Monday, 26 September 2011

So is 'career' a man thing?

Someone taught me to use 'Google alert' last week.
 Everyday I get an alert of articles/blogs/whatever using my keyword.
Sounds like it should be interesting? well it should be but I am struggling. However this algorithm works I don't know.. but what I am getting is loads of posts about sport and sportspeople's careers.
The sample they send can't be the only mentions of the word career so there must be a filter... and that is allowing sports quotes through but not so much about politicians, business issues, etc. Interesting?

But maybe it's a case, as with so many things.. garbage in and garbage out. Maybe I need to think more carefully about exactly what I put into the search engine.. Any ideas?

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Job satisfaction, step aerobics and Educating Essex: what's the connection? Variety..........

‘I love my job and everyday is different’ says Steven Drew, Deputy Head of Passmore’s Academy on the new fly on the wall reality show ‘Educating Essex’.  But is that equation that variety equals job satisfaction true for all of us? The phrase variety is the spice of life is oft quoted or rather misquoted as the correct version is “Variety's the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour” (William Cowper –poet) I guess what he was actually saying was that variety is like salt.. without it everything is bland and ordinary. So is spice, or salt or variety actually the key to job satisfaction?


Academic research into job satisfaction looks at a number of variables including: pay, training, friendliness of co-workers, promotion and variety. According to findings from the University of Leicester, people who are given greater variety and independence in their jobs feel both less stressed and more satisfied.


But in reality different people look to their jobs to provide them with differing pay offs. For some the ‘friendliness of co workers’ is absolutely the crucial thing. They work to get out, to be with others, to socialise. For another person the co-workers are tiresome interruptions in the real task of work; inventing, calculating, processing or analysing. For others their need to do good in the world means that neither the co-workers or the pay are particularly important. What you want from work may include variety or it may not. Routine and a predictable world are all important to some individuals and gives them security.  For others variety is highly important and the adrenaline created by the novel and unknown are critical to job satisfaction.


I was enjoying my step aerobics class yesterday whilst pondering this issue. I’d had a very varied week of being with different people everyday and engaging in diverse activities as part of my business and portfolio career (a finger in lots of pies as my mother in law says!)But the step class provided me with a great parallel. We do the same routine several weeks running. We start slowly and learn a few moves. It is actually an advanced step class so the moves are quire complex and you have to concentrate quite hard and if you don’t you go wrong.  Each week new steps are added into the routine and the music gets a little faster. By week four we are masters of this complex combination of steps, jumps, flicks, skips and hops. And then we start again with a different routine.

If we did a new routine every week we would never master it, we would be stressed out, defeated, feel incompetent and out of control. If we did the same routine every week for a term we would become blaze, stop concentrating and inevitably start making mistakes.


What we are doing is achieving mastery, stretching and challenging our brains and mind foot co-ordination to develop new skills but rather than repeat that skills to the point of tedium we are moved on to a new routine.


At work if we continue with exactly the same tasks, carried out in the same way we can get to the point of not needing to think about them at all. Where there is some variation we need to think but may be lacking the stimulation of the ‘new routine’. The slight changes, the varied tasks stretches our competence and keeps us engaged (unlike the completely repetitive task). It gives us satisfaction to keep on continually mastering new skills or succeeding in new situations.


So whilst different people want different things from their job the variety may well be the ‘salt’ that ensures that each of us gets a good rich flavour of satisfaction from our work.  If you are contemplating a new career or a new job it is critical to understand the level of variety or routine that you will encounter. Keep asking; ‘ what will I be doing every day?’ It is a question as important as how much will I get paid. Analyse your own work drivers and assess your own need for routine then decide whether to accept any new role. It is also a great parable for those who mange the work of others; make sure that you give them enough variety to keep them stimulated but not so much that they become overloaded and stressed. Give them a slower pace when the tasks are new and speed up as they become familiar.