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Enjoying your job August 15, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in career.
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FrauTech made a post a few days ago about career satisfaction:

Yes there are a lot of “boring” office jobs out there, but very often you can find your own satisfaction in that job. And your job does not define you. It’s never going to be perfect.

I don’t mean to suggest we should all be hedonists, just that we’re all in control (somewhat) over our own lives. We have the ability to change how we react to things and change our expectations. Maybe our expectations for our careers are just too high these days.

About the same time, I read this excerpt at Tough Guide to Work:

Our career and jobs become an integral part of our identity. Researchers have uncovered “a significant and positive relationship between occupational prestige and happiness”. Or put another way “people love boring other people about their work”. When you think about it this makes sense. We know that on the flip side: unemployment hits people really hard. People often sink lower and take longer to recover after losing a job than when their spouse dies.

Personal opinion is that it is, of course, somewhere in the middle. I had no idea that being a scientist was regarded a high prestige job. And really, when you’re in the middle of the experiment and it’s not working, do you really give a damn?

I have had a lot of jobs over the years. I think the only one I truly hated was working at Burger King. I actually found a lot of enjoyment or at least tried to focus on the various positive aspects of the other jobs. I was a police dispatcher at the university, where I got a lot of time to read and study. (I also got in trouble when I ran out of reading material and took a whole bowl of paperclips and chained them together.) I worked as a secretary at a juvenile detention center where I made the mistake of streamlining my job and computerizing all the documents. I basically was able to easily finish my work in four hours a day and really enjoyed the challenge of doing things more efficiently and neatly. (Unfortunately, it caused a lot of other problems and office politics.)

The worst was a job where I was hired by the some higher ups in a company to do some consulting work. The problem was that the people lower down really took what I was doing as a threat to them personally and made my life miserable. I really hated going in there. After a few months, however, I realized that some of the questions that I was supposed to answer needed more constraints. I spent about three months developing and running experiments to provide those constraints and apply it to the data I’d already taken. The point where I got to develop my own experiments and answer questions completely turned the job around and made it extremely exciting.

I have learned that I do a particular type of work best, and I am happiest when I am doing that. I get excited talking about it to strangers, and I think they find it interesting (or are at least polite enough to listen). But even when I’m doing something I don’t enjoy, I have found that there is at least one part of it that keeps me going and interested. I have also found that learning new things and frequent change helps to keep me motivated.

So what keeps you going at your job? How much of it do you love and how much do you tolerate?



1. Chris Gammell - August 16, 2010

I read a Reddit thread about life only being about work recently, and the sentiment seemed to be “It’s called work because it’s hard”; this is meant to be a way to justify jobs people don’t like and to just get over it, or at least that’s how I take that statement.

I think I have been very fortunate in that I have mostly enjoyed my jobs. More fortunate to have guessed right when I started college in picking EE as a major. And yet, I still find the 80/20 rule (pareto) applies to my work. I am required to do 80% of what I do but I really enjoy the other 20%. The 80 might be dealing with production issues or doing rote calculations for someone else’s project. The 20 is usually design and testing out side projects. I always seem to enjoy things that are more of a dream product than a reality. And I enjoy doing the initial dreaming the most. Like “what product could I make that could REALLY shake the market up”. So I guess that’s what keeps me going. But really I don’t mind the 80% either (or else I’d change my situation I’d like to think).


mareserinitatis - August 16, 2010

Yeah, there’s always some drudgery associated with the job, you just hope that it isn’t an overwhelming amount. I guess I’m lucky because, as far as the tasks I have to complete, I generally enjoy them. As FrauTech said, my real issues are dealing with difficult people.


2. FrauTech - August 16, 2010

Thanks for the linky. I like Chris’s 80/20. And it’s funny but it seems lately when I ask what people hate about their jobs it’s often their boss or coworkers that get mentioned, not negative aspects of the actual work. Maybe it’s not accurate sampling from engineers though, but it’s always the non-engineering stuff that irritates me. The needless record-keeping, the meetings that achieve nothing. There’s otherwise a lot of satisfaction to be found in what was written in my job description, just seems up in the air whether that’s how I actually spend my time.


mareserinitatis - August 16, 2010

Yeah, that’s what gets me, too. I like most of my work and most of the people with whom I work…but there are exceptions. 🙂


Chris Gammell - August 17, 2010

I feel that. I really enjoy my co-workers and my boss is great about not too many meetings. Compared to my old job, it’s 100x better in that regard. Who needs a meeting every single morning at 7:30?


Mike - August 19, 2010

My previous company did just that (Cherish can verify – she got to watch me drag my butt out the door every morning). It was during production ramp-up of a particularly complex (for my previous employer) product. Every morning, we had a telecon with the customer to talk about how many units shipped or failed test, and what had failed, and what we were going to do about it.

I hated every minute of it.


3. Fluxor - August 21, 2010

I hated my last job mostly for the people I had to work with, but I stayed because it paid well. So the number one reason that I’m still at my current job is probably the same — money. The fact that I’m probably overpaid means that switching jobs pretty much equates to a substantial pay cut (and losing, literally, free lunch). But if money is removed from the equation, what I love most is the start of a project, when we throw out all of the assumptions of the past and start anew. It’s an exciting time of engineering creativity. Unfortunately, it’s also a very short period in the design cycle. The next phase is what I hate the most, which is documenting all that creativity. However, I’ve learned to find some joy in writing technical documents and putting slides together. As I’ve discovered, doing those things well does help one’s career.

I’d say that next biggest thing I enjoy is that moment when the model of the entire system is assembled and becomes functional. It’s a moment in time when theory and implementation intersect.


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