I’ve been thinking about what makes a job good. And who gets to decide if it’s really good or not. (Hint: The decider probably should be you.)
Many, many moons ago I found this poem in a little joke book. It made me laugh at the time, and, for whatever reason, stuck in my head and has stayed there ever since:
Don’t worry if your job is small
Or your rewards are few
Remember that the mighty oak
Was once a nut like you!
Well … I was only 9 when I found the poem. And I didn’t have to worry about paying for stuff like rent or food. But there was a kernel of wisdom that always stayed with me.
It reminded me that what is true for us now is not always true. And that life can provide for a future we can’t even imagine today. Not bad stuff. So as I sat down tonight to work on a post about what makes a job good, for some reason those comforting words popped into my head. And they brought a smile.
I began thinking about the phrases “small jobs” and “few rewards”. What exactly do they mean? Isn’t the way a job feels really in the eyes of the beholder? And just what does make a job good for you?
When it comes to good 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 mighty 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 so I accepted a job offer that a friend luckily had just sent my way.
Small job, big rewards
So instead of being on the ground floor of this major well-intentioned organization, I took a “small” job helping a 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 to the people we were trying to help — something I felt cut off from in the bigger organization’s ivory tower.
At my farewell party, the CEO asked me why I was leaving his team for what he called “small potatoes.” I tried to explain, but had no good answer for him … mainly because he couldn’t understand. Of course, bigger can sometimes be better. But not always. And not for everyone.
How is a job like a potato?
Potatoes of any size are hard to judge until you prepare and 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. Maybe 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.
But the funny thing is … others in the same situation, perhaps some in the very same offices as those seemingly mythical job-likers, are miserable. It’s not just the job itself.
So what is it? What makes a job good?
Is it the job? Is it the person? Or 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.
Lots of people have answers that work for them.
But only YOU know if a job is good for you.
The rest is noise. 🙂
The real answer?
Get to know yourself.
Explore things you love.
Dare to take wrong turns.
And learn from it all.
Questions to ask yourself: Do you like your job? If so, why? If not, why. Be specific. What qualities make a job good in your eyes?
More posts to help
And if you do need to quit your job