By Caitlin Kelly
Most people don’t.
It’s shocking, and sad, that so few Americans enjoy what they do for a living; every new Gallup poll finds a majority of them, two-thirds, “disengaged” — a state of affairs that leads to endless, tedious screeds on LinkedIn and Twitter about how to “engage” your staff.
If you hate what you do all day, you’re unlikely to do it well.
That photo above is of one of Jose’s credentials; he’s been working freelance with the United States Golf Association for a few years now.
He got the job thanks to a few introductions, (and his excellent skills!) The man loves golf. Now they fly him across the U.S. to photo edit their major tournaments.
I lost my fancy newspaper job in 2006 and freelancing was going poorly. So, in September 2007 I took a part-time job as a sales associate, for $11/hr and no commission, at a local mall.
Long past my teenage years, I was the oldest member of our 15-person team, including our manager and assistant manager.
Initially, I really liked the job.
And yet it’s a job everyone knows is nasty — crappy pay, no challenge, tedious and repetitive.
Any job, if you enjoy elements of it, can make you happy
My fancy newspaper job had actually been a year of misery, (details tedious), the most difficult experience of my career.
So being once more liked, accepted, even welcomed — albeit into a low-wage, low-status part-time job, healed me. No one was trying to force me out. No one refused to speak to me if I said “hello” to them.
I was good at selling, able to relate easily to a wide range of customers, from the emissary for an Arabian prince to Finnish bankers to a Boy Scout. I loved the variety of people who shopped in our store, (The North Face), and being able to help them.
When you emerge from a job, no matter how prestigious or well paid, where nothing you ever do is deemed good enough, simply being able to please someone is a real solace.
It was for me.
Working retail also allowed me to use my French and Spanish skills occasionally, sharing travel tips with shoppers who were buying a backpack to train across Europe or a suitcase to go to Peru, places I’d been to and could discuss helpfully.
Every job, even the most putatively glamorous you can think of, has elements you will probably never love — highly-paid actors often loathe the press junkets and conferences and interviews they have to do to promote their films. They just want to act!
So I appreciated this recent essay:
First, make sure you choose a career or project that you enjoy pursuing, one that offers present benefits for you. Keep in mind that unless you find small pleasures in your daily routine, you will not stick to it.
Second, add present benefits to your working hours. Listen to music, make friends and break the routine with social activities. Do whatever makes you happy at work; you can stick to your career goals longer if your work is enjoyable in the moment.
Third, bring to mind those present benefits that do exist at your work. Maybe you just have not been paying attention to them…You can similarly motivate yourself to engage in your work by directing attention to the positive aspects of your tasks.
As I write this, I’m wearing a sweatshirt and leggings, no make-up, hair unbrushed, listening to classical music on the radio aloud, (no need for headphones.)
I don’t have to get dressed or waste hours commuting, crammed into a crowded train or traffic or subway, leaping pools of icy water and slush.
I don’t have to pretend to like mean co-workers or a bullying boss.
I’ll go to the gym when it suits me, or go for a walk, or (rarely) even go to an afternoon movie. The freedom to set my schedule matters enormously to me.
I usually eat all three meals at home, saving time, money and calories. My husband is home today as well, sorting through a mountain of 2016 receipts to make sure we get every possible tax deduction from our combined freelance incomes.
Do I enjoy my work?
Yes, I do. But I also clearly enjoy the conditions in which I perform it.
What do I still love about writing, editing and teaching?
— Meeting and speaking with an amazing array of people, from Queen Elizabeth to convicted felons to Olympic athletes.
— At best, working with smart, tough editors and clients who expect high levels of skill and emotional intelligence.
— Finding and sharing complex stories with millions of readers.
— Learning something new with every story I write, whether pension reform, utility deregulation, air turbulence, Broadway stagehand work or apotropaic traditions in house construction.
— Connecting worldwide with fellow writers, some of whom are generous enough to share referrals and clients with me (and vice versa.)
— Meeting smart younger writers through my blog and Twitter.
— Helping others think more clearly and communicate more effectively. Here’s my website, with my classes.
— Intellectual freedom.
That’s not even a complete list!