Category Archives: happy at work

  • 0

Career Not Job?

Tags : 

Job ? Career? Calling?

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working.
He asked the first, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am laying bricks.”
He asked the second, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am building a wall.”
As he approached the third, he heard him humming a tune as he worked, and asked, “What are you doing?”

The man stood, looked up at the sky, and smiled,
“I am building a cathedral!”


Research by Amy Wrzesniewski has focused on how people derive meaning from their work, which can broadly be categorized in three groups: the experience of work as a job, career or calling.

People who view their work as

a “job” see it mainly as a means of income.

A “career” is work framed as a stepping stone along an occupational trajectory.

A “calling” occurs when someone believes in the meaning of the work they do, regardless of pay or prestige.

 Somewhere along the line, we started to see career-oriented as the only valuable approach to work.  Ms Wrzesniewski’s research suggests otherwise.  And my experience makes me wonder why we stress “career-oriented” so strongly.

If we see value in all three, employees, managers and companies can benefit.  Imagine a well-balanced team, or workforce, where we have a mix of people who are happy where they are and keep adding continuity, experience and value; people who want a career contribute to the team for a while and then add different value to the company in another role; or a person with a calling can be inspired to dedicate most of her life to this particular job or company.

This article gives you information about the three approaches to work; and some suggestions for how managers and individual contributors can receive and offer value with any of them.


I’ve generally found that if a person says work is a job, we think less of them.  We expect them to lack dedication.  But is that true?  If I have a job that is satisfying and enjoyable, but it’s not the most important thing in my life, can I do a good job?  Of course I can.  Will I refuse to ever work an extra hour, give creative input?  Of course I won’t.  We seem to relate a Job orientation to lack of willingness to work.  Those things are unrelated.

Hiring managers make the mistake of thinking someone who stays in a role for a long time, or whose five-year plan doesn’t include significant advancement somehow doesn’t have enough to offer.  Sometimes this might be your best hire.  I worked in a large corporation where the sales team were supported by a team of people whose responsibility was to generate leads.  They were encouraged to have a career orientation.  In fact, the hiring manager was proud of the fact that she told interviewees they wouldn’t “have to” stay in the job too long.  That immediately told them the job wasn’t a good one; and encouraged them to always look for an “escape”.  So the department never built up any accumulated experience.  Every member of that team was a perpetual beginner.  In general, the sales team did NOT feel well-supported.  There were some great people on that team; but they never stayed long enough to form a true partnership with the people they supported.  Career orientation can be too much of a good thing.

On the other hand, I once worked with someone who did lead generation in the same industry as the team described above.  It was a job for him; but he really liked it.  He didn’t want a promotion.  He got such personal fulfillment from things outside work that a career, at least with that company at that point in his life,  just wasn’t his focus. But he enjoyed the challenge of handling objections and getting appointments for the sales team.  He enjoyed talking to people.  He really liked his job; and the company benefited because of that.

 Maybe career-oriented isn’t the only way to describe a dedicated, engaged employee.  Maybe hiring managers need to look for positive attitudes not only the desire to move ahead.


Bright people with success in their futures are career-oriented.  These are the people we should hire because they’re more dedicated, give more time to the job, will stay with the company longer than people who are job-oriented.  Right?  Sometimes.  But not necessarily.

If someone wants advancement and increasing remuneration as part of their employment, they might work extra hard to get those things.  It is very possible they will work through an illness, often because they’re afraid not working will hurt their careers.  They might put work before hobbies, sometimes even family.  And there are times when every company needs some of that attitude.  Life balance might be skewed toward work periodically or permanently for good reason, for some careerists.

I’ve also seen employees who focused on career too much.  Their push to move forward took focus off the current job requirements.  Collaboration took a backseat to self promotion.  And their physical, emotional and mental health suffered from the stress of a career.

The hiring manager does well to learn the career aspirations of an interviewee.  We seldom want to hire someone who has little interest in the job or company we hire for.  If we offer advancement and increased remuneration for added responsibilities, we want the type of people who are motivated by those things.  So we should continue to see the positive aspects of a career orientation.  But we should take a multi-sided view.  What is the interviewee’s whole attitude?  Will he be a great member of the team because he sees a chance to fulfill his potential?  Great!  Will he hurt our corporate culture as he climbs over other people to get to the next promotion?  Not so great.


I’m not sure we think about this much at all as we hire.  Do you think of a calling as something you find in non profit, charitable segments of our world?  There’s truth in part of that.  Nurses probably believe in the meaning of the work they do.  Mother Teresa most likely did too, and didn’t care at all about pay or prestige. So is a Calling orientation irrelevant in our work teams?  I suggest not.  If I’m hiring for a non profit business development role, I can expect an interviewee to feel an affinity with my organization because of our community service.  That doesn’t mean she won’t be a hard working successful sales person.  Or that she won’t see the importance of bringing in money, i.e. donations.  At the other end of that spectrum, just because a person is in sales (or accounting or maintenance), demands a high salary and has had progressively impressive titles, doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel her work is a calling.  That’s an attitude.  Like the bricklayer in the story at the beginning of this article, the same work can be seen in different ways.

