A question of careers

I’ve been managing the Employee Engagement Group at work for almost seven months now, and as part of that, I’ve made it a habit to scour a handful of sites for ideas and research on employee engagement, morale, leadership training, and so forth. Today I ran across an article that put forth what is, in the eyes of the author, the most important career question you could ask yourself. I kind of like some of the direction that question is going, so here it is:

Imagine that you are getting fired. Now imagine that your severance package is a million dollars annually for the next 20 years. The only thing you have to do to get the severance is agree to a very broad non-compete agreement that basically prohibits you from doing your current job in any form for anyone for 20 years.

How do you feel?

If you’d take the money and run, perhaps your current career isn’t the best fit for you. If you have mixed feelings, you’re probably in a good spot.

Me? I don’t know. There are certainly aspects of my job that I’d ditch in a heartbeat. At the same time, I would deeply miss some others. I find my job overall satisfying with twinges of GRRR at certain pieces. I did send that question to a good friend, and her answer was that she’d take the money and then turn around and use some of it to hire an arson to take down the business. 🙂

The article continued on to point out that many of our frustrations with work and jobs in general can often be tied to the margins of what we do, and margins are always adjustable. Sure, the core of your job may not be open for debate, but if the issue is one of schedule, commute, or pay, those are often negotiable attributes to our jobs. The point is, of course, when was the last time you tried to negotiate any of those aspects?

I saw a recent bit of research that pointed out that of people who asked for a raise or job change, over 87% of them received at least something in return. Most did not get exactly what they wanted, but they got something. That’s 9 out of 10.

If you’re in an environment where you are not happy, change what you can.

Another thought that has been particularly helpful for me is to remember a simple question: Would I want that anyway?

Sometimes I find it difficult to see others progress in ways that make them truly happy. It clouds the reality that I, too, have seen some remarkable growth in my own career and life. It’s a pride issue–a touch of jealousy as well–and I find it useful to consider whether I would find the achievement they’ve reached a positive change in my life. Sometimes we see the peripheral glow of achievement without recognizing what that actually means, and whenever I ask myself that question, I typically find that the answer is no, I wouldn’t want that change.

There you go… a trifecta of personal job satisfaction:

  1. Ask the million dollar question.
  2. Focus on changing those things that you can change.
  3. Focus on the true realities of the successes you see around you and ask if that’s what you’d really want anyway. While doing that, pay attention to your own growth and recognize the reality of your own successes.
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One Response to A question of careers

  1. Travis says:

    Since my job is basically high level customer service in writing, does that mean that I could not do any customer service nor write for 20 years? If so, I would not take the deal. However, if writing a book would be considered different enough, I would gladly take the deal! 🙂

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