Sunday, October 19, 2008

Loving one's job

Browsing through myriad of wonderfully crafted bottles and impeccable floral notes, finally I got a perfume for Ma. I hurriedly stumbled to the Geschenk (gift section) with a hope that I was well in time to get it wrapped.

I expected to get the bottle enclosed within the folds of some shiny gift wrap in a haste and pushed across the table, commodifying the gift and the sentiments attached to it. But I’m glad I was proven wrong. For across the counter, I saw one of the happiest faces in my life, who left me with an inexplicable experience which transcended the real value of the gift.

Despite of the fact that the clock had already struck the closing hours, the lady at the counter abstained herself from compromising on her job. Years of experience reflected as she bestowed a wonderfully crafted look to the gift. How and what she did to make the gift look the way it did , might be of an iota of interest to me few weeks down the lane, but the fact that she did it all with a smile will surely reverberate.

She didn’t “clock-the-time” nor mumbled "Thank God it's Friday!" Her face reflected what she thought about her job. And if I’m to believe in precision guesswork, I would say, she loved every bit of it!

Would a little bit of candid envy hurt? For as compared to her, sometimes I feel my job as a researcher, is no more inspiring than a grindstone in a flour mill.

Struggling through competing priorities, sometimes I question myself, why do I need replace every waking hour of my day with work? I might as well do as little as I can, for as much money as I get, and run back home as early as possible. Additionally, on umpteen occasions I tried solving the equation between my potential and my job, but never reached a L.H.S = R.H.S scenario!

The statistics supporting the numbers, where one lands up with a job synchronous with the individual's skills, might not be significant. I have been witness to the serious repercussions which crop up, being, an overqualified employee getting horrendously bored and an under-qualified employee drawing a highly stressful and aimless career graph.

Professional dissatisfaction makes us withdraw into ourselves and make the least of our opportunities. With no augmentation to our growth as an individual, we work just for the sake of paying our house rent and electricity bills! Which indeed is a very sad situation.

One’s job might not be as fascinating as making music, as much fun as raising a farm or as dreamy as painting. And I might not be able to give a fair verdict on THE ideal job, one that will invariably give you a sense of absolute satisfaction, because I need to figure it out for myself first! But one thing is of prime certainty. If you do, whatever you do, with utmost sincerity and a smile, it will always fetch you happiness as a by-product. And I wish to add, this refers not only to your workplace but any and every job in question.

I remember my dad used to say, "If you’re washing clothes, really wash them!"

A rag-picker or a nurse cleaning bedpans in a hospital might be happier about their work as compared to a high profile technocrat. Our work is as irredeemably discouraging or encouraging as we make it, and how, I got to learn it myself.On my own behalf, I would like to take that first step.


tanuj solanki said...

L.H.S = R.H.S

is tough!

it is like finding the balance between your left brain and right brain :)

I like this post...intend to go through the rest of them...

thanx for visiting mine (and the comment)!

Arpita said...

I’m taking the liberty of skipping the perfunctory exchange of Thank You’s :)
But I’m glad that you found the post enticing enough to dig through the archives as well!
Hope I scribble some good ones, so that you don’t mind browsing through them!

Getting back to L.H.S=R.H.S, I agree it’s a quintessential paradox which is here to stay!

tanuj solanki said...

btw... did I tell you keep writing more poems

Harish - Check it out said...

I must say the packing is amazing, the very proof of work requiring total commitment, both physical and mental..!! which a majority limit to physical, which included me too, back in India. i guess its more about accepting what you get, rather than looking for what u want, but still striving for the latter..!!

Arpita said...

Yes. You just did.

Arpita said...

Actually it´s not what you do, it´s the way you do it that simplifies the conflict between the best and the second best.

Acceptance of what comes your way sounds pragmatic and chasing unrealistic dreams calls for a streak of madness, but in either case,sometimes your own effort remains mediocre.

And there are no prizes for average performance.

justforpraveen said...

Carrying a fake smile is part of many jobs. Its not necessarily happiness thats showing up on that lady's face.If it is then good for her.

Work matching skill is not a sufficient criterion for being happy. It also needs to be backed up with good work environment.Many times doing a ordinary job can keep people happy if they are satisfied with their work environment.

When pay becomes a survival instinct it means we are not happy. We always have a choice to divert. Many remain in this state forever because of inertia.

Arpita said...

@ Praveen

I agree. The smile could have just been a part of her monotonous work package. Precise psychoanalysis of Homo sapiens is I-M-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E!

But still I beg to differ with the attitude implicated in your comment, with least offence I hope :)

Life is simple. You see someone smiling, you smile. You don’t see anybody smiling, you still smile. It’s when you question the smile that things get a bit complicated. Fake, Unreal , Pretentious, more often than not, are our own tags, which reflect our very own mental picture!

As I mentioned, I didn’t wish to deduce a conclusion that she was 110% happy with her job. What I found commendable was that she delivered more than what her job asked her to promise!

