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A Brand New Year = A Brand New Job or a Brand New You?
It seems to come round more quickly each year, doesn't it? That symbolic date which begins with the numbers 01/01. In other words, the date on which we must kick-start those New Year's Resolutions which we made after one-too-many glasses of egg nog on Christmas Eve.
We're all familiar with the traditional list of Resolutions. Start eating more healthily (once the Christmas chocolates have all gone, of course). Stop drinking alcohol (for the first week of January). Start exercising more regularly (or just start getting up off the couch, period). Stop smoking (for a day or two maybe).
And finally: take the plunge and start looking for that brand new dream job.
But wait! Is your dissatisfaction with your current employment solely down to the job itself? Or could it be that your attitude is causing much of your heartache and discontent? Read on to find out.
The Three Types of Worker: Which One is You?
Amy Wrzesniewski, a researcher at Yale University, has suggested that the difference between employees who are satisfied with their job and those who are not is, more often than not, due to the fact that they each view their work in very different ways. She has divided people's attitudes to their employment into three categories, or "orientations".
Worker Type 1: Job Oriented.
The first group she sees as having "job orientation". These employees think of their job mainly in terms of its tangible benefits. Their primary motivation for getting up and going to work each day is their pay check, followed by other benefits their job brings them, such as health insurance or 401k. This group always looks forward to the end of each working day, never its beginning. Leisure time is what they live for: although they are prepared to work hard, it's for the monetary incentives, not for their own satisfaction or enjoyment. The job is simply a means to a financial end.
Worker Type 2: Career Oriented.
The second group of workers are "career oriented". If you’re a part of this group, you enjoy some aspects of your job and, like those who are job-oriented, look forward to your leisure and vacation times. You see your work mostly as a stepping stone to something better: it's not only a means of making money, but also a way of gaining social status and earning respect from others. For the career-oriented, the primary motivation is the prospect of advancement; impressing other people, especially their managers, is what often spurs them to take the initiative and to work hard. A bigger office or a better parking space is more of an incentive than job satisfaction. Enjoyment is secondary to status - and, of course, the increase in salary which comes with climbing the career ladder.
Worker Type 3: Calling Oriented.
Then finally there is the third group, who Wrzesniewski sees as having "calling orientation". These people usually love their job. They believe in it as an end in itself: they are passionate about what they do and are excited by their day-to-day tasks and challenges. They believe they are making a genuine contribution to the world, or at least to the industry in which they work. Their primary motivation is to do the absolute best job they can, irrespective of how much they are paid or what others may think of them. These are the type of people who may well declare that they would do their job even if they were not paid for it.
Wrzesniewski points out that having a ‘Calling’ orientation is not solely reserved for people at the top of their profession. Callings can be found in all walks of life, from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, to hospital janitors, from heart surgeons to trash collectors. These people don't need supervisors to tell them how to do their work; they will often go way beyond the call of duty purely for the love of the job, and take pride in knowing that they are doing it to the best of their ability. They may well enjoy their leisure hours and vacations, as the rest of us do, but they also look forward to returning to work. Job satisfaction is a reward in itself.
Whistle While You Work
It is said that if you feel a change of scene is all it would take to make you happy - whether it be through a house move, or simply a change in the type of employment you currently hold - you have forgotten one thing: that wherever you go, you take yourself with you. The dissatisfied contractor who works at your current job is the same person as the unhappy employee who works at your next job.
So if you believe that changing where you work is all you need to do to live happily ever after, think again.
Naturally, some jobs are less enjoyable and fulfilling than others, especially as job satisfaction depends on so many different elements - anything from whether you get on with your colleagues and boss, right down to whether the air conditioning is set too cold for your liking, and right up the scale to whether you are actually in a job which best suits your talents.
But there's no doubt that a large part of whether or not you enjoy your job is rooted deeply in the attitude that you have to it.
If your attitude to work is that a job is a hardship and an imposition which must be endured, then that is the way it will feel day to day. If, on the other hand, you decide that even though it may not be the perfect job for you, it is still an opportunity to develop your talents, to work with and get to know others, even to improve the world - or at least, your little corner of it - the job you do is more likely to become more enjoyable and you will feel happier doing it.
So if you want to love your job, try to adopt the attitude of someone with a calling. Decide to do the very best job that you can do at all times: go above and beyond the minimum requirements, if you can, and take pleasure in helping your colleagues and in pleasing your boss.
Try to think positively: if something isn't going well, don't just complain about it at the water cooler - think how you can either improve it yourself or put forward a constructive suggestion to management. A change in attitude could mean that you might even end up genuinely enjoying your job.
What if I Don't Feel Like Whistling?
But what if you've tried to see your job in a more positive light but simply can't make the mental shift? Before rushing to apply for anything and everything which will get you out of your present situation, you need to sit down and consider just what it is that makes you dread going in to work every morning.
Forget minor irritations like the tedium of the daily commute - most jobs involve some kind of traveling, unless you telecommute or you're lucky enough to live within walking distance (which means you get wet when it rains, so is not ideal either).
Ed Diener, J.R. Smiley Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois, says that the main thing to ask yourself about your current working environment is whether in a specific period - the last year, say - you have had a chance to shine, to use your specific strengths and abilities, and if so whether this was recognized and appreciated. Appreciation for your individual talents goes a long way towards engendering a feeling of job satisfaction.
Also consider whether or not you’ve had opportunities to learn and to grow, both in your career and as a person. Were there any exciting new challenges, or did you pick up a useful new skill? The happiest workers are those who are given plenty of opportunities to use their special strengths and also to develop new ones.
Receiving positive feedback and appreciation enables you to see your work as meaningful; being given opportunities to add to your range of skills enables you to take on increasingly challenging tasks as your skills grow, so boredom can be kept at bay.
Don't End up Back Where You Started!
If your current job has provided you with neither an outlet for your unique strengths, nor any chance to develop fresh ones, a New Job for the New Year would seem to be the way to go. But take your time before applying for what sounds like the perfect job, to do some thorough research into both the new position and the new company. This will help ensure that you don't end up with exactly the same frustrations and resentments which are making you want to quit your current post.
Salary is important; so are opportunities for advancement. If, however, you want to avoid being slotted into one of Ms. Wrzesniewski's first two categories of "job-oriented" or "career-oriented", and instead dream of being "calling-oriented" (imagine going to work each day filled with passion and excitement!), the two main questions to ask when researching your next career move should be these:
• Will your new job will fully utilize your existing skills, strengths and talents?
• Will it provide you with new ways in which to learn, grow and develop?
If the answer to both these questions is "Yes!" then go for it.
As Professor Diener explains, when the challenge of a task and a person's skills are matched to each other, it is possible to become completely engrossed in one's work, to lose track of time and feel fully engaged. This is, ultimately, how we should all hope our job will make us feel - maybe not all the time, but for a considerable part of it.
To quote Steve Jobs: "The only way to do great work is to love what you do."