A little more than three years ago I graduated from college, ready to kick off my career with a job lined up starting one week later. Taking my first official step into the oft-talked about “real world” I had so many thoughts about what it would be like. I couldn’t wait to put my marketing degree to use and spend all my time solving strategic problems for brands.
Entering work at an agency, I envisioned days filled with brainstorms, whiteboards, pitches, creative meetings, and 4 PM keg-tapping.
I wanted it all, and I was ready for it all.
I soon learned that everything I had envisioned was a fantasy. Sure, I was involved in brainstorms, pitches, creative meetings, and sometimes on Fridays we would crack open a beer to close the day, but it was overshadowed by preparing contracts, proofreading website copy, creating PowerPoint presentations (oh Powerpoint, how I loathe thee), filling out project documents, compiling reports, and status calls–my God the status calls.
About 6 months in, I realized something: I was really happy.
I had to do a lot of bogus work, but at the end of the day I was still going home saying that I loved my job.
Meanwhile, I had friends and professional connections at other companies living it up with their kegs, ping-pong tables, Mario Kart, creative meetings where you can write in marker on the walls, and crazy client outings. They had the life I was hoping for, but they were going home saying their job was fun, but overall just okay.
Right around that 6 month mark I was working late one night, drafting a bear of a contract. I didn’t finish until midnight, and had to be back at the office by 7:00 the next morning if I wanted enough hours to get everything else done. When I did hit the pillow that night I felt good. It struck me that at no point during that contract drafting that I so sorely despised did I say to myself, “WHY AM I DOING THIS?!”
I didn’t have that glamorous agency life I envisioned in college, and I was doing more work that annoyed me than not. Yet I was still smiling, and the people I knew who did have the glamorous agency life and were doing all the fun work were not.
WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH ME? Was I addicted to labor? Did I enjoy deprivation and failing to see my visions come to fruition?
It wasn’t any of these things. There was something else in play that put the smile on my face. something I like to call The 70% Rule.
I went into my new job thinking that I’d always be doing cool stuff 100% of the time. That was not the case, and it’s never the case. The functional parts of our job that we glamourize–the things that we love doing–we don’t get to do 100% of the time. In fact, we don’t even get to do them 50% of the time. The truth is we likely never exceed 30%. There are always administrative tasks that need to get done, paperwork that needs to be filled out, and ‘stuff’ that gets put on our plate that takes up about 70% of our work.
So with only 30% of our ideal functional job, and 70% consumed by everything else, there needs to be something that provides balance to make us happy at work.
That balance comes from two things:
1) Do you enjoy who you work with?
2) Do you receive the respect you feel you deserve?
If you don’t like your coworkers, it’s real tough to be happy when you spend at least 40 hours a week with those people.
Respect shows its face in many forms:
- Do you understand your role within the company and how you impact its success?
- Is there a clear path for career growth and opportunity to achieve it?
- Do your team members look out for you?
- Is your boss your champion within the company, and does he/she foster your growth?
- Are you being compensated appropriately?
- Are you being challenged?
- Are you allowed to voice your opinion and share ideas?
- Are there people within the company you can trust, and who can trust you?
- Are you allowed to be yourself?
- Is your work valued by others?
- Do you receive praise for a job well done, and is that praise acknowledged publicly?
- Can you be yourself without worrying if that’s a problem?
- Do you feel like you are part of something?
- Do you get appropriate HR benefits and time off?
I find it interesting now when people tell me their company is great because they have a Ms. Pac-Man Coffee Table in their break room. When I hear that I know I won’t be surprised if I see them looking for a new job in a year.
The video games, never-ending beer supply, and table tennis are all temporary distractions, and oftentimes they mask a lack of respect. Getting to Level 5 in an arcade game during your break only goes so far before you get frustrated that you are making $10,000 less than what you want and have no idea if you’ll get promoted at your next review
Enjoying your coworkers and being respected are what truly matter to a person. It’s why I was happy to work on a contract at midnight, email it to the client, and still write, “hey–I know it’s super late, but I can review this with you if you have 15 minutes free right now.”
With only 30% of your ideal functional job, your remaining 70% of extra work has to be packaged with liking your coworkers, and receiving the respect you feel you deserve.
Always evolving and never changing, Rajiv Nathan uses his experiences to inspire others. He is the Co-Founder of Idea Lemon, helping people figure life out by discovering their inner awesome to create powerful personal brands. He is also a public speaker, rapper, pun-maker, and lifelong fan of WWE.
Image credit: CC by greg westfall