it only stands to reason that every so often some job catches your interest. Learning about the world around you and the people who live in it, many find themselves attracted to what others do. It follows naturally then that every so often you pause and think, “I could do that!”

Now of course we don’t act on every whim we get, but if we’re unsatisfied, curious, searching for something better or different, open to possibilities etc., we live consciously observing and then assessing pros and cons of various occupations. Sometimes we’ll also have conversations with folks in these jobs, asking them what they do, what skills and education it takes, how long they took to get started, the highs and lows, the good and the bad aspects of the work. Then we look and assess ourselves, what we both have and need if we wanted to head down some career path branching out from the path we’re on now.

This is normal by the way. To stay completely rigid, never varying from the path we imagined and set out on at 15 years old in this light seems the more peculiar. And yet, when we do decide to change our direction, for many it seems so hard to tell our parents, family and friends that we’ve had a change in what we want to do. Yes, we fear they’ll somehow think less of us; they’ll worry and think we’re indecisive and making an ill-informed choice. However, these family and friends haven’t been privy to the thoughts we’ve had – the deep, inner thoughts and feelings we’ve been experiencing for some time. It’s precisely these thoughts and feelings by the way that have acted as our guidance system. The more they cause us unease, the more we believe there has to be something else.

Even into our late 20’s and all the way into our 30’s and 40’s, it’s not uncommon for us to re-examine what it is we want to do with the rest of our lives. And why stop there? People in their 50’s and 60’s often take stock of where they are and what they want in their remaining working days often causing a job change.

When people near the end of their working life, it’s the norm – not the exception – that they’ll have amassed a varied career with several jobs and some career changes. Rather than meaning they fluttered from job to job aimlessly, it means they were wise enough to seize opportunities for change as they came along in life; and in the end they’ve had a diversified career. They may have in fact been very happy overall, where staying in one line of work may have caused them to feel trapped and less stimulated.

Now of course, one can be happy with one long-term career or several careers over a lifetime; even people with many jobs but no single career. Yes, you can win in the world of work any number of ways.

 

Is It Necessary To Love Your Job?


So what do you think; yes or no?

There are people who have as long as they can remember, always wanted to ‘be’ whatever the job is they now hold. They told their moms and dads, aunts and uncles, “When I grow up I’m going to be a ______” and they never deviated from that goal. It’s not that they didn’t learn about other jobs and careers, it’s just that as they did so, whenever they compared the pros and cons of those jobs to their previous goal, they always chose the original one.

If you’re one of these folks, I sure hope that the work you do as an adult is bringing you all the joy and happiness that you imagined it would. It wouldn’t be the end of the world to change your career goal as you mature and possibly discover new interests and develop new skills that lead you in other directions. However, it would be quite sad if for some reason you found the job you’d fell in love with was much more attractive in thought rather than reality and you’ve done nothing to alter your career path.

The experience I’ve described; knowing from a very young age what you wanted to do in life and realizing that dream is the experience of a minority of people I imagine. I mean it’s far more likely that as we grow up and become more and more exposed to different kinds of jobs the likelihood that our interests catch fire with things we previously didn’t consider is high. Yes, for most of the general population, we not only become exposed to different careers and jobs, we imagine what they would be like to hold down personally, and from time-to-time we pursue these because they are more attractive than the jobs we hold.

But love? I mean with a capital, “L”? Is it necessary to Love your work in order to be and feel successful? Is it possible to do a job well and be paid a good wage but not be passionate about the work itself? Sure it is. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that there are a great many people who are good at what they do precisely because the money is good but, love their job? No way. So why would they stay in these jobs they don’t love? Uh, that would be because the money meets their needs and they can do the work required, so like Meatloaf the singer belted out, they’ve come to feel that 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

You have to appreciate and be happy though for the ones that have it all; a perfect 3 for 3. They perform their work extremely well, the money they are paid meets their wants and needs, AND they love the work they do. Boy are they lucky eh? (For my international readers, adding, ‘eh’ to the end of a sentence reveals me as a true Canadian! It’s kind of our way of saying, “you agree with me right?” or “you get it right?”)

Ah but wait; is it luck or is it that they’ve put in the work and made the decisions necessary that put them in the right position to take advantage of the opportunities Life brought their way? I suspect it’s the latter not the former. It might look like they got lucky but actually it meant being focused, making good decisions and when faced with problems and challenges they found ways to overcome those through hard work and always keeping their end goals in mind whenever they felt like giving up. Yes, I suspect they’d say luck had very little to do with their success.

So now I pose a question to you; if you’re not in love with your work, are you content to go on with things the way they are or, for you personally is loving what you do important enough that you’re prepared to actually DO something different to bring about change? Change after all is what’s required if 2 out of 3 isn’t good enough.

