how to succeed at your job

First 360

After more than a month of unemployment – during which time I am, for all intents and purposes, a professional writer – I have found that I’m starting to miss my corporate consulting gig. I miss the contemplative time I had during my long commute.  I miss the fear I felt as I walked into the lobby, past heavily armed police officers with assault weapons.   I miss the early morning routine of standing in line before being run through a gauntlet of metal detectors and passing not one but three security checkpoints.  The bitter instant coffee.  The fluorescent lights!  And the meetings, oh the meetings!

That’s enough sarcasm for one post. I will start missing the big checks at some point but so far I haven’t.  If nothing else I’ve already saved $400+ on commuting costs this month.  I got my final load of dry cleaned clothes from the cleaners, and I haven’t needed to buy my lunch once because I’ve been too lazy to pack one the night before.  I’ve had more time to spend with my kids and for the first time in years I’ve actually slept until 7:00 am (until Little Buddy careened into our bed).  I’ve managed to start exercising again – albeit not on a regular schedule yet – and so far I would call unemployment an unqualified success.

You only need two things to succeed at your job. It doesn’t matter if your job is working retail, corporate consulting or even just being a stay-at-home parent.   Everyone has “a job.”  The vogue these days (at least in most of the blogs I read, which are a bit of a self-reinforcing bunch) seems to be to look down on jobs.  I have written my fair share of articles expressing that view.  Yet everyone has a job.  Some people are luckier than others:  their job pays more, or allows more free time or comes closer to the definition of an avocation than it does to the definition of a job.

The two things you need to succeed at your job are:

  1. the basic skills necessary for the job: You can’t be a plumber if you don’t know how to unclog a drain.  You can’t be a lawyer if you can’t pass the bar.  But you CAN be a good consultant if you can solve problems and present that solution clearly.  You can do many jobs quite well with just the basic skills necessary for that job.   If you can clear that minimum threshold with your skills, you can succeed… if you also have thing #2.
  2. a (net) enjoyment for what you’re doing: Forgive me for being an accountant.  The idea of net enjoyment is probably peculiar to an accountant, but it’s an accurate description of a basic condition:  the positives outweigh the negatives.  Every undertaking in the world, be it a corporate job, an entrepreneurial endeavor or a family picnic has SOME positives and SOME negatives.  The balance in one direction or the other is often quite clear, but sometimes it is close to balancing.  The trick is to understand those close-to-balancing situations.  Are you in a position, work-wise, where the positives outweigh the negatives?  If not, do you see that situation reversing itself in the future?  And if not, when are you quitting?  Every day you have to make that assessment, considering the long tail of your work over the last few years, or even over your entire life – has it been, net, a good undertaking?

If you don’t have the basic skills for a job (be honest with yourself, but chances are you do since you’re doing it already), or you don’t have a net enjoyment for what you’re doing, I don’t think you’re going to get far. People who are highly skilled but hate their jobs don’t get far.  People who are incompetent and love their jobs don’t get far, either.  People who are moderately skilled and like what they do for a living can often do quite well.  I don’t think they will be millionaires, necessarily, but they should be successful at that undertaking.  Make sure you can assess your own skills, and your TRUE level of enjoyment for your work, and you’ll be able to make an accurate judgment as to whether you’ll succeed eventually – or not.

photo credit: Chovee

10 comments

  • so true. i actually think that people overestimate #1. just because you are smart and interested and have some skills, doesn't mean you have all that is required for that job. i think if people were more self-aware about the combo of skills required, they'd realize that some of the unhappiness comes from fitting a square peg in a round hole.

  • Great post. I already know that it is time to check out, its just a matter of when =0). Its something that I am working on now.

  • I actually think there's a #3 to be successful: be someone people like to work with. I always thought ANYONE with basic accounting/finance/tax skills could have done my job at least as well as I did, but the thing that ultimately made me successful was that people WANTED to have me around. I was fun to work with. And if you can have a skilled person that's fun vs. a skilled person that's a pain in the ass to work with, that's what really sets you apart.

  • I think having an enjoyment for your work not necessarily helps you work better, but it gives you the motivation to want to learn more and to develop your skills further. That's where the success comes into play for someone who enjoys their job.

  • Not sure about this. I know quite a few lawyers, for example, who really hate their jobs but are still doing quite well and have made partners in their firm… it helps to like what do, but I am not sure it's an absolute necessity.

  • I like this concept of “net enjoyment,” never heard of it before but I like it. I think most people live at the extremes (or try to): “I love my job” or “I hate my job,” when in reality you just need to be “in the black.”

    It's all we can ask for.

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  • Thank you very much for the tips. I will use it.

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