What makes for satisfying work?

This image doesn't relate to the post. It just makes me smile.

Today is a strange sort of day. It is my first day of true unemployment since graduating. After a wonderful summer with Portland’s COLABORATORY program and six months interning with a local media buying department of a really great advertising agency, I am planning and exploring my next steps.

The strange part is that I find myself waking up at 7:00, like always, and not sure how my day progresses from there.

Part of me is thrilled about this uncertainty.

The remaining parts of me are nervous, excited, anxious to hit the pavement and start proving myself worthy.

One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot in relation to this whole “employment” thing is the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. This is a book which deals with success- where it comes from, and how we can break it down to have it make sense. In some ways, this is a book about luck and serendipity. It seems the cosmos align to allow certain individuals to succeed in life by offering these amazing opportunities at just the right time.  On the other side, Gladwell shows the importance of devotion and hard work, how it takes roughly 10,000 hours to become truly proficient at something. A combination of kismet and dedication leads to success.

Gladwell also creates a set of criterion for what makes a job satisfying.

In order to have what Gladwell calls “meaningful work,”  a person must have these things:

Autonomy, or the position empowers the individual.

Effort Equals Reward, or this work is worth doing in exchange for the time of this individual.

Complexity, or this work is changing and challenging to the individual.

I agree with Gladwell on each of these points. A person will feel most happy and effective at what they do if they are empowered within their position to make a difference and be recognized for their hard work. I also believe that this list overlooks the difference setting can make on a working environment (hello, thesis!). Working with people  you get along with in an environment conducive to the type of job you do can make all the difference. I believe that work should be challenging and demand your best effort to be put forth, but I also believe in a communal work environment where employees are comfortable and part of a bigger picture.

To hear more about the book in the works of Gladwell himself, check out his interview on Charlie Rose. To hear more about his idea of “meaningful work”, skip ahead to 25:55. I think it’s interesting that Charlie Rose relates the same basic principles to being a leader.

Putting these thoughts together, I hope to take these points with me as I consider what it is I will do next. Speaking of which, I will be interviewing and applying and making myself available to discuss projects and open positions in the upcoming weeks!  I plan to pursue every available opportunity. Any new developments will be posted here.

What else am I doing with my time? Learning to geocache. Playing with alphabets. Thinking about the banjo.

You know, the usual stuff.