What Separates the Career Haves and Have-Nots

We’ve got the inside scoop.

We have this mission at Happy Spectacular – to make the world unsafe for the bad career. We can’t claim to be superheroes (yet), but we know helping people make their workday a great part of their whole day is a noble calling and an awesome way to spend our time. And from where we sit, there’s a lot of work to do.

The unsatisfactory career seems to be around every corner. We regularly hear from folks who struggle to drag themselves out of bed to get to work, who wish they could quit their job (or at least their boss), or who believe they might work for the devil (in disguise, of course).

We believe that there are too many Career-Have-Nots in the world, and we want to help them move into the Career-Haves category. What are the characteristics of those who have a career that they really want? It’s not necessarily the perfect dream career that pays them millions and leaves them with just the right amount of time to exercise, and to get a good night’s sleep, and to spend time with loved ones, and to have unicorns grazing on their property. So, what does Happy Work look like?

First, your career should help you get out of bed because it’s something you look forward to. This is really at the heart of being a Career-Have. The path to a career that you like is different for everyone, but it definitely cuts through these neighborhoods:

It meets your needs so you’re not stressed by it. Remember the idea that your work should make your life better? Sure, your job will create stress sometimes (like when an article is due and you haven’t quite completed it).

We think there are two main categories of work needs: the Practical Needs which are the basics, like does it pay enough for you to live your life, and then the also important-but-often-ignored I Really Like My Job Needs.

Practical (How-Work-Fits-Into-Your-Life) Needs

  • Financial Needs – Having a job that doesn’t pay you enough to live your life is a drag. Most of us have been there at one time or another and it makes life hard. Also, why is it that when you don’t make much money your car always seems to break down?
  • Time Needs – There are jobs that simply require all of your time. Some lawyers and people who work on deals and often people who start companies (and their very early employees) know this to be true and for some people, this just doesn’t work. There are also jobs that just require a specific time that you don’t want to give, like when you could be doing hot yoga with your hot yoga friends or when you could be coaching your kid’s soccer team.
  • Geographic Needs – I regularly talk with folks about where their dream job would be located. Some want to work downtown; they like the energy and commotion, and so the commute is an easy trade-off. For others, they really want to manage their commute so that it doesn’t take them away from the rest of their life. Don’t ignore where you work, because the wrong commute or working in the wrong city can drag otherwise great job into the bad job category.

Happy Work (Really-Like-My-Job) Needs

  • People Needs – Liking the people with whom you work is a key part of making work a great part of your life. There are two sub-categories here (we love categories, can you tell?): having people you like personally (yes, they become your friends, or at least you are friendly and respectful and know about one another and are willing to help one another when you need it), and not having your work life dominated by a person or people you dislike. Sometimes one person (or a small group) can wreck an otherwise pretty darn good situation. Our short way of saying this is, “Work with people you like and don’t work with people you hate.”
  • Task Needs – Do you like solving the problems you solve at work or making the stuff you make at work? It feels great to use your talents to do something that you enjoy doing. My best friend Scott builds houses and runs a place that teaches young people to build things and become carpenters. He is amused by how clean and well-dressed I am at the end of the day, and I know if I worked for him I would not have all my fingers. Assessing this one is very simple, it boils down to a feeling and a question you can ask yourself: Do you feel like most of your work is something you have to do or something you get to do?
  • Meaning Needs – Some people need to believe that their work makes the world a better place and for others, it’s personally meaningful to be a lawyer or management consultant or electrician. Most of us just want to be sure that the people important to us value the work that we do. Having your work appreciated makes it a way better place to work. Some people need to be able to say they work at you fill in the blank with a well-known company name Maybe it’s an investment bank or a start-up that everyone thinks is going to surpass Google. Maybe it’s the leader in the little-known corner of the widget industry, but to you that name means something.
  • How-the-Place-Runs Needs — And finally, it’s helpful to believe in the way that your company runs, not just in the way it treats you. Is working there a fair deal? Is the company too competitive or not competitive enough? Are people honest with one another and do they hold each other accountable? Being out of sync with the way that a place runs can make it hard to work there and can move you from being a Career-Have to a Career-Have-Not.

There’s one last category we ask people to consider as they assess the happy spectacular-ness of their current job: we call it the Brighter Future Need. A lot of us are working in a job a bit harder than we would like, and maybe for a little less pay that we think we deserve, or with a title that we think we are a bit better than, all with the hope that it will be better tomorrow. We hope that we will get that promotion or that raise (or both) or the major project that has us working 12-hour days will end and make our work lives a little easier. For some of us, if we didn’t believe that tomorrow was going to be better, it would make today a lot harder.

We all make trade-offs with our jobs and what makes a good tradeoff differs for all of us. And if you find yourself unsure why you are not in love with what you are doing, see if one or more of your needs are not getting met. And if they’re not and you’re not sure what to do about it, we are just an email, call, or text away.

 

If you want to talk more about which side of the scale you are on, send us an email!

John Philbin

John is a co-founder of Happy Work Spectacular Life who, if he wasn't helping people with their careers, would consider himself a ghost researcher. His claim to fame is that he is a champion race walker (he actually came in second place).

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