Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Happy on the job/unhappy on the job. (There’s a list for everything.)

I’m a colossal sucker for a list, and it almost doesn’t matter what the list is of. But one I saw recently is especially near to Pink Slip’s workplace-y little heart. It’s one from Career Bliss (ommmmmm)  -  I saw it written up in Forbes - that ranks the happiest and unhappiest jobs out there.

In addition to compensation, CareerBliss evaluated employee sentiment regarding relationship with one’s boss and coworkers, work environment, professional resources, opportunities for growth, regular tasks, company culture and reputation, and how much control an employee has over the work they do on a daily basis.(Source: Forbes)

I was kind of surprised that the happiest job was recruiter. I would think that this would be a plenty tense and cutthroat position, and one that was completely subject to the whims of the business cycle. I guess you get the matchmaker thrill when something clicks, and there’s the fun of puzzling out who might fit where. Anyway, if I’d had to come up with the happiest of jobs, it wouldn’t have been recruiter.

My first thought might have been free lance pundit. Or cupcake baker.

Recruiter would not have been top of mind.

What didn’t surprise me was that the majority of the happiest of jobs were techie ones: full stack developer, senior java developer, Android developer, CTO, lead engineer, lead developer, senior QA engineer.

Good working conditions, good colleagues, good pay. Being able to put your head down and work. At the end of the day, being able to see something concrete that you’ve accomplished.

The other two jobs on the happiest ten list were research assistant and COO.

For much the same reasons that techie jobs are good, I can see that being a research assistant would make you happy. You get to put your head down, you get to accomplish something tangible, etc. I’ve worked on plenty of research projects over the course of my career, and they’ve been quite enjoyable.

COO I can also see as happy-making. You’re in control. You have visibility into everything going on in your company.

Sure, sometimes you get to be a bum, but a lot of times you get to be the hero. Plus you don’t have to be doing the glad-handing and being the face of an organization that a CEO has on their plate.

The most miserable, the unhappiest of jobs were service tech, machine operator, sales, guard, maintenance manager, driver, cashier, merchandiser, security officer, sales account manager.

Low power, low pay. In the case of sales – which, on the high end can be a lucrative job with tons of career upside (but I’m guessing we’re not talking enterprise software sales pros here) - there’s high pressure. Interesting, these jobs (machine operator excepted) all involve interacting with the public. The happiest jobs (recruiter quasi-excepted: it’s a cherry-picked version of the public) just plain do not.

Working as a sales clerk – which I guess is a combo of cashier and merchandiser, working as a waitress, working in a campus grill where you both took the order and cooked it up or scooped it out, I had my share of up-close-and-personal with the public.

Mostly, I didn’t mind it. Sure, there were occasionally folks who were a real pain to deal with, but mostly it was fun. On the other hand, those were summer or semester or part time or temporary jobs, nothing I was going to have to do day in, day out, for the long term. No bliss, maybe, but no career, either.

Happiness is, of course, a squishy term. What exactly does it mean?

For the most part, I enjoyed my work. It was interesting. I had great colleagues. I got to use my brain. I got to soak up (and occasionally participate in) corporate craziness.

I had a couple of jobs where,despite the excellence of my colleagues and the fun of watching the meshugas unfold, I was not especially happy.

My most unhappy job was at Wang Labs, where the problems were a bureaucracy that made it almost impossible to get things done, and the amazing control that executive management exercised over the organization. (At least these were the problems from my vantage point in the middle of the management pack).

Oh, it was kind of fun when you figured out a workaround and actually got something done. But those thrills were few, far between, and ultimately not all that satisfying. At one point, when I couldn’t get my product released through official channels, even after it “went golden” (i.e., the software and documentation had been through QA and blessed), I went so far as to xerox my own documentation, copy my own disks, and shrink-wrap and ship out release packages to my clients. That was kind of fun.

But when you had to wait until 5 p.m. the evening before an entirely necessary business trip to find out whether your group EVP had okayed the trip…

Well, it was definitely the no fun zone.

When I was at Wang, by midway through Sunday afternoon, I’d start getting a dread pit in my stomach. I’d just get so down about having to get up on Monday morning and head off to Lowell, where I worked in corporate HQ – the Wang Towers. And Wang was the only place I worked where I ever took a mental health day. (I took one in 2 years, 7 month, 14 days.)

But I don’t think I ever really looked for my happiness at work. Let alone career bliss. I obviously tried to pick my spots to avoid the places that would actively make me miserable. Sometimes I made a boo-boo, as in Wang. But even Wang had its moments.

Anyway, I do like lists. This wasn’t one of the better ones I’ve come across. It doesn’t make me blissful. It doesn’t make me happy. But, as blog fodder, it’ll do.

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