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Smart Thinking About The Perfect Job

Somebody told me last night that the perfect job would be "a best effort job, paid 20% lower than the current job but for only 50% of the current job time". It sounded nice but are the salary and the effort the only two dimensions of a job? What about passion, is this only some kind of religion invented by the big corporations? Are you allowed to say you "only" want to do your job right but without passion? Because by saying you are truly passionate, you practically agree with all the extra hours and downsize the importance of the other rewards than the job itself.

Recent studies are talking about levels of grey for each job. The almost white is that task for which you wake up in the morning happy you'll have the chance to use your creativity and to be recognized for doing it. The almost black is that task which you want to leave for tomorrow because you already did a few similar tasks and you know you don't have much control anyhow and your results will be weak and incomplete considering the requested quality and timing. In the middle, depending on each person, there are many other kind of tasks, which may look good or bad even depending on the context. Some people prefer different and creative tasks, others prefer the ones that are simple and intuitive and others prefer to work on a single project for a lot of time, to feel they are adding pieces for something really important. Let's call this "brightness" a new job dimension.

The degree of control you have on your time, to select tasks/projects/decisions/actions is another dimension. Probably each employee has a few degrees of freedom, if not in the absolute selection, at least in the prioritization.

Learning is always a dimension. It is true it depends how much a person values learning, but this is a relevant perspective to use for looking at your job.

The last dimension I want to add here, is the market. It can be a good market (a growing economy, a civilized country, political unity…) or a bad market (high unemployment, high inflation..). The market can (sometimes) motivate you to do your best, or make you be afraid of the uncertain future.

Some of the conditions discussed above cannot be controlled and some of them can. By having a good understanding of the context you can concentrate your efforts on the right dimension - for example by knowing your company has good results and you are doing a good/appreciated job on a low unemployment market you can ask for a salary raise or for more free time. It is not fair to say you cannot change anything. Sometime you need to change/reinvent yourself. This is not easy (sometimes being the case that you need to learn trigonometry or move in another country to have better conditions) but this might be the solution. Your job related decisions are not risk free, but you don't need to think this in term of "assuming the risk", you need to think in terms of trying to "control the risk".

I'll complete this article agreeing that your job issue is never your only issue (yes, like in plane crashes) and your decisions need to consider the entire range of actions. This is like a chess game where, to bring your success closer, you want to capture a knight or a pawn but you need to be sure you understand how the particular target piece is defended, which is the equilibrium on the entire table and (if you are really good) what your opponent thinks.