Let’s be open minded when we’re hiring and choosing teams.

Can we manage how we feel about our work?  Can we make our jobs fulfilling, our careers have a sense of purpose and meaning?  In addition to her research into Job|Career|Calling, Amy Wrzesniewski and others have defined the art of job crafting – making your job right for you.  An upcoming article and workshop will address this.


  • 0

26 Tips: Career Success Is In Your Mind

Would you like to predict, and even create, success and achievement?  For yourself, your team, your colleagues?

Happiness Leads to Success in nearly every domain, including work, health, friendship, sociability, creativity, and energy.

~ From a meta-analysis of over 200 happiness studies on nearly 275,000 people worldwide.

This article is based on the book, The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Acher.  It is about “Learning how to cultivate the mindset and behaviours that have been empirically proven to fuel greater success and fulfillment.”

I’ll leave it to you to read the details of each Principle.  But here are some helpful hints for making them work for you, so you become even more successful and productive.

The Happiness Advantage

happiness advantageThe most successful people aren’t the ones who keep looking to the future for in the hope of being happy when they get the great reward of super success.  They are the ones who capitalize on on the positive and reap the rewards on every step of their journey.  Still, in business, we tend to denigrate the concept of happiness.  For those who pay attention to the research that shows happiness drives success, here are some tips on achieving and maintaining a happy, positive attitude as a stepping stone to success.



  1. Meditate
  2. Find Something to Look Forward To
  3. Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness
  4. Infuse Positivity Into Your Surroundings
  5. Exercise
  6. Spend Money (but not on Stuff)
  7. Exercise a Signature Strength

    The Fulcrum and the Lever

    fulcrumLearn to manage your mindset.  Adjust it to give yourself the ability to be more fulfilled and successful.  Mindset is the fulcrum that balances our Lever – our power to succeed.  To help yourself build a positive, growth mindset:

  8. Believe in your Abilities
    When faced with a real challenge or just a tough to-do:
    Focus on all the reasons you’ll succeed, rather than why you might fail.
    Remind yourself of the relevant skills you have
    Remember a similar situation where you succeeded.
  9. Believe you can Improve Your Abilities
    By changing the way we perceive ourselves and our work, we can change our results – for the better.

    The Tetris Effect

    tetrisThis is a metaphor for the way our brains see the things around us.  And that’s critically important; because our experience of life is determined by what we pay attention to.  We have to see it to pay attention to it.

    In Tetris, the player is constantly scanning for blocks of colours.  We scan for things in our environment.  Unfortunately, many of us scan for negative things.  Constantly looking for the negative in life causes significant stress, lowers our motivation and reduces are ability to perform or product.  We see that at work all the time.  How do we train our brains to scan for the positive?

  10. Three Good Things Exercise. Make a daily list of the good things in your job, your career, your life. Write down three good things that happened every day. Your brain will have to scan your day for good things to come up with the list. And so, you’ll start the process of noticing what’s positive.
  11. Practice. Practice. Practice. With Others.
  12. Make it a ritual. If you have your ‘tools’ (pen, paper, tablet, whatever) at hand, and do the Three Good Things exercise at the same time daily or at least 3 times a week, seeing the positive in life will become the norm. And seeing the positive is part of the optimistic attitude that is critical to success.
  13. Rose Tinted Glasses
    Yes, ignoring serious bad things is often bad. You have to see the positive without being blind to negative things that must be dealth with. Martin Seligman refers to this as pragmatic optimistm.

    Falling Up

    falling up “Things do not necessarily happen for the best; but some people are able to make the best out of things that happen.”

    ~ Tal Ben-Shahar

    Bad things happen.  They’re not always catastrophic, but we suffer from mistakes, failures, disappointments.  What can we do to see the best in a bad situation:?

  14. Change Your Explanatory Style
    Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology, author of Learned Optimism and whose teachings are the basis of two other Mustang Articles:  The ABC’s of Resilience at Work, and Do You Give Up When Bad Things Happen?, tell sus that how we explain things to ourselves or others determines how optimistic or positive we are.  And his and other studies have shown that optimistic people are more successful.  Our Explanatory Style determines how we see things:

    • Permanent – this is not a temporary setback, it will last forever!
    • Pervasive – I’m not just having a problem with this issue, I have a problem with Everything!
    • Personal – it’s my fault; it’s all about me.

    Reverse that thinking, and you can help get yourself back on the road to optimism and success:

    • Temporary – Well, this isn’t a good situation, but it won’t last forever.
    • Specific – I’m having a problem with one person at work. Not with everyone at work.  Not with anyone in my personal life.
    • External – this is bad; it happened because of circumstances beyond my control or is the fault of someone else.
  15. The ABCs of Resilience
    Looking to Martin Seligman again, we can use a technique he didn’t create but applies extremely well.  You can see a summary in the Mustang article, The ABCs of Resilience of Work.

