- Enjoy the work you do (or find work you enjoy). Easier said than done, you say? It all depends on your situation I suppose. If you are employed doing something you don't like but you need the money or the benefits, you need to evaluate what matters most to you. You spend most of your waking hours working, so you should seriously consider the sum of your life after taking into account how much time will be tallied up in the cosmic balance sheet under "Time spent being miserable doing something I detest." Is there something productive that you'd like to do, or want to do but don't know how to go about it? I recommend taking the time to investigate alternatives so that you don't end up looking back and see thirty or more years of wasted time you'll never get back.
- Look at each job or task as representing you. This is something I can never understand about some people. If you do a job, even one that is repetitious or tedious, you should consider it an extension of you. Even if you don't believe in karma or a "reaping future benefits for my potentially unrecognized efforts" sort of philosophy, it still seems like a crime to look at a task as just a task. If the job requires little actual thought, then don't put in a lot of thought. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't treat the job as something unattached to you. Do the job well for the sake of doing it well and you will be able to go through the rest of your life knowing that you did what you were supposed to do so efficiently and well that your name is synonymous with great work and a good work ethic. It is great praise to have a boss or peer refer to you as a great worker regardless of what you do. My tasks and jobs represent me, so when someone brings up one of these accomplishments they will link me irrevocably with good work. "Oh, Tom? Great worker!" Who knew that I'd adopt such a philosophy? My former classmates from my high school days would suffer apoplectic seizures if they heard such crazy talk from me.
- If at all possible, go above and beyond expectations. Again, some jobs have very little scope for this, but as I work in a corporate environment I am exposed to a large number of comments like "That isn't my job" or "It isn't in my job description" or "I don't get paid to do that." There are plenty of things in life we don't get paid for that we still do, but when it comes to work it seems like a stupid, short-sighted and lazy approach to a career. Movies about slacker employees having all the fun and getting the chicks is a great Hollywood formula, but after a few cubicle mishaps and seeing the snarky manager spluttering in indignation it all becomes a bit contrived and as rooted in fantasy as Lord of the Rings. Keep in mind that I am not advocating putting your career and such above family and your real priorities, but while you are on the clock why not try to get something done ahead of schedule? The tired old argument of "Then they'll expect me to always get it done ahead of schedule" is just rot. In the end, you'll be seen as a responsible contributor and if you start feeling like you are being taken advantage of or that you are going to start falling behind, explain the situation and odds are the powers that be will cut you a break. A good employer will see that you are worth more if you are kept reasonably happy and treated with some respect.
Why don't more people have this elusive trait? It is probably due to a combination of innate laziness coupled with administrative disconnect with workers. Now, does the fact that I have this trait make me better than others? It sure as hell makes me a better worker than many others. Is it possible to cultivate this sense of professional pride in employees in a department, division or company? Maybe we should investigate this topic further...
Stay tuned for some great pre-SLA 2008 posts as the clock is ticking towards June and Seattle. I can't wait to see you all there!
Thanks and Regards,