Now, granted, even at my age, I have caught myself telling people that I’m still not sure what I want to do when I grow up. But I do know that one of my creeds has always been, “If you hate waking up every morning to go to your job, something’s amiss.”
I’ve had an eclectic array of jobs over the years, from waitressing at a truck stop slinging hash to sitting in a costume jewelry kiosk at a mall to working in some of the finest law firms, but I rarely remember succumbing to occupation dread, no matter how menial some of the tasks were. Of course, there were times when I asked myself, “Is this all there is?” and daydreamed about my “perfect” job. But when I did find myself rolling over at the sound of the alarm clock and dreading the day, I always knew it was time to move on. Life is just too short.
So I decided to do a quick, casual survey. I’m registered at a site called DC Web Women (www.dcwebwomen.org) which is a professional organization of more than 3,000 professional women, students and enthusiasts who specialize in the fields of web design, computer science, IT, graphic design, multimedia, marketing, and social media. Although mostly technical in nature, I figured it would cover the gamut of many of the occupations held by women today. Alternately, if it had been an organization of women, say, in the public sector, safety or medical field or other various occupations, I felt the outcome would have been similar. In the survey, I asked women who are happy with their jobs to tell me why that is. I wanted to know what inspires them to rise up every morning with a passion and effervescence that motivates them to labor every day−day in and day out−without ever mumbling, “Thank God it’s Friday.”
Normally, I like to write stories with happy endings. You can only imagine my dismay when only a handful − out of 3,000 members − wrote me back regarding the happiness they experience in their jobs. I justified it by thinking, “Wow, maybe the others are just so darn busy and happy at their jobs that they don’t have time to respond to my silly survey.”
The pattern I started to see from those that did respond had a common theme running through them, and that was “diversity.”
Jennifer Schaus (www.JenniferSchaus.com) helps small to mid-size companies get through the government contract process. Before you yawn, her fervor is that she learns a little bit about a lot of industries, as most of her clients are small businesses. Her happiness comes from watching them succeed with their own passion for their business. Her enthusiasm is only heightened by the free events she off ers to her clients every month in which her clients gather to network with each other. She wins by watching others win.
Others, like Heidi Phelps, have been one of the lucky ones − actually using her Masters Degree in French Literature (who’d a thunk it!?) to good use. She works for CampusFrance USA at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. and gets to apply her bilingual skills every day. Again, diverse administrative and communications projects keep her learning something new every day about the French education system. She was not hesitant to proclaim, “J'aime mon travail.” (“I LOVE my job!”)
Diversity. It keeps popping up. Meaghan Lamarre is a Senior Strategist at Mandate Media (www.mandatemedia.com). She helps political candidates and nonprofit organizations get the most out of online technology by designing and developing websites. Her mantra? It’s never the same from day to day. Her work varies between structured, linear development to the creative, artistic design side. Oh, and her co-workers? Another bonus… they’re smart, talented and above all, fun people to be around.
Who could ask for more?
One of the more interesting responses was from Anne Schroeder. Her “day” job of web development, although important to her professionally, was secondary to what really floats her boat. What really gets her excited is her “other” job. During the spring and early summer months, she travels around the mid-Atlantic area shearing sheep, goats, alpacas and llamas. Say what? This is one woman who has definitely found her balance. Although she maintains a “professional” life, her real passion is commiserating and communing with farmers and sharing stories and remedies as she travels around the region shearing sheep. Between the exercise she gets and her continuing efforts to protect a dying craft , she is contributing in her own way…and that can only bring happiness. Driving around beautiful back country roads, getting exercise…what more pleasure can one endure? And, as she says, “What could make one happier than leaving behind happy farmers and naked sheep?” I concur.
Nancy Hemenway was a teacher. But for some reason she found herself feeling like she wasn’t making a difference. She decided only one thing could bring her more joy and make her feel like she was making a difference. It ended up not teaching the children, but the joy of helping couples bear those children. She now spends her days at INCIID (www.inciid.org), a nonprofit organization helping patients explore their family-building options. INCIID is able to provide free IVF treatments to those with medical and financial needs. She can’t imagine a greater satisfaction than making a difference in the lives of couples who desperately want children.
What I gleaned from the few who responded is that one’s job should offer diversity and a passion to see others succeed. Pride in your work should come from within, whether you are a garbage collector, a CEO of a company, or someone who stares at slides under a microscope all day. If you are unhappy at your job, you are doing more harm than good to yourself and to those around you.
Not to age myself, but there’s a line from a song called “Maniac” in an old movie called Flashdance with lyrics that say, “Find your passion. Make it happen.” Pretty priceless…
Catherine DeCenzo is a freelance writer and Managing Editor of I Am Modern magazine living in Broadlands, VA. She prefers the glass-half-full, humorous side of life and has an appetite for the irreverent in her personal blog at http://catclause.wordpress.com