Happy Mondays In A Complex World
Article written for the CDAA Magazine “Australia Career Practitioner Winter 2019 Edition”
The idea of dream jobs we’ve been sold, doesn’t exist
When we think of a dream job, we imagine ourselves waking up every day with a smile as the sun shines on our face, working just a few hours a day, or even a week. We imagine ourselves on a remote beach while we drink mojitos or in a nice country house drinking wine - and getting paid enough to pay our mortgages and travel around the world with our loved ones. And well… let's be honest, how many people do you know can say they have this? Your dream job is most likely just that – a dream. Let’s be honest, if your dream job doesn’t pay the bills, provide for the lifestyle you want and give you space for your personal needs, you will quickly become unhappy.
I'm the Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of The Happy Mondays Co and yet I openly say that the idea of dream jobs we've been sold, doesn't exist. Let me even be clearer: I created my own job, and yet there are days when I have bitten my lip and needed a big glass of wine after finishing a late evening meeting.
A Complex World
Technology and the Fourth Industrial Revolution have cracked open our lives and scrambled up the day-to-day routine. We are constantly on global calls outside of working hours, we are constantly compromising between work and ourselves. More and more women are leaders in the workforce. Men and women feel the creep of the work into their personal space and time, but don’t see the same space being given back again.
Yet we’re still measuring success as our predecessors did: a good job title in an impressive company with a great salary. And if you look more closely at Asian culture, or particularly in Singapore, success is linked to the infamous 5Cs: Cash, Car, Credit Card, Condominium and Country Club membership. But does this really make us happy? How many dinners, vacations, kids’ bedtimes are we willing to sacrifice to get them?
It’s time for change
We’re seeing an increasing number of successful professionals who no longer want their lives to be moulded by work and the 24/7 technology-driven schedule. We see senior professionals suddenly realising they have achieved everything they set out to, but now that “they have it all” something is just not right. Professionals who deliver on results, but feel drained and unfulfilled. They wonder if this is all life has to offer. People who seek time to pursue hobbies, invest in their wellbeing or spend time with loved ones. Some who want a more nomadic lifestyle. Heads of families who neither want to sacrifice their career for their family, nor their family for their careers.
The truth is that there isn’t a universal definition of success. As there isn’t either a single definition a balanced life. Indeed, I believe that there are as many definitions of success as people in this world and that they change as society grows and evolves.
Hence, It’s time to get out of the treadmill, to breath, to open our eyes and to take control over our careers. It’s time to stop chasing dream jobs, while trying to fit into outdated standards of success that, if we are honest, mean nothing to us.
Let’s chose us. Let’s stand up for ourselves, and direct our career ambition towards meaning and joy. Let’s find a job that bridges the gap between our inner talents, our values, and what matters to us. In other words, let’s stand for own Happy Mondays.
How to get to your Happy Mondays
Too many of us have ended up with career paths that almost ‘happened to us’, the career that got away. Whilst grateful for the opportunities we’ve had, it can be easy for our careers to lose touch with who we really are or what we really want along the way.
From our experience, your Happy Mondays are just 3 steps away from you; Define your Happy Mondays, Communicate your value, and Conquer the market.
Define Your Happy Mondays
Because unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, how could you find it? Being honest about who we are, what we want, and (very importantly) what our needs are, is key. Hence, this journey starts by looking inside.
Start from scratch; define your own vision of success and balance, grounded in your daily life. Pay attention to your personal and professional needs, whether this is to be in a job that makes you travel 50% of the time and have evening social events, a job that enables you to work from home and take care of your kids, or a culture that praises individual success by verbally recognising your contribution and work. The most important aspect is not to inherit these definitions from someone who had different needs and wants, don’t live someone else’s successful life. Build your vision from the ground up.
Communicate Your Value
Once you know what your Happy Mondays look like, it’s time for you to stand up for it and make others aware of it. No one will ever know how great you are unless you tell them about it. Human brains are amazing, yet we are still unable to read each-others minds ;) Hence it’s our responsibility, yes ours, to communicate to our bosses and colleagues about what is important for us. And yes, they might be reluctant when you ask for that promotion or the flexible working arrangement, but when you’re able to clearly show them your worth and how this new request will benefit everyone, including the business, their perspective will most likely change.
There are authentic ways of doing this without coming across as obnoxious (a fear many of our clients, and even we, sometimes deal with!). Getting clear on your achievements and how to communicate them will help greatly in this respect. Don't hide yourself in a team, embrace the warrior inside you and speak up!
Conquer The Job Market
Even if you have a clear idea of what success looks like for you and a sparkling personal brand, if you are unprepared for negotiation it will all slip away from you. We need to be strong negotiators and remember that it actually starts the minute we go to the first job interview, and not as many think when the offer comes.
When creating your Happy Mondays within your current organisation, hold your head high when negotiating. Communicate your needs with the same confidence and certainty that you would use to respond to a question about client data. Like it's simply a fact; because it is. If you behave in a way that suggests you're nervous or apologetic, you'll subtly communicate the message that you think you should be. And you should not. Don't be presumptuous but don't be shy. Remember that if you don't ask for it, you will never get it. But if you do, you actually might.
If your job and organisation don’t support your vision and address your needs, this isn’t your Happy Job. Hence, even if it might seem scary at the beginning, be bold and put your happiness first. Don’t we all say that the best leaders are those who lead by example? Be that leader. Stand for your Happy Mondays. Because if you don’t, who will?
Every step/action counts
Every time you challenge a boundary at work, and your workplace listens, you create new possibilities for yourself and for others. When you tell your work colleagues that you’re taking a 90-minute lunch break to go to the gym or for yoga, to look after yourself, you make it ok to bring your personal life to work. When you tell your boss (not ask, but inform) that you’ll arrive late to work the next morning because you were on a global call at 11 pm last night, you are advocating for balance. When you negotiate the right to work from home once every two weeks, just because you want to, you ingrain flexibility into the workplace that little bit more. Each time one of us negotiates for an arrangement that makes us happy, we shift the status quo.
Define, communicate and conquer your Happy Mondays!