Friday, May 22, 2009


On the opening day of baseball season I had a rare opportunity to be a flag bearer of the gigantic US flag carried out onto the field for the national anthem before the start of the game. Many of you have seen these at sporting events or before a big game on TV. We had a rehearsal the day before to sync our timing and handle the flag properly, and in doing so we practiced in the venue – the playing field at Safeco Field in Seattle. As a middle aged woman I can’t imagine having another sanctioned opportunity to be on a professional sports field, so it was a new experience and, as a baseball fan, quite a thrill. As we first stepped onto the baseball field I was a little overwhelmed – the smell of fresh cut lawn, looking up into a beautiful stadium, my first thought was “why do they pay these guys anything to come to this office everyday? They play a GAME, applause greets you when you arrive (except for A-Rod in this town anyway)….baseball players should work for free!”

We know, of course, that they don’t. In fact, their compensation levels are sky high compared to almost any other line of work. One could debate the merits of professional sports compensation endlessly, but let’s leave that commentary for someone else’s blog. The reality is that no one works for free – it’s an untenable proposition. But playing a game as a job, what fun! How lucky is anyone to have that choice?

I know a woman who recently left her senior management job after 11 years of working for a profitable brand-name Fortune company, where she was well-compensated and considered a strong performer and leader. She does not have another job lined up, no big severance to fall back on….in this economy?

Oh and the law firm and corporate lay-offs just keep coming, with perfectly talented professional people who have never needed to look for a new job suddenly thrust into this horrible economy when few are hiring. What to do next?

What do they have in common? The choice of doing something they love! No matter what you do for a profession, work SHOULD be as fun as it can possibly be. We have all heard the popular saying “work for free and you will never work a day in your life.” Passion for your profession plays an important role in career satisfaction and has a significant positive impact on job performance. It stands to reason that the happier you are in your work, the better you will perform, which will contribute to your personal bottom line. Employers all factor personal performance metrics into their compensation system at some level, be it base salary increases, bonus rewards, or other long term incentives. Even highly paid athletes have performance incentives built into their contracts. Home runs do more than win games and make fans happy.

Professional work is hard enough without enjoying it. Whether or not you are at a point where you are considering your next career move, there is no better time than now to articulate this part of your professional vision. It is too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks to stop and focus on this, however it may be one of the best things you do for your career. Consider it a piece of self-assigned homework. Set aside an hour of time, situate yourself in front of a blank screen/whiteboard/paper and pen in a distraction minimized zone (locked bathrooms work, if nothing else) and make two columns – likes and dislikes. Brainstorm about your professional work and list items in each column specific to you. What do you like about your job content, your profession, the kind of work environment where you are happiest, the pet peeves or tasks you don’t like doing, the things you do not do well, qualities you want in a boss, the industries or topics you find dreadfully boring…you get the idea. Write it all down in their respective plus and minus columns. Some of the items will be tied to other life priorities – supporting a family is one example. On the other hand, maybe your misery index will encourage you to retool your budget and accept a lower income in another kind of work that increases your daily dose of personal fulfillment and lowers your blood pressure.

Unless you commit your criteria to a tangible document you will lose sight of all these elements. Once you commit it to paper, it will be much easier to see trends and set priorities. Developing a professional vision around your talents can be very liberating and enlightening. Armed with your list, you are now well positioned to make informed choices about everything affecting your career. You may make trade-offs along the way as you use this list to evaluate a new job and as you move throughout your professional career. That’s ok, and encouraged. Examine the list from time to time, make changes or additions, and tweak your criteria as you consider new options. Give that list a long hard list when you get a job offer and compare it to what you are signing up for in the new gig. Is there something you should explore a little further before taking that new job, maybe something in the minus column that should be fleshed out? Job offers, particularly good ones, have a way of obfuscating the downside. It pays to be vigilant and thoughtful before you leap. Your plus and minus list will keep you honest and focused. The important thing is that you have a tool to keep on track and your eyes on the happiness prize. We may not be so fortunate as to choose a job with a built-in adoring public, but truly enjoying what you do may well make it seem less like work, and more like a game.

1 comment:

  1. The best blog on job definition I ave seen in a long time!

    Thanks for writing, Taz!