Don’t worry if your job is small
Or your rewards are few
Remember that the mighty oak
Was once a nut like you!
Ah yes. That explained everything.
Of course, I was only 9 – and I didn’t have to worry about paying for stuff like rent or food. But as I sat down tonight to work on a post about job offers, for some reason those ancient and oddly hopeful words popped into my head.
I began thinking about the phrases “small jobs” and “few rewards”. What exactly do they mean? Isn’t the way a job feels in the eyes of the beholder? Just what makes a job good?
And when it comes to jobs, does size really matter?
First I gotta get this off my chest. This whole idea of small jobs really galls me. It’s so judgmental. Not only doesn’t it give enough weight to the differences in people’s values, but it also forgets about the might oak…and how small things can grow if we tend to them.
I remember an indelible moment in my own career when I was working as a consultant on a hot-shot task force that helped create a new organization (which also included part of the old one). The work itself was something I believed in deeply, but when I saw the direction the new leaders were going in and the way they treated the “old guard” (who still had plenty of valuable information to share and much to contribute), I decided to politely move on and accept an offer that a friend just luckily had sent my way.
So instead of being on the ground floor of this huge new well-intentioned organization, I took a “small” job helping a small non-profit start a transitional residence for homeless women. I was excited by the chance to be so much closer to the daily activities and people we were helping – something I felt cut off from in the bigger organization’s ivory tower.
At my farewell party – just for the ivory-tower elite – the CEO asked me why I was leaving his team and this exciting project for what he called “small potatoes.” I had no good answer for him…because he wouldn’t have understood.
How is a job like a potato?
Potatoes of any size are hard to judge until you bite into them. The same goes for jobs. It’s tough to know for sure whether a job is right for you or will make you happy. Sometimes the dazzling package being dangled before you is far from dazzling on a day-to-day basis. And sometimes, while the work itself may be something you enjoy, the people drive you crazy. Or upper management micro-manages everything to death. Or you aren’t being recognized for all your hard work. Or you get way too much of that hard work. Or…well, the list of possibilities goes on and on.
Then again…I happen to know that a few people reading this article at this very minute actually like their jobs. Yes…it’s true. This is not an urban legend. And they are not on exhibit in some P.T. Barnum-like freak show. They like their jobs. And the funny thing is…others in the same or similar situations, perhaps some in the very same offices as those freaky job-likers, are miserable.
So what is it? What makes a job good? Is it the job? Is it the person? Is it just luck? Do people who like their jobs in general (we all have clunkers now and then) simply focus on different things than those who don’t? Or are there some special tricks known only to job-likers?
Of course, we all know answers are rarely black or white. Like a good potato salad…ahem…it’s usually a combination of factors in some form or another. But maybe, just maybe, with an understanding of the right ingredients and techniques, there might just be an art to helping make a job good for oneself.
I’m really curious to hear your thoughts. Do you like your job and why? What makes a job good in your eyes? Words of wisdom welcome.
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