In a world with increasingly long workweeks and demanding workplace expectations, there’s a lot of talk about what makes people happy at work — from generous paternity leave policies to flexible hours to perks like endless LaCroix in the break room. But being reasonably happy at work is one thing; truly loving your job is another. Here are some factors that can take you from “like” to “love” at work.
If you’re lucky enough to be passionate about every aspect of your job, hooray and congratulations! But most of us aren’t fortunate enough to hold a position that’s completely aligned with our favorite tasks and most deeply held beliefs. That means it’s essential to identify the parts of your job that you’re passionate about — working directly with customers? Streamlining procedures? Leading groups? Then, be as loud as you possibly can in asking for those aspects to be part of your core responsibilities.
Everyone wants a work situation that offers a little bit of flexibility, whether that’s the opportunity to choose roles on projects, the ability to work from home every now and then, or the freedom to come in a little late in order to drop your kids off at school. In part, that’s desirable because it makes your life a little easier and more pleasant. But it’s also a sign that the people you work with and for trust you to make decisions that balance your own needs with the needs of your team. Feeling trusted enough to make your own decisions about what’s best for you and what’s best for the people you work with goes a long, long way.
As theoretically awesome as it might sound to work alone, doing what you want with no regard for who likes it or not, it’s hard to love doing work that goes completely unnoticed. Part of loving your work is being able to share it with others, rather than toiling away in a vacuum or stumbling through on your own. Some of us want regular, itemized lists of what we’re doing well and how we can improve. Others just want a, “Great job!” every now and then.
The term “culture fit” gets tossed around a lot these days when it comes to workplace happiness. But forming healthy, sustaining connections and camaraderie with the individuals you work with makes loving your job easier. You don’t have to love everyone you work with (and chances are you probably won’t), but a healthy respect and a genuine connection goes a very long way. And if you’re annoyed by that fourth job interview? Don’t be. The more you learn about the people with whom you’ll be working, the more you’ll know about building relationships and rapport.
Some jobs are more outcome oriented than others. We don’t all show up at work in the morning and have a block of code or a loaf of bread or a 3-D printed model to show for our efforts by the end of the day. Still, it helps to have achievable, measurable goals — accomplishments we can point to and say, “There. I did that.”
Let’s be real: you can’t wholeheartedly love a job for which you aren’t properly compensated. But knowing how to quantify what you have to offer and negotiating your own compensation package — from salary to health care to raises — isn’t enough. That’s why pushing for transparency around pay equity in the workplace is so essential (and is the first step on the long road to closing the wage gap). After all, it’s hard to love a job when you feel under-compensated for your effort.