As a career consultant, I see about 120 career transitioning clients a year. Some know exactly what they are looking for next, others have not got a clue. No matter what though, every individual is different and he or she is looking for something that will answer his or her needs at the moment. There would be many ways to categorize anyone who is currently looking for a job, however, one that I find life changing is the difference between those who value their work and those who merely see it as revenue.
Yesterday, my parents, Phil and I visited my grand-parents for Father's Day and over a few slices of bread, cheese and glasses of wine, my nonno Alfredo (grand-father) told us about his days as a foreman. He explained how his humble beginnings as a construction worker quickly catapulted him into becoming an expert in drilling and blasting with controlled use of explosives. Wait, what? Explosives? Like actual dynamite? (so now you get the title) Yes, dynamite. Alfredo became what we call "Dynamiteur" en français, in the excavation of very well known aqueduct projects in the city of Montreal. But who wanted to be in charge of such dangerous work? "No one!" said my grand-father.
Internally connecting to your work
Dealing with explosives for excavation purposes was not a job many around him wanted for its obvious heavy responsibility and life threatening consequences. Being quite human himself, Alfredo wasn't unafraid of the explosives. Rather, his desire for leadership, for learning and for him to gain more responsibility were stronger. So while everyone else turned away from handling explosives, Alfredo was the first to walk up to the task and start the official training process to get his permit. I also suspect that his experience as a WWII soldier and new-comer to Canada contributed to his familiarity with explosives and his perseverance: he was used to braving the unknown. He mentioned that after his training, he was the only one in his crew who could read and understand plans. Rather than let himself be overcome by uncertainty, he took the time to understand what needed to be done and was grateful for the trust his supervisor gave him. He connected with his work through purpose and by the use of his transferable skills. Keep in mind also that nonno had left everything behind to come find opportunity and be his own boss. He took every single chance that would get him closer to his goal of gaining decisional power at work. Sure enough, he was rapidly promoted to foreman while still controlling the use of explosives.
Though I am certain being promoted enabled my nonno to get a higher pay, it was not his first motive. He also worked in very difficult conditions: risking his life with every decision, working in dangerous areas and outside rain or shine, not having access to a phone not a pharmacy all the while learning another language. It was his internal connection to his work that lead him to success. The simple use of his natural abilities and the simple fact that he saw meaning in his work. That was the key to outstanding performance and happiness.
Of course, one can argue that there are different motives to work and I agree with that. Individual differences are of course at the base of what motivates each and everyone of us. However, I still believe that when you value what you do and don't just do it because it's: "literally, like, 15 minutes from home by car and the benefits are good", the quality of your work will be much greater and so will the rewards of accomplishing it. The greater you feel, the more your mental and physical health will benefit from it. On the other hand, the effects of the generous employer will inevitably fade with time. Individuals slowly start to do their work mechanically and without purpose. Before they know it, five years have come and gone and the "connectedness" to their work has completely vanished.
A simple question to help identify what makes one happy at work: what are the the tasks that make you happy? What moments to you feel most useful? What projects are you most proud of? What are the tasks you are done with? Finally, what do all of these have in common? Food for thought.
Give it time and PPP!
Through the years, my grand-father was involved in the infrastructure and excavation of the Decarie boulevard and other big projects that required digging deeper than the metro level and managing three different teams at one time. As he was telling us his adventures, he spoke as though he had been there just yesterday and said with an unmistakable Italian accent "J'ai aimé mon travail, il faut aimer son travail". Initially, as everyone else, using dynamite wasn't something my grand-father expected to enjoy. Yet, as he began to understand its mechanisms and master the art of using explosives safely to excavate, build and therefore contribute to the city's infrastructure, the appreciation for his own work grew and consequently so did his expertise and leadership. What better way to feed motivation than by being passionate for what you do every single day? As you see, it is a self-feeding cycle.
Often times now, with all of the different jobs and positions that exist, we are quick to dismiss what we dislike. I often hear the following in my office: "It wasn't for me, I wasn't passionate about it", Ok, fair enough. How long did you practice your work though? Did you truly give it a chance or were you discouraged by the environment, lack of support or other such factors? It can take years before we start feeling like we truly master the nature of our work. The "triple P" will help you out: Patience in letting yourself be a beginner, Practice to learn and Perseverance when facing obstacles.
The lasting effect of loving your work
It may be easy to underestimate the importance of a profession while being young. As time goes by though, human beings look for purpose in the life they have lead thus far. Yesterday, my nonno disappeared in the basement for a while and returned a few moments later holding an old and dusty work bag. He unzipped it to reveal its contents, and out came two construction hats with his name on them, an attachable light for walking through dark tunnels, old protective glasses, a small leather pocket with a tiny aspirin tin box inside and plasters, a variety of other tools and a lock with all of the keys to the explosives that were under his supervision. As my 95 year old grand-father explained all of this to me, I marveled as his sharp memories. I can assure you that listening to his stories about being a foreman working in the city and having the responsibility of controlling dangerous explosives is pure confirmation that when you truly enjoy and appreciate what you do, the satisfactory effects of it will last you a lifetime.
Lucky me, I too happen to have a "blast" at work!! 😜
Bee working with conviction xx
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
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