Want to start saying “I Love What I Do”? Here’s How
Let’s face it: “doing what you love” sounds great in theory—but applying the idea in real life is more confusing than trying to get your parent’s surround sound to work.
Some people spend months, years—even their whole lives—trying to figure out what they love to do. The next conundrum is puzzling over how to make a living birdwatching or crafting birthday cards out of collage art. Once past that hurdle, one might even find the thing they love turns into something they hate when it becomes a job.
Loving what you do, however, is a less mysterious equation.
Job satisfaction has been heavily studied over the past half century, and it turns out that you can love what you do—whether that be a travel blogger for NatGeo or App Developer for CIBC—by nailing a few key elements.
Find the meaning
Whether you’re part of a company whose values match yours, or you see the positive effects of your own work in other people’s lives, moral satisfaction is a huge influencer in loving what you do.
The trick: it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It needs to feel meaningful to you.
Take Bo Ha, a former RED student who now works as a UI Designer at Colony Digital. She gets that satisfaction from helping her clients achieve specific goals. “It’s absolutely exciting to see how design enhances a company, by building and executing solutions crafted specifically for their values and goals,” Bo says.
Another way to get that boost of meaning through your job? Shack up with a company that has a charity partner. More and more companies are recognizing its value, and employee engagement is higher because of it.
“Room for growth” are words often thrown around at the interview table, but don’t pawn them off as a tired buzz term.
The link between growth and happiness has been noted by some of history’s greatest minds. The late 20th-century poet, William Butler Yeats, wrote: “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”
In the context of “what you do”, that doesn’t have to mean moving up within a company. Knowing that you’re honing your skills towards a new position, company or entrepreneurial goal further down the line can be equally satisfying.
Former RED Digital Marketing grad Princess Akushika Tettey can attest to that. Growth is her benchmark for happiness at her job as a Marketing Operations Specialist in Vancouver. “I feel good because I know I’m not stagnant,” she says. “I feel myself growing and changing constantly.”
Go with intention
Call it goal-setting or simply making intentional decisions, but the effects are the same: when you can own the events that brought you to where you are now, you feel more in control of your own life. So when good things come about, pat yourself on the back: that was all you. It helps you realize your own power.
Tyler Nemeth in Toronto discovered the truth of this after giving up his days of floating with the tide to swim for a goal: “I chose Digital Marketing, I chose RED Academy, I chose this path,” he says. “It feels good to have picked a direction for myself.”
That doesn’t mean planning out your whole future. There are too many variables for that, and you need to stay flexible. But setting intentions for the type of growth you want is 👍.
Find your cultural fit
“Work culture” might be the buzziest two words in the employment world right now. And for good reason. It can be what turns a “stuffy bank” into your dream workplace.
That may sound like a stretch, but here’s proof. RED UX/UI grad Jill Dickieson wanted to work at a snazzy startup, but took a job at CIBC as a UX/UI Designer instead. It has completely surprised her. “It’s not at all what I thought it was going to be,” she says. “Company culture is great. My coworkers are all around my age and super passionate about what they do. I love my job!” FYI: Jill was formerly in the coveted world of fashion design.
Keep your eyes peeled for the kind of environment that suits your style, whether it be bookish and quiet or social and team-centric. And remember, it could be the difference between loving and hating what you do.
Go where you’re respected
Forget social status.
As Roman Krznaric spells out in his book How To Find Fulfilling Work, it’s feeling respected for what we do and how we do it that helps make a meaningful career. He quotes the sociologist of work Richard Sennett, who says, “Respect enables us to feel like a full human being whose presence matters.”
Kat Solberg went from working retail and borderline depressed. Now she’s web developing at the best place she’s ever worked. The biggest difference, she says, is feeling respected. “I’ve never worked at a company that cares so much about me as a human before,” she says. “And honestly, I don’t know if I could ever go back now.”
That kind of mad respect is out there for you.
Activate your strengths
Feeling good at what you do doesn’t just make you more productive. It satisfies the innate human need to be useful.
There’s a reason why more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500 companies use the popular CliftonStrengths system with their employees. It’s a treasure chest of happiness when everyone uses their strengths to work together. Systems run more smoothly, and everyone is magically more cheerful.
If you aren’t sure what your strengths are, consider taking the CliftonStrengths test. Ideation, Discipline or Activator are just a few that could crop up in your top 5 themes, and you might be surprised at aspects of yourself that qualify as strengths. Even better, compare those strengths to different fields like UX Design or Web Development to see what you’re best suited for.
Freedom = being in control of your own life = happiness.
For some people—say, digital nomads for example—the freedom is apparent. “I start my work day at 5:30am, finish at 1:30 and we rip off to the lake for a full day of camping,” attests Sean Stobo, a Full Stack Web Developer who works remotely and splits his time between Vancouver and Pemberton.
But even for a 9-to-5er, compare the same position at two different companies and you may find vastly different levels of freedom—whether that be freedom of time or freedom of choice.
In How To Find Fulfilling Work, Krznaric cites research showing that job satisfaction is directly related to ‘span of autonomy’. In other words, the amount of each day that you feel free to make your own decisions affects your happiness at work
A micromanaging boss who doesn’t trust your ability to make good calls is a motivation killer. But a client who sets you free on a project and knows you’ll meet the end goal is as motivating as 10 gold stars.
Get into your flow
It’s the optimal state of consciousness: when you’re so focused on a task that time fades away. Suddenly you look at the clock and it’s lunch time. One of the biggest psychological surveys in history was on this subject. It found that we feel the best when we’re experiencing “flow”.
There are some parameters to getting into your flow state. For instance, clear goals that are challenging but attainable, an activity that is intrinsically rewarding, and strong concentration and focused attention. Recognizing your flow state and giving yourself the right environment to achieve it can benefit any interest you have. But finding work that lets you flow—now, that can take you to the next level of happiness.
Find flow in your work, and you may just find yourself saying “I love what I do.”
Written by Carly Jansen
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