As we head into another autumn season, perhaps it’s just me, but with the fading of summer comes a more contemplative time during which I often consider where I am in life and what the future looks like. When the market crashed in 2008, like a lot of people, my family experienced severe losses. Since then, I’ve found more solid financial footing and I have the luxury of thinking about the trajectory of my career again…and someday, 20 or so years in the future, what retirement will look like.
I grew up in the age of “you can be anything you want to be” dotages from my parents and teachers. Astronaut, doctor, lawyer, zookeeper…it didn’t matter. “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!” was the message. Now that I’m here, firmly entrenched in adulthood, I didn’t quite imagine myself doing what I do.
If you take a gander at pop-culture inspirational quotes on Twitter or Facebook memes, a lot of them suggest the key to happiness is loving what you do. By “do” they mostly mean “what you do for your job.” And while it would be the best thing ever to be a professional coffee-drinking, crocheting, thrift store shopping, dog-loving, music-collecting fiction writer with a deep appreciation for American Ninja Warrior and Candy Crush, I haven’t quite figured out a way to make a reliable income based upon this amalgam of things I love. I love to “do” a whole lot of other things that I fear would lose their magic if I did them as a job. Cooking, traveling, gardening, genealogy, all realms of crafting, and learning new things all hold a special place in my heart, as well. It would suck if any part of those joyful/interesting endeavors became a chore.
So, instead, I am a business analyst/technical writer, mainly because it pays the bills and I’m pretty good at it. Sure, there are days when my job is stressful and there are long hours involved and every now and then somebody at work gets on my nerves, but all in all, I like my job. And that’s okay. And my gift to you today is this: You have permission to LIKE your job. You don’t have to love it to be successful or happy.
The whole “loving what you do” sentiment is well-intentioned, and at its heart, the message is about enjoying yourself. I propose that it is possible to enjoy yourself at a job that isn’t quite what you dreamed you’d be doing when you were a youngster.
Here’s how you can make the best of a less than lovable job.
Gamifying and Geeking Out
I once had a job in college that involved filing and reorganizing all of the officially categorized soils in the United States. Yes. Soil, as in dirt, gets categorized (classified) by some very diligent folks. I managed to make this job interesting by challenging myself to learn the codes for the color of each soil. Exciting stuff, I know, but really, I was gamifying the job for myself. And then I began visualizing the structure of the soil, the depth, the variation, the different layers, seeing how it might look if it was view-able as a hillside road cut. And that’s when I started geeking out about soil. I eventually got a Master’s degree in Soil Science, that’s how much this little job wormed itself into my brain.
Every job has something about it that can be made interesting, in one way or another. Bless your heart if you ever get to the point where your job becomes your hobby, but maybe that means you’ve fallen out of mere “like” and head over heels in love!
Community and Culture
If you are like me, you have probably made the majority of your adulthood friends while at work. You may even have the pleasure of working with your best friends. Having a solid work community can bolster any job by the mere benefit of not being alone in the situation. I know I have even stayed at crummy jobs because I loved my co-workers.
When a company also makes an effort to make the work more enjoyable with intentional positive culture creation and support, the workplace can actually be fun. When work becomes fun, it’s hard not to fall in love with it. I even made a point of asking one of my younger co-workers if culture and community made a difference. TJ Fitzerald said, “Coming out of college, it was important for me to find a job where I could be a part of the company’s culture and truly believe in it. I have always enjoyed helping people achieve their goals, so being a part of a company culture that reflects those same values makes work enjoyable.”
Patience and Punchcards
If all else fails, and you fear you may be suffering from a fatal case of “brain cloud” brought on by your terrible work life, and all you can do day-to-day is watch the clock in agony, desperate to go home when your shift is over, you must, at a minimum, develop your patience. It is one way to find some peace of mind while you wait out the day and the brain cloud.
Some of you may have no idea what a punchcard is, I realize, but in many workplaces, there used to be a mechanical, manual clock that punched your arrival date and time on a card for you that would then serve as your timesheet and the basis for you pay. You punched the clock when you got to work, you did your work, punched out when it was time to leave, and did your best not to think about work again until the next morning. More of us could benefit from leaving work at work, timeboxing it to the eight hours we’ve committed to spending there. It’s one tried and true method to make more room in your brain for the things you actually love to do.
Of course, if you want to improve your job situation, patience will also serve you while you look for a new/better/different job–hopefully one that you LIKE.
If you are looking to improve your job situation, consider ArchiTECH Solutions. If you’re interested in working at a small business that values its employees, creates a working environment where you can grow your career toward something you love, and also allows you to work on projects in the public and private sector that make a difference to our community and our country, we may be the place for you. Visit the ATS employment opportunities page for current open positions.
Amy Barth is a Senior Business Analyst at ArchiTECH Solutions.