Signs You're in the Right Job
By Amanda Frank
Monster Contributing Writer
You’re heading to work and you feel like you can conquer the day. You feel like a lightweight boxer bouncing in your corner of the ring, owning it, paws up and jabbing, ready for anything to take a swing at you. Ding ding ding. That’s a good sign you’re in the right job.
Your daily reserve of energy gives you all the psychological grounding and mental focus you need to be happy and productive at work. You’re keeping yourself well nourished. You’re being moderate with the toxins. You feel balanced. Your commute to work is your treasured downtime. You use it to get other stuff done, balance your checkbook on the train or listen to a chapter of your book-on-tape in the car.
Come Friday you might be excited for the weekend but you don’t feel like you need a full-blown vacation. Sunday night you’re tucked in bed at a decent enough hour to wake up refreshed and ready on Monday morning because the prospect of Monday doesn’t fill you with dread.
Your mind is stimulated, you’re generating ideas and you’re able to contribute them. You don’t need to be building the strategy of the company in order to do this. It can happen at any level and frequency that makes sense in your situation.
You can think up new ways to improve your department’s operations. You can pitch a new product concept. You can even stick a comment in the suggestion box about the company picnic. Contributing means you’re giving more than the basics expected of you according to your job description, going beyond your immediate box set of tasks.
You can contribute by helping a colleague with a presentation. Volunteering for the holiday party committee. Picking up the cake for an office birthday celebration. The act of contributing comes in many permutations, big and small, love them all.
When you’re at a dinner party and somebody asks you “so what do you do?” how do you feel about answering that question? Is it tough to shut you up once you get going about your work? Even if you’re matching each bit of praise with a complaint, it’s a good sign you’re passionate and proud to be doing what you’re doing.
Much better than pretending you didn’t hear the question. Or mumbling your answer while moving your hand over your mouth to prevent lip reading. Or swallowing the wrong way to lodge your food in your esophagus and create a choking diversion (and if you’re silly enough to do that don’t run to the bathroom because you’ll just probably wind up asphyxiating on your shame.)
Think about which aspects of your job fill you with pride. Several things should float effortlessly to the surface of your mind. The company you work for, the project you manage, the clients on your roster, company perks and benefits, access to cool technology.
When you’re proud of what you do it seeps into your identity. Like the chemist/physicist couple I overheard the other day at Ikea proudly telling the cashier they’re buying vases to make elaborate science experiment wedding centerpieces. (And I proudly resisted making any kind crack about formaldehyde.) In the right situation the words come easy, loud and proud.
You’re among friends
Your job doesn’t exist in a happiness bubble. It’s part of a contingency of factors including having daily access to likeminded people with whom you get along. Think about what breeds camaraderie. Similarity. Birds of a feather flock together. You have stuff in common, you share a laugh, you lend support.
Otherwise work can be horribly alienating and beg you to question what you’re doing there. Friendships at work encourage moments of strength in trying times. If you’ve ever had a friend you would know what a help one can be.
It’s a good sign if you feel like you can relate to your colleagues. Apart from having a support system, it also means both you and your hiring manager were right in thinking you’d be a good fit for the company. I’m not saying you should be cardboard cutouts of each other. Relatable and complementary. You needn’t be bestest buddies either. You get together for the occasional coffee, you feel like you’re part of a group. You’re in the right job if you look around your office and you’re able to count a few friends.
Here’s a point that never gets old, even after you do. Whether you’re eight or eighty. Whether you’re a green new grad or a weathered veteran. The opportunity to learn will sustain your happiness. It doesn’t have to pertain to your job directly. It can be a peripheral stimulus. It can come from being exposed to interesting clients, volunteers, travel.
There was a time in my early twenties that I worked for a non-profit foundation and one of the more eccentric philanthropists, an exceptional man about 50 years my senior took me under his wing and mentored me. He had a rich philosophy about life, charity, art, family, honor and creativity. He wanted to teach. I wanted to learn. Technically it was part of my job to indulge him under the auspices of building donor relationships. Actually it was the best part of my job. It was so enriching that as long as it endured it obscured many of the job’s downers.
Eventually two things happened, he ran out of lessons and I left that job. The mentorship was always based on the fact that I was a comparatively empty vessel he could fill with his knowledge and wisdom. It was time to move on. I’ve carried the things I learned in that time throughout my life. One of which was realizing the correlation of learning and happiness at work.
Having said all that, you should now be able to tap into your intuition and figure out if you’re in the right job or the wrong job. Either way, knowing where you stand empowers you. If the outcome is positive your appreciation for your job will only grow. If it’s negative you’ll know what changes to look for. And you’ll know that you’re free to switch over. It’s entirely up to you.