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Reflecting on the “why” of working

Human beings have been working since quite a long time. Even our primate ancestors worked tools out for hunting of different stones and other materials taken from the nature. So, it should not be such a new concept to reflect upon, thus let’s try it. We can put the development of working into three phases: 1) Work, 2) Job, 3) Career.

Once humans shifted from hunter-gatherer nomad bands into agrarian settlements, the design of work changed as well. It was the first time some collective tasks formed and hierarchies of labor emerged, thanks to private property. For quite a long time this work modus operandi continued. Only in the last couple of centuries the idea of “job” showed up. The main differentiating characteristic of job from work is the professional image. If it was only physical labor that was needed before, now we have a job where we can manage some machinery, which requires a basic qualification we need to amass. Yet very infant, the “career” concept is what we are living now with. People are not working just to earn money anymore, but rather as well improve their qualifications to move to the next step of their professional growth ladder. Thus the organisations have more difficulty to get their employees stick with them.

Since, thanks to globalisation, startups, technological movements, and even COVID, the design of work is very dynamic, there are couple of aspects that define the desirability of the organisation to work for.

“How disgraceful is the lawyer whose dying breath passes while at court, at an advanced age, pleading for unknown litigants and still seeking the approval of ignorant spectators.”

Seneca

First, and the utmost significant, trait of an attractive organisation is the culture. Like humans, companies do we have certain characteristics, principles, values and beliefs. These values and beliefs define how the employees interact with customers and each other internally as well. Being in a like-minded and like-cultured group of people is a strong motivator for performing every day. The culture of an organisation can reflect the ideal identity we want to be seen with.

“Keep constant guard over your perceptions, for it is no small thing you are protecting, but your respect, trustworthiness and steadiness, peace of mind, freedom from pain and fear, in a word your freedom. For what would you sell these things?”

Epictetus

Second attribute, being tightly coupled with the culture, is the trust. Trust is what defines how much more I want to contribute to the organization. If the culture is just in fancy presentation slides, but not in actions, then it is a short living false promise that we fell into. However, if done right, the high trust organisations can innovate non-stop and retain their skills for longer period.

Third attribute that can be a game-changer is learning organisation. Assuming that we are working to grow ourselves in our “career” path, the organisations that support us in this journey are the most desirable ones. It’s not just job market that is broad, but also the candidate pool is promisingly big, thus a strong negotiation makes the difference on who gets the best skills. The best thing organisations can do in a long term is to focus on their employees’ growth by providing trainings, challenges, and most importantly feedback on their development. Learning organisations encourage the failures as well.

Healthy workstyle

It’s not just organisations that make our professional career life pleasing. Actually it is nothing external that can make our life pleasing, but our attitude towards it. How interact with our work can be a defining variable for the health of our career. For me there are couple of main things that make my workstyle healthy.

First things first, we should have a vision for what we wanna be growing into. Building a purpose, defining a direction or having a north star is the first step in growth. Without knowing what the reward is, our brain is not eager on spending effort, work through adversities, or make bold decisions.

Secondly, we need to work on optimizing our productivity. We are working as much as we are sleeping. Obviously, sleeping is quite automated and self-organising process, thus we don’t need to optimize anything there, except doing it on time. However, our work is mostly not automated and there is quite a set of items that, if automated, can enable us to have more time for our development.

Thirdly, make it your own business and make sure you love it. Everybody is a leader. Building a solution to a problem is the intention anyways. So, find a problem to solve, build and follow a vision around it, and measure the success.

Career is a big part of our life. We are working on average 40 years. What we spend those four decades and what we learn from it depends on how we approach and plan it. There is no wrong or right, unless you are doing it for money only. Finding the passion and following it is what makes the time spent on it meaningful.

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