    1. Adversity.  An event we can’t change and we don’t like.
    2. Belief is our Reaction to the Event
    3. Consequences are the effect of our Belief
    4. Disputation
    • Evidence – For and against. Is it more or less likely to be as bad as we think?
    • Alternates – What are alternative possible reasons for the event? Maybe your boss had a fight with her spouse this morning and you got the brunt of it.
    • Is this stress useful?  Sometimes it is; and we should just embrace it.  If I stress about doing a presentation I’m likely to put more prep into it than if I’m feeling pretty casual.  More prep usually means more success.
    • If all your disputation results in the indisputable fact that the event is bad and is factual, what’s the worst that can happen.  You don’t need to bury your head in the sand.  Practically determine the likely outcome and make plans to handle it.  Going to lose your job?  Start looking for a new one now.  Cut back on expenses.

    The Zorro Circle

    When Zorro, the hero of television and movies, first started out he had no focus and no control. His training began with the drawing of a single circle in the sand. Don Diego told Zorro that his entire world now existed within this circle, and he had to master what was inside of it before he could move on to the next circle. Through time and dedication, Zorro mastered circle by circle, until he could accomplish his goal.

    This is a powerful metaphor for how we can accomplish large goals in our careers. How do we gain control of our emotions and our situation, circle by circle?

  16. Self-awareness
    Verbalize the stress and helplessness you feel.  You can write it down or confide in someone.  Many years ago, I was working with a team on a complex sales opportunity.  Everyone was stressed and having a hard time being effective.  When someone suggested we were just in the ‘floundering around’ stage, everything settled down.  It seemed we just needed to acknowledge that this was a tough opportunity but we knew we had the skills to handle it.
  17. Identify what you can Control and What is Out of Your Control
    Be clear on things that are just out of your control and you have to let go of.  Then you can direct your energy to the things you can exert influence over
  18. Identify One Small Goal You Can Accomplish Quickly
    After you let go of the things out of your control, you were left with a list of things you can address.  Take one thing and really focus your efforts on that.  Contrary to what some people believe, going for the gusto is more often a pathway to failure and frustration.  Don’t stay on one small task.  Add another and another.  Make them bigger as needed.  And of course, plan.  But piece by piece, circle by circle, our small victories will lead to big success.  This is the basis of the Japanese theory of Kaizen, or Continuous Improvement.

    The 20 Second Rule

    20 second
    Turn Bad Habits into Good Habits by Minimizing Barriers to Change.
    Changing our bad habits is easier said than done.  Even though doctors should know better than anyone the benefits of diet and exercise, 44% of them are overweight.  We all watch too much TV, or go to bed too late, or something!  And largely that’s because we are driven by what we want right now – much more than by what we really want most.
    How do we follow Neal Maxwell’s advice?

    “Never give up what you want most for what you want today.”

    ― Neal A. Maxwell

    The 20 Second Rule says make it easy.  Try to arrange things so that it only takes 20 seconds to go from thinking of doing something to doing.

    In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Acher says he slept in his gym clothes in order to form the habit of morning exercise.  Literally, he put his gym shoes next to the bed and went to bed in his clean gym clothes including socks.  So, he stepped out of bed, into his shoes and out the door.

    My daughter at age 5 asked to have hangers arranged with days of the week labels.  She arranged outfits for every day at the beginning of the week.  And the night before, she lay out the outfit for the next day on the floor next to her bed, as if it were on someone!  She was just born sensible, I guess.  Must have taken after her father.

    What Mr. Acher and my daughter were both doing was using second order decisions.

    Second-order decisions are decisions about the appropriate strategy for reducing the problems associated with making (first-order) decisions. For instance, second-order decisions may involve deciding when to decide and when not to decide, how much time to spend deciding, and what inputs to seek when deciding something.

    This term was introduced in a joint paper titled Second-Order Decisions by Cass Sunstein and Edna Ullmann-Margalit.

  19. Make it Easy
    Following the principles here, determine the fastest and easiest route to the new habit you want to create.  Make it easy.

    Social Investment

    Studies show that iSocialn a stressful situation or environment, positive interactions at work returns the cardiovascular system to resting levels, lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.  Employees with good work relationships perceive less stress in the first place.  This ability to manage stress results in reduced absenteeism costs, lower health care costs, and increases workplace engagement so employees are more productive.  Ways to reduce stress in the workplace through social investment include:

  20. Give positive responses to good news.
  21. Make introductions and give referrals.
  22. Prioritize relationships.
    For teams:
  23. Encourage natural social interactions. Don’t try to force them with artificial activities.
  24. Team lunches and after hours get-togethers.
  25. Use language that implies a common purpose and interdependence.
  26. MBWA: Leaders get out from behind your desks and walk around – management by walking around.

    More Detail

    There are many resources where you can find information on the importance and methods of attaining success in the workplace through a happy, optimistic mindset.  This article relies on work from Shawn Acher and Martin Seligman:

    happiness advantage
    The Happiness Advantage

    Learned OptiLearned Optimismmism

    You can see Shawn Acher give a very entertaining TED talk on his take on happiness at work:

    See Here for a Simple List of all 26 Methods:  26 Tips on how to Be More Successful

Free Webinar

Our Next Free Webinar on Presentation Skills is currently being planned. It's a great way to get useful tips on how to Start and End a Presentation for Lasting Impact with Your Audience. And of course we'll talk about the middle too!