I’ve worn many hats in my career. I loved, liked and loathed parts of every job. I’m not so naïve to think there is such a thing as the perfect job.
But can’t we aspire to have jobs where the ratio of good to not-so-good is really high?
Some people accept that despising their job is normal, in fact, expected. They complain but when you suggest they could find another job, they have plenty of objections. So they stay and stew.
My philosophy has always been the opposite. Why can’t I work hard AND have fun? Some of the most fun I’ve had was when I was working hard for a cause in which I believed.
So the first requirement in my job description is: I must believe in my company/job. If I doubt that what I’m doing makes any difference I lose heart. If I question my employer’s values (which are evident by actions) my faith shakes and then my focus and performance wane.
#2 My job must give me purpose. I’ve learned that purpose is integral to accomplishing anything worthwhile.
Lack of purpose is why people, usually men, often die within a year of retiring. Because their job is their identity, they lose their purpose when they no longer have that job. Developing new interests and therefore, a new identity, before retiring, can avert untimely death.
Doing “unprojects”, putting in time and working for months on projects that are cancelled before completion do not breed purpose.
#3 Did I mention fun? Oh yes. It’s worth mentioning again.
Fun is hard to find at many workplaces. It requires a number of ingredients. Good people, a culture of creativity, corporate buy-in of fun activities, collaborative spirit and even doing meaningful work are just some factors for fostering fun. *
If your question at interview on what the company does to promote fun in the workplace is met with stony stares and the interview panel writhing in their seats, I suggest you keep looking.
#4 Good people. Ever tried working for somebody you just can’t respect?
In one job, I pointed out (nicely and privately) to my manager that a presentation he wanted to send to our customers had dozens of spelling and grammatical errors. (I thought it especially serious as we were in media!). He flew off the handle, calling my observations “junior high BS” and refusing to speak to me for weeks. That motivated me to find other opportunities.
I realize we can’t always choose our co-workers so we do have to learn to get along with people we don’t necessarily like. But some people can single-handedly poison an entire work culture. If that person has the ear of the Big Cheese, or is the Big Cheese, it can wreck your job.
Before accepting an offer, I recommend talking to current and past employees to get a feel for the environment. Perhaps you can ask perspective employers for their references! (My daughter once did that on my recommendation and so delighted the employer, she got the job!)
#5 Trust. My next employer must trust me to do my job. I’m happy to have direction, correction, training, and feedback but if he/she hovers and worries about my every minute, it’s not going to work.
I work in spurts. Head down and focused for hours. Sometimes when I come up for air, a few minutes of R&R is necessary to fuel me for the next intense session.
I am an adult. I often give more than my eight hrs a day. I am very productive. I want my employer to see the end results, not necessarily every step I take to get there.
Remember when your math teacher wanted to see the work, not just the answer? I now understand why the teacher wanted it. Sometimes I just knew the answer and was unsure of the process, and the importance of the process.
I’m a big picture thinker: details and therefore, processes can bore me unless I understand their purpose.
A question to ask is, “What is your management style?” or “This is how I like to work; will that fit into your vision?”
#6 Inclusivity. It is infinitely more fun and feels safer to work for a company that includes all staff in important discussions about business strategies, better ways of doing business, and other matters that ultimately affect performance and employment security.
Treating staff like mushrooms leads to rapid decay.
Uncover the company’s communication style by inquiring about intranet, newsletters, town hall meetings and other ways companies communicate with staff.
#7 Growth: I want opportunities to improve myself and add value to my employer. I think it’s something most people want. Certainly when I was recruiting, “room to grow” was a major reason cited for leaving the current job.
Training, mentorship programs, conferences, lunch & learns, even a company library enable growth, particularly for eager life-long learners. Retention and job satisfaction improve when employers invest in their employees.
Asking about these will impress the potential employer since many candidates don’t ask.
Those are just seven of the qualities I look for in an employer. Before you begin your search I urge you to think about these and your own ideals to improve your chances of finding a suitable fit.
Of course I also want a job where I look as good and do as much as Vanna White; I want a Bill Gates-level salary, access to the company condo in the Cayman’s or the Alps six weeks each year, a nice company car with a gas card, a tab at my favourite restaurant and big bonuses just for staying in the job.
Hey, a girl can dream!
*I recommend subscribing to Michael Kerr’s newsletter at www.MikeKerr.com for ideas to incorporate more fun into your workplace.