My job is the right one for me. This realization dawned on me a few weeks ago, and I can't tell you what a relief that was. I mean, I have been pretty happy in my job ever since I joined the company about 10 months ago, but there is more to it than that. The job that's right for you does all of the following: makes you happy, takes you to the next step in your career, teaches you new things, expands your options, rewards you financially and more. Let's discuss a few of those and how they relate to my current position:
The Job Makes You Happy - everyone has their good days and bad days at work, but if your job is right for you, the good days are much more frequent than the other kind. A good sign that you are happy in your work is that you find it easy to go to work in the morning and you don't mind working hard. I have never been someone who is in love with their job to the exclusion of all else, but my current position makes me happy.
The Job Takes You to the Next Stage - career path is one of the most important things about a job. If your position is not taking you in the direction you want to go, it is not the right job for you. Don't get me wrong - many people find their jobs completely satisfying knowing full well that their positions don't offer too many opportunities for advancement. That's a very legitimate attitude, however, for career oriented professionals such as I, taking a job that doesn't move your career in the right direction is simply a bad choice. In this sense, my current position is superb: I am getting a great deal of exposure, I have been given a great deal of responsibility and I have no doubt that come the time, if I perform my job well, I will be able to use my current position as a springboard to my next executive position. That's probably several years in the future, but I am certainly getting properly trained.
Your Job Teaches You New Things - here is my philosophy: if you don't feel at least a little like a fraud each day at work, you are not in the right position for you. The right position for you is one that makes you stretch and do things you have never done before. When you get up in the morning to go to work, you should be feeling at least a little nervous. One of my business school professors used to say "knowledge makes a bloody entrance". I say, bring it on. At least several times a month, when I am on my way to work, I wonder if I will be able to pull off the task I am expected to accomplish that day. For example, over the past few weeks I have been negotiating a deal that is critical to the survival of my company. If I make a serious mistake, my company will be in big trouble. How's that for pressure? I love it. However, it is important not to take this to the extreme. Never take a position for which you do not have the qualifications to succeed. Utter failure does not exactly advance your career.
Your Job Should Expand Your Options - when you finish school you have a huge number of options open to you. You can choose to become a doctor, an actress, a yacht captain. Hell, you could decide that juggling is your life's calling. The further you progress in your career, the fewer options remain open. I mean, if you have been working as a chemical engineer or as a nurse for 20 years, you are very unlikely to be hired as a museum curator in your next gig... so what do I mean by "expand your options"? I mean that specialization is good, but pigeon holing is bad. If you are a marketing professional that has been doing only PR for your last three jobs, your options aren't expanding very much. Chances are your next job will be limited to PR as well. In that sense, my current job has opened up a sea of options for me. My career has been mostly in business development and law. In my last position, I used my business development expertise to grow into a marketing role and eventually led my company's outbound marketing activities. In my current position I get to use every business skill I ever developed. I negotiate large contracts, I have a central role in business strategy, I own our outbound marketing efforts. I am also involved in many areas which I have never dealt with before, such as finance and operations. In this sense I am becoming a more rounded executive and this will allow me to fit into a larger number of future positions.
Your Job Should Reward You Financially - duh! But there's more to it than that. Even if everything else fits, taking a position that does not offer the financial rewards you need, is not smart. I am not advocating that job seekers never accept a lower paying job. However I am suggesting that for better or for worse, most of us use our paycheck as a measure of our success. It may be an imperfect measure, but it is the only objective way for us to compare our position to that of our peers. I also believe that if people don't feel that they are being properly compensated for their efforts they find the experience de-motivating, and ultimately there is a good chance that their performance will be impacted. On paper, my compensation in my current position is about 20% higher than it was in my previous position. However, in practice my cash compensation is roughly the same as it was previously even though my responsibilities and title are substantially increased compared to my last job (that, however, is a topic for another post).
I would like to acknowledge Brip Blap, whose post "How to Succeed in Your Job" has inspired me to write this post.