You go to work each day (hopefully, but maybe not in this economy) where you do your best to provide for your family and you try to get as much satisfaction out of the experience as possible. When you're able to do both you can get pretty close to career nirvana. I've been close a couple of times. Any time I've had a job where I haven't earned enough income to provide for my family adequately, I've had a hard time enjoying the work no matter how much I love the rest of it. Of course, I have the added challenge of providing for a wife and six children, so my financial needs are not insignificant. Like most people I've also had times when I earned enough but the job satisfaction was lacking for a variety of reasons.
What is the secret to finding that point of harmony? That area where the earnings and satisfaction quotients coexist? Some people find this place early on in their careers. They manage to do the same thing for years or decades, becoming a master at their trade. Others never find it. Either they get stuck in an occupation that meets only one or neither need, or they bounce around looking for the perfect fit, one that seems just beyond their grasp. I'm one of those in-betweeners. There have been clear and distinct times in my working life when I have felt satisfied on both levels, but those occurrences have proven to be transitory.
One of my favorite lines from literature is, "Not all who wander are lost." Bilbo Baggins and I are very much alike. We both like the comforts of home; yet we yearn to see the world and experience as much of it as possible. My blessing, my curse is that I fell in love with reading at young age. I read everything from historical fiction to fantasy to current events to modern day thrillers to social sciences. Without leaving my small, hometown, I experienced much of the world (and other worlds) vicariously through the characters. Growing up I never had an overwhelming desire to be a __________. I wanted to do this, be that, and try that over there.
My hope was that by the time I entered college I would know what I wanted to do. Throughout college my hope was that I would know what I wanted to do by the time I graduated. Honestly, I didn't do too badly. I only switched majors once, (from mechanical engineering to finance), but it was a process filled with pain and indecisiveness. By the time I graduated I was very close to a double major and not far from a triple major, all in just four years of school. In fact, if I could be paid to go to school full time and make enough to provide for my family, that's where I would be right now.
A quick glance at my complete resume reveals a surprising diversity of experience:
- Owner, lawn care business (11-13 years old)
- Rural sanitary engineer (cleaning up the county dumpsters, 16-17 years old)
- Maintenance and Summer Project Crew, County School District (17-19 years old)
- Occasional farm helper, (16-19 years old)
- Appliance delivery, (18-19 years old)
- Port-a-potty maintenance and delivery, (17-19 years old)
- Roto-rooter technician, (17-19 years old)
- Sorter, Deseret Industries, (21 years old)
- Campus Security, (21-22 years old)
- Robotic welder operator and machine shop assistant, (22-23 years old)
- Cheese plant technician, (23-24 years old)
- Insurance agent and financial planner, (24-25 years old)
- Part-time substitute teacher, (25 years old)
- Construction laborer, part-time, (24-25 years old)
- Financial Management Officer, USAF, (25-28 years old)
- International Programs, Deputy Director, USAF, (28-30 years old)
- Full-time graduate student, on a salary, (30-32 years old)
- Research Fellow, part-time (32-34 years old)
- International Programs, Deputy Director and Assistant Professor of Russian and Political Science, (32-35 years old)
- Director of Agency Relations, Support and Sales, Software Development Company, (35-37 years old)
- Director of Development, Construction Education and Certification, (present)
Now, I could go back and highlight which jobs met one or both of the requirements for harmony, but I wouldn't want to risk offending any previous employers or jading any possible future employers. In terms of the first requirement, sufficient salary, the best option for me is just to get paid as much as possible. (But, I'm sure that's true for most people.)
It is challenging for me to find the job that is truly satisfying. Consider my educational background along with my previous employment:
- Bachelor of Arts, Finance; minor, political science. Utah State University.
- Basic Officer Training School, USAF. Maxwell AFB, AL.
- Aerospace Basic Course, USAF. Maxwell AFB, AL.
- Basic Financial Management Officer Course, USAF. Maxwell AFB, AL.
- Foreign Disclosure Officer Training, USAF.
- Master of Arts, National Security Affairs--Russia and Europe. Naval Postgraduate School.
Additionally, I've managed to travel to or live in the following countries as part of my work or service experience: Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Romania, Slovakia, Austria, the Netherlands, Mongolia, China, Japan, and Singapore.
With that background, I would love like to try to describe my dream job, the one that would meet both requirements for an extended number of years.
First requirement, I need a salary large enough to meet all of our current needs; allow us to help our children with college, weddings, and missions; and provide enough to set aside a nest egg large enough to allow us to live comfortably and serve multiple missions for the church. It wouldn't hurt if it was also enough to allow us to travel the country and world as a family. I could quote a figure, but I would hate to provide any future employers a minimum floor level. Instead I would prefer to allow them to determine my worth in hopes that it exceeds my floor minimum.
Now for the tricky part, achieving job satisfaction, or maybe I should up the ante and refer to it as "achieving job excitement." What would it take for me to achieve job satisfaction with occasional job excitement? What do I look for in a job? I wrote a list the other day and such a job would need to include the following:
- It makes a positive difference in the lives of people.
- It requires me to think and solve problems.
- It allows me to create new products, procedures, processes, and programs.
- It allows me to make things work better.
- It allows me to teach others.
- It requires me to speak Russian or some other foreign language on occasion.
- The opportunity to work with smart, interesting, and funny people, the type of people that I wouldn't mind spending time with outside of work.
- The opportunity to travel internationally a few times a year, maybe spend two or three weeks abroad at a time, and to make new friends and contacts overseas.
- It requires me to stay current on national and international politics and relations.
- It allows me to research and write on interesting topics on a regular basis.
- It doesn't involve too much routine or repetitive actions. I don't want to be a mass producer of anything.
There's the job description for my dream job. I'm not sure if they're in order of precedence. At certain times some may be more important that others. Of course, I could throw in a few more things like a company car, an awesome expense account, fancy business cards, pays me to run races, etc. But that's just stretching for the perfect job.
Please let me know if you come across the job that meets my descriptions and would mesh well with my previous employment history and education. I may not be looking to move on from where I'm at, but it's always nice to know that the dream job is out there.
- Jarad Van Wagoner