By Andrew Kupperman, RISQ Consulting Employer Services and Workforce Technology Consultant, SHRM-CP
I know we’re past Valentine’s Day, but have you ever heard someone say, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”? If you have, I’m curious as to what your reaction was. Did you laugh in their face? Did you give them a look of confusion to signal you had no idea what they meant by that? Or did you suddenly realize every job you’ve ever worked, you’ve absolutely hated?
There are many aspects that go into liking a job; who you work with, the relationship with the person supervising you, the mission of the organization you’re working for, compensation and benefits. All of these are important factors that will ultimately help you decide if you want to continue working at a specific job. But, what about the work you’re actually doing? Where does that rank in terms of importance, and how do you figure out if what you’re doing is something you actually love to do?
From an employer aspect, it is important that the people who work for you have some semblance of liking what they do. In terms of why employees leave jobs, doing what you love, doesn’t rank as high as some of the other factors. However, try to imagine your workplace where everyone detests doing what they do? As an employer, do you think you would still enjoy leading this kind of team? Now I know what you may be thinking: the work we do at our organization isn’t exactly exciting, so how do we go about getting our employees jazzed about doing what they do on a daily basis?
This brings me to my first point – finding meaning in what you do. Here at RISQ Consulting, the majority of our business is related to Insurance, which is probably one of the most publicly disliked, non-alluring types of business you can think of. So how do we, as workers within the insurance industry, go about finding value doing the day-to-day work? One of the reasons why insurance is so widely loathed is because it’s very complicated. It’s a product you pay for, that you might not ever use, and when you do actually need to use it, you might need to jump through 1,000 fiery hoops in order for it to successfully meet your needs.
At RISQ, we strive to take the pain of insurance away from our clients, whenever they are interacting or using the insurance products we sell. And many of us can recall the specific moments where we’ve been able to help our clients in times of the most dire needs and situations. One thing we like to do is talk about these moments often, because they are the moments where we find the most meaning for our day-to-day efforts, and we don’t ever want to lose sight of that. I like to think of having that meaning or value in what you do as the base for being able to love what you do. But you need to talk about these experiences with others to help reinforce them.
But there are other things involved in being able to build that job that you love – mainly the actual tasks you do on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t always easy to determine. In my schooling days, I was brought up to become a well-rounded individual, and so was taught many different subjects in which I felt I needed to excel. Some of these subjects I didn’t like, others I did, and as I went through the different levels of school, I found that sometimes the subjects I liked changed in comparison to lower levels of education. Looking back on why this happened, I think at certain ages I got a certain kind of energy by doing different types or work or learning about certain subjects. I felt this energy when I was doing something and I had no real sense of time when I was doing that task. I also felt energized after completing that task as opposed to feeling drained. This energy ultimately factored into the subjects I liked, and exceled in at different points in my youth.
I’ve discovered the same thing happens at work. I get energy from doing certain tasks versus others that can drain me. Sometimes, it’s hard to recognize this because, going back to my youth, I was brought up to try to excel at everything. But I wonder sometimes if I was able to focus in on the things that give me the most energy, would I get closer to that magical place of loving what I do? I think with any job, there are always going to be some things that don’t give you this energy, and you ultimately don’t like doing. But just imagine, if you could work on increasing the number of tasks that do give you that energy, maybe, just maybe, you could start liking or even loving what you do.
So now that we have the foundation of finding meaning and value in what you do, and identifying more tasks that give you that sense of energy, it’s important to be able to express these things with your direct supervisor. Remember when I said there are always going to be things that don’t give you that sense of energy? Well, it’s likely that these tasks still need to be done. But because these tasks can drain you, it can lead to inefficiencies, errors, complacency, and general unproductiveness, which isn’t good for you or the organization you work for. So be open about this topic with yourself, as well as your supervisor. There are only positive things that can come out of being open about your strengths as a worker. A competent supervisor would recognize the benefit to you being more productive, happy, and in love with what you’re doing, and at the very least offer a compromise to get you doing more things that give you energy and make you more productive.
So I hope I’ve laid the groundwork for getting to love what you do – meaning in what you do, and finding those things that give you that special energy. Just remember the skills you’ll need to be successful are being open and honest with yourself first, and then being able to communicate these things with your supervisor and potentially other co-worker