Saturday, February 2, 2008

What Do You Care About?

I do a lot of reading about finding happiness and satisfaction at work and I'm not sure why. I think in part it's because I have a hard time making decisions about work and what I really want to do with my life and the whatnot and all. Also, because of my somewhat ridiculously stable work history (I can still fit all the jobs I've had on the front and back of a sheet of paper, and I'm old) I haven't worked that many different places. Much like dating, it can be hard to figure out what you want in a (working) relationship until you date a few jobs and see how annoying they can be. But I'm beginning to develop a short list of criteria that, it turns out, are pretty important to me. And so I give you...

5 Qualities a Job Must Have to Really Make Me Happy

1. The smartest people -- I am reasonably with it on some topics, but I desperately need to grow and be challenged in the workplace. I need to work with people who know a whole lot about whatever it is they know about, and hopefully those are different things than the crap I already know. The corollary to this rule is that those smart people have to be willing to share what they know with those around them, and interested in receiving the same.

2. Astute leadership -- Okay, this is kind of like being smart, but it's more about being realistic, visionary, and skilled practical managers. I have a hard time enjoying my work if I don't have absolute confidence in the direction of the overall place. I want to follow people who don't hire and/or promote bozos, who firmly believe that the organization is the best at what it does (or who have a workable plan to make it so), and who work harder than anyone else at the place to make it happen.

3. Solid technology -- Whatever the business may be, everyone needs to have kick-ass tools to do their work. Nobody should be pushing uphill against unwieldy antiquated systems. And the people who provide the worker bees with technology, well, see quality number one, above.

4. Meaningful work -- If what I'm doing helps humanity (or is supporting people who help humanity), that is pretty cool. But it's a little deeper than that, I'm realizing. I try to make sure that the things I do every day are really focused on what I should be doing -- and I feel frustrated when I'm forced to spend time on "other duties that pop up and nobody else seems to be able to figure out how to get 'em done."

5. A climate of innovation -- Not innovation for its own sake, mind you, but working at a place where new ideas are embraced is pretty important. It goes back to all the first four principles, too. To make innovation work, I have to have smart people thinking and exploring new stuff all the time. I have to have a clear vision of where I'm going so as to evaluate whether that groovy new thing will actually help you be the best in the world at what I'm doing. I need to have a technology environment that actually is poised to embrace new stuff. And innovating is a key component of having meaning in my day.

So there you have it. Like you care what ol' Stella wants in a workplace.

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