Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Importance of Being Properly Employed

No, this isn't about actually having a's about having the right job with the right (type of) employer.

A couple weeks ago marked the 2-year anniversary of my contracting at my primary client's. I mentioned this to my VP, and we reminisced for a couple minutes. He summed up why we work together so well in one sentence:

I don't like giving instruction, and you don't like taking it.

Obviously, this works because he completely trusts that I will do the job on time and well. If this wasn't such a truthful statement about both of us, I could have easily been offended by the description of me (even though it's true). And while I recognize there are limitations I face based on my preferred work style, my work style and my VP's management style mesh exceptionally well, so it's not an issue. I knew from the very beginning that my VP is a super macro-manager. He's the type that just tells you to do something -- not how to do it. In fact, he doesn't like being involved or told most of the minor details. He likes to know if I'm on track for the timeline, and if I'm getting the resources I need. Beyond that, I'm on my own.

I love working like this.

When I was in college, I worked for a couple temp agencies during holidays and summer breaks. While I never really had any particular difficult jobs, there were some particularly gruelling work environments. I remember temping in an office around Christmas time, and naturally the phones were dead. A deeply angry-at-the-world, unsatisfied woman would come over to the reception desk and start ranting and raving and swearing like a sailor, loudly...even when I was answering the phone. While there were nice people who worked there, I knew I never could. There was no way I'd have worked there, especially since they all tolerated this woman's exceptionally rude and highly unprofessional behavior.

The upshot was: as a temp, I saw many different offices, many different types of co-workers and managers, and I learned a lot about what I wanted and needed from an employer, a manager, and co-workers. When I graduated college and was ready to start searching for full-time work, I made a list of what I wanted from the company I would work for -- down to details like age range of potential co-workers. I ended up at the hi-tech job, and it met at least eight of the ten or so items on the list (I no longer have that list, though I wish I did). For a long time, the hi-tech job was a great match for me.

In the hi-tech days, I briefly had a supervisor who tried to micro-manage me and her other charges. It did not go over well with any of us. At one point, she sat behind me to watch me work. Of course, I wanted to turn around and smack her, but love of my paycheck prevented me from doing that. My final manager understood me a bit more (I think), and let me go about my business on my own terms. I came in later than everyone else, telecommuted 1-2 times each week, and worked with minimal direct supervision. Basically, my manager told me as long as I was in by 10am to handle my east coast customers, made meetings on time, and got the job actually done, I was pretty free to work and manage my time as I saw fit.

All that said, what I'm currently doing, and who I'm doing it for, perfectly illustrates how you should work. Do something you enjoy, and find the right employer. Writing and editing is a form of play for me, and doesn't often seem like "work." The website design and development is a bit more challenging, as I'm constantly pushing my knowledge (I'm now trying to figure out some php and javascript -- which are both completely alien to me) and doing something that isn't as natural as writing and editing.

I've heard many people say "don't do what you love because you'll end up hating it." To a certain extent, I can agree with that when it comes to creative professions. I know that I rarely write for fun, now that I'm paid to write and edit. Though since I actually get to write and edit most days, this makes me happy since I consider writing and editing a form of play -- and what is better than that?! However, actually starting a(nother) side business of making and selling jewelry has actually got me back in to flexing my creativity, as I hadn't made a necklace for myself (or anyone else, for that matter) in years, and I'm loving it.

Too, when you do something you really enjoy, it's just so much more satisfying. People who are enthusiastic about their job are more likely to get better raises and promotions, too.

Most of us spend so much time actually working, it behooves everyone involved to be doing what they like for a boss/client that matches their working style.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your boss. I can NOT deal with micromanagers. Freelancing is a great way to have the insurance that you don't have someone breathing down your neck in your cubicle. No thanks. For me, it only leads to resentment and a less productivity.