Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Happy at Work

As I continue to contemplate where I want to work and what type of work I would like to do, it seems I find myself moving further and further away from the concept of a traditional corporate job.  The more I search, the more the job descriptions I read online all start to blend together. They all boil down to a series of expectations and demands for things that I have no desire to do. Like working in a fast-paced environment and managing multiple complex projects with competing deadlines.

Sometimes I wonder why a company would put all of that stuff in the job posting. It seems like they should be trying to attract the potential employee with all of the good things about the company, instead of writing the equivalent of a warning label describing all of the terrible working conditions the person will have to deal with when they get there.

"Project Manager needed to solve insurmountable problems, deal with difficult people and work long hours in a small cube with no natural light." Anyone interested? Anyone?

Does it ever occur to these companies that maybe they should just hire two people to share the work and then the one person wouldn't have to constantly struggle with meeting multiple competing deadlines? I realize that probably sounds crazy to most people. We have all come to accept those types of unrealistic expectations at our jobs. And of course there are a litany of reasons, including budget constraints, to justify why the company wouldn't consider hiring two people.

But what if there were companies that really did balance the needs of the person with the needs of the organization. What if there were companies that were truly interested in making sure their employees were happy at work. I wonder how different things could be for all of us.

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about what it would take for me to be happy at work. For as much as I talk about searching for jobs, I am actually working right now. I have three jobs: working at Anthropologie, freelance writing and teaching the occasional yoga class or workshop.

For some reason, I never consider these as real jobs.  Probably because I don't make enough money at any of them to support myself. I am still living off my savings from years of working at all of those high paying, miserable corporate jobs. But when I sit back and think about my three current jobs, it gives me a pretty good idea about what makes me happy at work.

I really love working at Anthropologie. I am on my feet most of the day, as opposed to sitting at a desk. And I get to dress up in pretty clothes and I am surrounded by beautiful things. The store has lots of natural light and it smells great too. There is a lot of variety in the work that I do. Sometimes I am on the cash register and other times I am helping customers in the fitting room or sorting clothes on the racks. Best of all, the workers are all pretty much interchangeable. And everyone gets along. We cover for each other on breaks and back each other up when one area gets too busy. And at the end of my shift, someone else picks up where I left off and keeps on going. I don't have to think about it again until I come in the next day.

And I love my writing too. I get to work at home in my yoga pants. In fact, as long as I have my computer I can work anywhere! I get to be creative and use my brain, but not too much. Most of the things people ask me to write about are interesting and I enjoy trying to put the pieces together. I get to sit quietly and take breaks when I need to. Sometimes I get an urge to write late into the evening or first thing in the morning. I can work when inspiration strikes me, not when the clock says it's time to work. And I don't have to deal with office politics or complicated system implementations. I just get to write.

Yoga has turned into more of a hobby that I occasionally get paid for, as opposed to a job. I can practice in the morning at a local studio once or twice a week, thanks to the flexibility of my writing job. And I am getting to know the students and have been invited to teach two workshops this summer. When I am teaching, I get to share something I love doing with other people. And hopefully offer them a quiet space to find whatever it is they are seeking for themselves.

What is interesting about my jobs, especially working at Anthropologie and freelance writing, is that they are very much the opposite of each other. Anthropologie is very active and I am always interacting with people, while my writing is more solitary and quiet. It seems like the combination of the two is what creates my own personal happiness prescription.

Neither of these jobs is perfect, although I do enjoy them. After a shift at Anthropologie, my feet are always sore. I am constantly on the lookout for more comfortable shoes. And sometimes I spend part of the evening replaying all of the interactions that I had during the day and wondering how the customers are doing (did their husband like the dress, how was the wedding, baby shower, vacation, etc.)

With my writing, my eyes get tired from staring at the computer. And my shoulders get sore too. I guess my primary complaints are physical in nature, which may just be a result of the aging process. Luckily, my third job teaching yoga can help to cure all of those things!

Maybe I know more than I thought I did about creating happiness at work. Now it is just a matter of finding something that has the qualities of the work I enjoy, but offers just a little more income.

I feel like I have been searching for my true calling for so long. And when I find it, whatever it is, it will all seem so obvious. I will look back and see that the signs were there, pointing me in that direction all along. In the meantime, my search continues.

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