I was talking with Dawn the other day, sharing a perspective about the concept of work, and how it is that we do our jobs. As I’ve reaped the benefits of years of experience (read as: gotten a lot older), I have decided that to describe an overall approach to the whole concept of work, a gross oversimplification is helpful, so here it is:
All jobs can be broken down into two essential components:
the part that you have to do,
the part that you get to do.
Since everyone is different, and has different tastes and preferences, these parts will vary. Some people enjoy meeting with clients; some enjoy the creative work that comes after the client meeting; some enjoy the mechanical production work that brings the creativity to life; some enjoy the delivery and tailoring of their product to the customer; and some people honestly enjoy the bookkeeping and administrative aspects of running a business. None of these is exclusive – you can love doing all of these things, in any combination. But I’ve never met a person who doesn’t have a favorite – and a least-favorite – part of their job.
Here’s the “wisdom” that I’ve been asked to share with you:
The way I see it, my goal for a career is to maximize the time spent doing the part of my job that I get to do, while keeping in check the part of my job that I have to do.
Sounds simple, right? It is, as a concept. It can also be devilishly hard to do, because it requires a structured approach to your business. Now, everyone is different, so I won’t pretend to have the one-size-fits-all answer about how to structure a business and how to mix and match the “have-to” parts with the “get-to” parts. But I’m happy to share a few things that help me, as I try to incorporate these ideas in my own career. In no particular order, they are:
Remember that the part that you “get to do” is the way you can really express yourself. Take pride in it, do it well, and make that your signature.
Use this as a test to check that you’re doing the right things. If there’s nothing but “have to do” involved in your work, and that’s not going to change anytime soon, it might be time to think about nudging your career in a different direction.
Recognize that sometimes the “have to” segments of a job lead to realizations that improve the fun parts – but that generally only happens if you’re open to seeing things from different perspectives.
It’s also really important to avoid the temptation to completely skip the “have to” parts – or, worse, to do them, but so sloppily that you have to go back and re-work them. What helps me is to remind myself, when mired in a pile of reports that I don’t want to deal with, that I’m simply paying the price for the time that I get to spend learning about my clients’ needs and designing solutions to their problems. It helps especially because I know that the more thoroughly I work through the boring stuff, the more knowledge and experience I will bring into my interactions with my clients and staff.
Since I was asked to keep this short, I’ll try and wrap up now. I’d like to leave you with an example of what I’m trying to describe: writing this note to you, dear readers, prompted me to put form to some ideas that were kicking around in my head for a while – which, in turn, led to some other ideas that will be of use in a project that I’m working on. I’ll admit that when I was asked to write a guest blog, I was honored, but… still, it fell into the “have to” category – it seemed like a good idea, and I was happy to do it, and all, but it still meant an obligation… which turned into an enjoyable hour of thinking and developing concepts that I will be using to win over clients tomorrow. I offer that as proof of the subtle ju-jitsu that you can do to shift your thinking away from viewing work as a list of chores and into reshaping your career to be something more like jazz, in which you can improvise on themes that you create and modify endlessly.
Escape from the boredom. Take a chance, and go where it leads you. And be on the lookout for the things that make you excited about starting your workday – and then savor those moments and use them to build even more opportunities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gabriele serves as a senior adviser for technology programs for the US government. He lives in the Washington DC area with his wife, their two kids, and a pair of Siamese cats.
Dawn M. Tomczyk-Bhajan | DMT Artistry, LLC | www.DMTArtistry.com
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