After a very nice Thanksgiving with family and friends, I was reading in bed last night while watching television. (It drives Terrific T. nuts when I do this, because he says that I cannot possibly do both things at once, but I promise you I can.) I happened upon an Adam Sandler movie that I'd never heard of, called "Click." The basic premise is somewhat akin to Dickens' Christmas Carol. Sandler plays a man who becomes engrossed in his career and looking for short-cuts and solutions, and is given a remote control which allows him to fast forward through parts of his life that are unpleasant. The end result is that he's on "auto-pilot" during the fast forwarded bits, and in doing so alienates his wife and children and he dies unhappy. Of course, he gets a second go at it and ditches the remote and never uses it the second time around. The moral of the story for me was that your life can pass you buy while you're trying to climb the corporate ladder.
The article I was reading was by Suzy Welch, via Oprah. It was titled "Getting Unstuck," and basically talked about women in their 30's and 40's who realize that they have worked their butts off and achieved "success," but are still professionally dissatisified. Welch opines in the article that after doing thousands of interviews, she believes that in order to be truly happy, it is important to continually ask yourself five questions. The answers obviously ebb and flow over the course of time. So, without further ado, the questions, and what I thought of them.
1. Does this job allow me to work with "my people"--individuals who share my sensibilities about life--or do I have to put on a persona to get through the day?
I thought this was an interesting question. For a long time, I felt like a square peg in my current job. I think I've changed a lot as a person while I've been there, which is something of a mixed bag. I guess I would say that I still tend to be much more liberal than my colleagues, and more devoted to serving my community and making the world a better place. For many people, I think working in my office may simply be a rung toward personal gain. I think this actually accounts for much of the discord--if people were merely making decisions because they were the "right thing to do," I would be much happier. My two complaints with my current job are that there is too much work, and I'm not treated well sometimes. The occasions when I'm not treated well involve personal agendas that are definitely driven by personal gain (or the desire for others to avoid taking personal responsibility for problems, which obviously results in personal gain by not taking hits for mistakes and/or problems), and a failure to attempt to do what is truly the right thing.
2. Does this job challenge, stretch, change, and otherwise make me smarter--or does it leave my brain in neutral?
I am definitely challenged on a regular basis. On the other hand, I am not as challenged as I once was, because I work in a fairly specific area, and I've been doing it for a number of years now. In any case, my brain is NEVER left in neutral, and I doubt it would ever get to that point with my current employer. This is not so much of an issue.
3. Does this job, because of the company's "brand" or my level of responsibility, open the door to future jobs?
Yes. No question about that. The challenge at this point is taking full advantage of this. Truthfully, there are days when I am so tired and worn down that I just want to bail. But I've put all of this time and effort in for so many years, I really need to take advantage of my position and use it as a launching pad to something even better. It's really hard to stick with it right now, though. My tank is empty. The other challenge for me is that I don't want many of the jobs that my current job typically opens the door to. That's not to say that my job can't or won't be a launching pad to other types of jobs--just that it's not frequently done, so it's hard for me to figure out how to get from here to there (especially when I'm not quite sure yet where "there" is).
4. Does this job represent a considerable compromise for the sake of my family, and if so, do I sincerely accept that deal with all of its consequences?
This job represents a considerable compromise at the expense of my family, and no, I don't sincerely accept the deal with all of its consequences. It's one of the biggest reasons why I need to leave, in fact.
5. Does this job--the stuff I actually do day-to-day--touch my heart and feed my soul in meaningful ways?
Some days. Many days? At its core, the work that I do and the people that I benefit touch my heart and nourish my soul. But, the work environment and the office politics are draining and soul-sucking. I guess in the final analysis, I feel like I could be more appreciated and less abused. I feel like I could find a job that is more upside, with fewer costs. My current job costs too much for the benefits to be worth it any more.
When I look at my answers to these questions, I feel like there are many pieces of them that I can respond positively to, which I guess explains why I love my job so much. There are also pieces that I don't respond so well to, which could also explain my current dissatisfaction. Food for thought.