Wearing green at work on St. Patrick's Day used to be more of a thing. That was when more people went to an office and more people wore suits at said office. It's something Millennials don't understand unless they have fuzzy memories of their dad leaving the house in the wee hours with leprechauns dancing up and down his tie. During the 1990s, holidays at work used to be a fashion train wreck and we looked forward to the tackiness of it. There were few other distractions. This was before Facebook, people. Times were tough.
Because tastes have tamed considerably, I now spend St. Patrick's Day digging the least hideous green stitch of work-appropriate clothing out of the back of my closet (because I'm still afraid of getting pinched), while I fondly recall the days when I could make it out to a bar on a "school night." I also think about luck.
At work I hear people talk about luck in terms of a chance meeting with a sought-after client or a random college friend with the inside scoop on a great job, or finding a Starbucks gift card in your coat pocket on the day you left your wallet at home. Another way I hear people talk about luck is in the context of job happiness: "I'm so lucky to have found this job, this team, this client assignment because I love the work I'm doing now."
However you think about luck, we'd probably agree that counting on it isn't a great strategy for reaching your goals but, of course, a little bit sprinkled on top never hurts.
So, what's one simple thing lucky people do at work?
Lucky people focus first on how they work. What they actually do is secondary.
When we're feeling restless at work, we assume it's tied to what we're doing. We say things such as, "I haven't found my calling. I'm just not that lucky" or "I'm not sure what I'm most passionate about."
These down-on-your-luck sentiments are focused on the what. And the search for the what is so common that an entire niche of self-help programs has popped up to aid in the search for professional meaning. According to the Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey, "48.3 percent of US workers are satisfied with their jobs." While this is a slight improvement over previous years, that still means than more than 50 percent of people are unsatisfied or unhappy at work.
There's nothing inherently wrong with searching for "the what" but it can and does lead to greater frustration when things don't get significantly better pretty quick. And anecdotally (meaning, I haven't collected any official survey data on this), I see a lot of people search and make (sometimes big) changes, only to land different jobs that don't make them much happier.
Generating more luck at work that ultimately leads to greater job happiness is routed in "the how."
Here's what I mean:
How we work has much greater significance and importance to our overall job happiness than what we do. The reason is that there are literally millions of passion-worthy purposes for working out there. Millions and millions. In fact, there is one, if not more than one, in the very place you're working right now. Passion-worthy professions range from feeding starving children to building homes to making smartphone apps that signal the optimal time to get up and pee during a movie. You could certainly argue that some have a greater global benefit but they all have passion potential. It's in how you look at who you're helping.
How we work includes:
- Where and when you get your work done. Are you required to commute a long-distance only to sit in a cube on conference calls, or do you set your own daily agenda?
- New business generation. Are you expected to drum up prospects through cold calls in a way that feels icky, or are you encouraged to nurture client relationships in a way that best suits your style?
- Leadership support. Does your boss watch your every move with a critical eye or know your ambitions and support you?
- Team camaraderie. Are you able to work with other experts to solve tough problems? Do you learn from your teammates? Do you have a best friend or many friends at work? Do you share common interests, laugh together, or socialize at all?
All of these things are the how.
And just like everything else, we all have unique preferences on how we want to work. For me, I don't mind putting in 10-12 hours a day but I need to pick when those hours are. Flexibility is critical for me. Without it, I'm really unhappy--even if I'm working less. I also like working collaboratively with my clients to come up with strategies that work for them. When each step is dictated or, conversely, I'm left with a vague goal and no opportunity for interaction, I'm unhappy.
So, instead of chasing after something so elusive or hoping we get lucky and it just finds us, we need to look at how we work. Inviting more luck into your job happiness means making some intentional movements toward the ways in which you like to work--and letting some unplanned, unmanipulated magic sprinkle itself around. Good luck.
P.S. For more great insights on the topic for both your professional and personal life, check out John Brandon's article on finding happiness, success, and joy.