You can take the position that in 2017 jobs are so hard to come by you should just take whatever you can and love for your work is a thing of the past. If you believe that, I’m sorry to say that I personally feel you’re wrong; your own experiences may have jaded your view of things. The way I see it, there are 7 hours a day in a full-time job x 5 days in a traditional work week x perhaps 49 work weeks in a year for a total of 1,715 hours a year you’re on the job. That’s a lot of time to be occupied doing something you love doing or just endure. If you’re not in agreement that finding work you love to do is worth seeking out, you’re taking the position that 49 weeks of enduring work is a good trade-off for 3 weeks of doing what you love on your vacation. You really buy that?

So do you HAVE to LOVE your work? Absolutely not.

Or, is loving what you do; really LOVING what you do going to elevate your happiness and personal satisfaction making those 49 weeks and 1,715 hours a pleasurable experience? Absolutely yes.

Are you prepared to put in the work to bring about the change from your present circumstances to realize the job you’d LOVE to do? This my reader, is THE question.

 

Let’s Talk Your Perfect Job


The perfect job; well it depends doesn’t it. What’s a great job for some is a terrible fit for others. So it’s fairly safe to say that there is no one job that is going to be the ideal or perfect job for everyone. That being said however, you’re probably not looking for a job that is perfect for everyone anyhow; you’re looking for a job that’s perfect for you and you alone.

There are 3 core things that make up the perfect job and all three of these must be present and felt by the person for the job to be the best possible fit for the person doing the work. These include: a job that pays well, a job you’re good at and doing work that you love. There are a lot of factors that you need to consider when you’re evaluating the possibility of a job and / or career.

Before looking at the things you might want to contemplate when considering a job, imagine jobs you’ve held where only 1 or 2 of the 3 things has been present. Perhaps by way of example, you’ve found a job you’re good at and it pays well but you didn’t love it. Well you may have disliked the day-to-day work that you said, “There’s got to be something better!” so you left. Or imagine a job that you were good and it was work you loved doing, but the pay was so poor you couldn’t actually afford to keep working and needed more income and cried, “I love my job but I have bills, a mortgage and I want a better personal life!”, so you left. Of course the other possibility is that you loved the work itself and the job paid well but you weren’t really all that good in the job and you were let go.

Maybe one or more of these above scenarios have happened to you. Ah, but if you could find the right job with the right employer where: 1) you were good at the work, 2) it paid well and 3) you did what you loved, now that would be a winning combination!

Thinking of these three core items, here’s a short list of some of the things you might take into consideration when looking for that perfect job. Some of the items will have a low importance to you but perhaps be a key element for someone else. Conversely, someone else may put a low importance on something you feel very strongly about. So, think about how each of these impact on you personally as must haves in your perfect job:

  1. Getting positive feedback
  2. Doing physical work
  3. Outdoors vs. Indoors
  4. Working alone
  5. Group work
  6. Short commute
  7. Small Company
  8. Salary and benefits
  9. Supportive boss
  10. Challenging Work
  11. Tight deadlines
  12. Few distractions
  13. Creativity required
  14. Minimal change
  15. Job security
  16. Entry-level
  17. Advancement
  18. Recognition
  19. Humour and Fun
  20. Commission
  21. Flexible hours
  22. Shift work
  23. Weekends off
  24. Contract work
  25. Target bonuses
  26. Customer service

As you read each of the criteria I listed, which prompted a strong response and which were the items that you neither held a strong view one way or the other? When it comes to your commute, you may have such a small geographic area you are willing to work in, that you won’t be able to find a job doing what you love that pays well. And speaking of paying well, what does that mean for you? Some people are willing to sacrifice excellent pay for an average income if they work in a job they are good at and have passion for.

It may be that in order to make the high income you want, you have to expand your geographic area that you would be willing to work in. So now you require knowledge of what levels of income there are both where you live, and all the way out to the furthest you would be willing to commute. If an hour is your maximum commute, how do salaries vary between these distances for the same work? If you’d only commute 40 minutes, those incomes 41 – 60 minutes away must be passed over given your limitations.

Here’s how things break down if you only have 2 of the 3 core things required for the perfect job:

If you have a job that pays well and you’re good at it but it’s not what you love you’ll be bored.

If you have a job that pays well and you love it but you’re not good at it, you’re dreaming.

If you have a job you love and you’re good at it but you’re not paid well, you’ll be happy but poor.

You win when you have all three areas completely satisfied: you love what you do, you do it well and you’re paid well to do it.

Add other factors to your list beyond the 26 I’ve shared here. What’s important to you? Speak with people who love their work and are good at it who feel paid well for their services. As you have conversations you learn first-hand what the job is all about and from that you make your own assessment of what you’d love, what’d you be good at and what income you’d receive.