Tag Archives: Job satisfaction

Dealing with the dreaded “what do you do?” question.

what do you do?

Björn Simon via Unsplash

When you were a kid, did you want to be a butcher, baker or candlestick-maker?  Maybe.

Policeman, firefighter or astronaut?  Probably at some point.

Doctor, lawyer or teacher?  Sure.

Accounting specialist, administrative coordinator or client services professional?  Hmmm…maybe not.

But that’s where a lot of us find ourselves.  And it’s hard.  Because we want to be able to talk about our jobs – they take up a big chunk of our life, after all – but it’s not always so easy to explain what we do.

Professional titles are our conversational shorthand.  When someone asks “What do you do?”, a title immediately puts us in a category and tells the listener something about who we are – at least in theory.  And we’re drawn to titles that make it clear how we add value.

Baker?  Done.  We know what that person brings to the table.

Teacher?  Yep.  Clear value proposition.

But if you’re a generalist, it’s not really that easy.  You have to work harder to explain what you do and what you care about.  And you know what?  That’s actually a good thing.

Who are your customers?  What are they struggling with?  What problems do you help them solve?

Do you take something complicated and make it simple?  Do you turn something boring into something fun?

Do you make your team better, stronger, faster?

So many people bemoan the lack of meaning in their jobs, but what if we shift our focus away from title and onto simply how we add value every day?  Beyond making your cocktail party banter less awkward, it may actually provide some career inspiration as well.

So tell me, what do you do?

 

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Ready to quit? I’m not here to stop you…but try these things first.

Boots by Phil Roeder

I’ve quit a lot of jobs.  And not just burger-flipper kind of jobs.  Real, career-level jobs.  With nothing lined up to take their place.  Do I recommend this as a career strategy?  Um…no.  But, my chronic dissatisfaction has taught me to tell the difference between real job issues and me just needing an overhaul, mentally and physically.  If you’re feeling burnt-out and uninspired in your job, try these before you throw in the towel:

Get some exercise.  Doing this is a constant battle for me, even though I know I will feel 10x better if I move my body regularly.  So I get that it’s extra hard when you’re unhappy in your job.  But you’ve just got to do it.  Exercise releases endorphins, which improves your mood.  It improves flexibility, something you’ll appreciate if your desk job is leaving you an aching, contorted mess.  And it gives you the energy and stamina to do other important things, like professional training, strategic volunteering or pounding the pavement for your next gig.

Find a hobby.  Find something outside of work that lights you up.  It doesn’t matter what it is, but you need something to look forward to at the end of the work day.  Having something to think (and talk) about besides your crappy job will make you happier and easier to be around.  And connecting with people who share your personal interests is a non-greasy way to network and can lead to unexpected professional opportunities.

Take stock.  When you’re feeling beat up, the temptation is to jump ship and hope for the best.  But the “anywhere but here” approach often sets you up to be just as unhappy in the next gig.  (Trust me, I know.)  Think hard about what it is that you really dislike about your current job.  It might not be what you first think.  And consider what parts of it you actually enjoy.  These are clues to where you might want to go next.  Then take an honest look at your skill set and decide if it fits a career trajectory you can be happy with over the next 5-10-20 years.  If it doesn’t, you have the starting point for crafting your next move.

 

(Photo by Phil Roeder via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

A manager’s 5×5 for employee engagement.

FiveToday I’m taking inspiration from a recent post on
The Altucher Confidential“The 5×5 Trick To Make Life Better”.

In this moving post, James Altucher explains how he keeps himself from being overpowered by regret and worry.  He takes off on the idea that we are all the average of the 5 people around us, then adds that he is also the average of the 5 things that inspire him, the 5 things he thinks about most, the 5 things he “eats” (mentally & physically) and the 5 ways he can help people each day.

While Altucher takes a personal spin, I want to explore this from the perspective of a manager.

Here’s a scary reality: unhappy, disengaged workers outnumber happy ones worldwide.  The majority of workers are not engaged; they “sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work”.  And the factors that go into engagement?  Most, if not all, are related to the employee/manager relationship.  Whether you like it or not, as a manager, you control the worker experience.

So, back to Altucher’s 5×5 idea.  How can we use this to keep our teams more engaged?

5 People – 
This is probably the size of most of our workgroups.  Is everyone on your team contributing and adding real value?  Think about the old “one bad apple” adage.  Is there someone dragging the others down?  And look at yourself with a critical eye here as well.  You’re one of your team’s 5, right?

5 Things That Inspire –  Look around your workspace, the place where you spend the bulk of your day.  Are there 5 things in it/about it that inspire you?  If you’re not inspired, can you expect your team to be?  Encourage your employees to find their own inspiration.  Ask them to display and share it.  Remember show-and-tell from grade school?  Bring that idea to a meeting and open with what inspires each team member.

5 Thoughts – Can you articulate your organization’s core values?  They should be top-of-mind and driving your team’s behavior.  Adding value, working smarter, being passionate, having fun, showing gratitude.  These are the type of thoughts that keep your team engaged.  I come back to this quote from Lao Tzu:

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

5 Things You Eat  Yes, you should encourage healthy habits, like eating right, by insuring your team has the time and freedom to take care of themselves physically.  Too many long hours, too few breaks, eating at their desk – these all take a toll on job satisfaction.  But let’s focus on mental intake.  What data streams are feeding your team?  Think about forms of feedback you give, positive and negative.  Are you providing creative input?  Encourage engagement with other departments, disciplines, and industries.  Allow your team to bring fresh ideas to the table.

5 Ways You Help This is your highest priority as a manager.  Are you available to help your team on a daily basis?  Are you engaged with their careers?  Do you know their long-term goals and their project interests?  Are you a mentor?  None of this is easy, particularly if you’re a working manager with a full task list.  But helping your team members grow can be the most rewarding part of management.

 

What do you think?  Does the 5×5 idea ring true for you as a manager?

 

(Photo credit: Microsoft)