Today I had a reward day. After a rough start with some weird office politics, I had the joy of meeting up with two of my former colleagues (separately). They are both women I hired at Housing California who did amazing work and continue to grow as people and in their careers. They both took a moment to thank me for being myself. They cited specific things I did to make work fun and fulfilling. It was a better reward than a paycheck.
It made me think about my values and why I believe how we do things is as important as what we do. Many career counselors focus on the what. We ask children, “WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?” I have had many roles in several fields and for me the common thread is HOW I go through the world. Do I treat people with respect? Am I encouraging people to reach their full potential? Am I limiting time wasting tasks and avoiding petty concerns and instead helping people to focus on the bigger questions the more strategic actions?
Chris Guillebeau has a new book, Born For This. I started reading it with enthusiasm. I am thrashing around again to find real meaning and satisfaction in my work. I had great hope that it would help me gain clarity around what I should really be doing. This book certainly has some good ideas about how to get unstuck if you are in a job you hate. It takes the romantic idea that we are born for a certain career and says that career satisfaction is not limited to people who have always known what they want to do. Guillebeau suggests that if you pay attention each of your jobs will give you important clues about what you were born to do.
While the second part of the book has some great life hacks for how to help the process of self-discovery along, I lost momentum. Today I realized why I lost interest. I was getting distracted by the search for the ideal field or role. Whereas in my life I find that I can work towards any number of goals and find meaning. Instead I am looking for the environment where my skills and talents can best be used in service of something larger. Today I was reminded the who and the how is more important to me than the what.
I have always had to earn a living and so I have done some pretty weird jobs from assistant director of the Cavalcade of Horses, cleaning toilets at a Christian camp, to a nonprofit Executive Director. The places I found the most work satisfaction did not always match up with what others were most impressed by. As I think about deep job satisfaction, I am asking: When was the last time I really shared a laugh with people at work? When did I last make a deep friendship at work?
Yes we are “born for this” at work: we are each endowed with a unique set of gifts and a something to offer our teammates. We do our best work when we are able to be ourselves.
It is time to search for the right work environment with a team who appreciates me.