And jumping to a real gross work place scenario, let me throw you an easy example. I have one! And I’m definitely not euphoric about it. I always end up having endless stream of conflict with some of my colleagues.
But, then I realise I’m spending a substantial portion of my life at work and more time with my co-workers than possibly some of my loved ones.
And to a certain extent, I do have a choice at work; to choose to enjoy my work or more precisely, enjoy the people I work with, don’t I? Those handful I don’t get along, are on my ignore list (although they still continue to probe!!!) and the rest make me a happy girl!

Money IS important. And you definitely look for greener pastures, sometimes setting aside your own interests. But again that’s a matter of priority. You traded off your personal career interests for financial benefits. Nothing’s to be questioned than your own individual decision, which I guess, should suffice.

tanuj solanki said...

@ praveen: guess she is right when she says labeling is wrong!

@ arpita: u know things abt positive thinking...
i bet u don't like cynical people!

Arpita said...

Not everything under the sky.

But I sure keep paddling even if its pretty ragged below the surface (more often than not) :)

Talk about stereotyping people!Nope.
On the contrary, the idiosyncracies of a human mind make me wonder...a great deal.

justforpraveen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
justforpraveen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
justforpraveen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
justforpraveen said...

Ok probably she loved her job.

True what you see in the mirror is your own reflection.But you know a receptionist does not necessarily feel happy to receive guests at any hotel/office desk but he/she has to pass on a smile.

Very often I see here too old ladies smiling while collecting used plates at any food corner.
They aren't happy to do that work but they have no other easy work choices suiting their age to support family.

I went one step ahead than you did.
I frankly asked many such people posing smiling faces doing their job with ultimate perfection or even outperforming and I rarely received a positive answer.Some people told me outperforming is their bread winning instinct.This makes me wonder who all are really happy.

There can can be a sad story behind each smile.Its possible that it has no connection with love for their jobs.Thats all i meant to say.

All workplace issues can be solved very easily and all conflicts can be avoided if we are willing to listen to differing views. Remember others are not always wrong.

Money IS important but not THE only important thing.To me I do not see why personal career interests and earning money can not be interlocked. At least I haven't made a compromise with my interests.

I meet people saying work sucks but they still continue there with their unhappy minds because of fear of failure if they start over again somewhere else. Thats Inertia. Believe me it takes a lot of courage to break free.Especially when you wish to track your interests which could be off from current work.

tanuj solanki said...

praveen...u r right

i did not read it too carefully... sorry!


Arpita said...

I begin with a cautionary note that the reply might stretch until eternity :)

Firstly, I really appreciate your candid view regarding the post! In fact, harder the conflict, more glorious the triumph ;)

I'm not in complete denial of what you expressed, just that I’m being selective about what I choose to accept!

My post was equipped not with facts but only interpretations regarding a random event. And no way had I intended to be judgemental about the satisfaction quotient of the lady.

You have my absolute consensus when you say that people might be completely grief stricken inside but still have to put up a fa├žade of being happy, because the job needs it. I AGREE. No amount of professional success may compensate for an apocalypse inside you!

All I want to express is that life is a matter of choice. Though it’s difficult to make discretion between your professional and private life during personal crisis, the choice is still left with you. You can grizzle and grumble about it or stand up to the professional commitment without surfacing it on your face or work.

But the above DOES NOT imply that you are happy about your job!! Just that even if you are merely obliged to perform a task in hand, you don’t choose to plod on but you do it to the best of your abilities.

I know of a lady who was working in Missionaries of Charity (Delhi). She used to mop vomits and clean wounds of leprosy patients. That’s not a very fascinating job. But she felt pride in the fact that she was involved in the healing process of people who had been abandoned.

A glass being half empty or half full is your own stake in life! I personally grab the full end. Period.

I agree. Even if it’s a gross deviation from the popular opinion, every one deserves freedom of speech. A difference in ideology should not manifest itself as an excuse for being rude. But all professional discussions might not be as smooth as you outlined. Sometimes they can be very unhealthy and ugly, especially when they are nothing but a collection of acquired prejudices. And if that being the case, I choose to refrain myself. I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

I’m glad that you have come across a job that you love and haven’t compromised with :)

Money is not everything. It can’t fetch you abstract emotions like happiness and peace, family and friends, but almost everything else for sure. Those who are in absolute denial are practising nothing else but spiritual snobbery.

And I believe, there is no positive correlation between career interests and money. An artist (painter, singer, dancer) might be doing what he always wanted to do, but may still starve with hunger which is purely monetary. In addition, I'm sure the afore cited receptionists and old ladies are obliged to work, if not for professional satisfaction, but money, for obvious reasons. So think about it!

I agree with the concluding part of the comment. That’s what I precisely wanted to convey in the first palce! That you may not land up where you intended to be. In which case you either have to magnify your skills, modify your objectives, do your job without complaining or simply quit. And none of the choices are easy, but you got to pick up one, lest you want to remain stagnant for the rest of your life!

As I type these words from my lab desk, which is practically my second home, I can cite umpteen examples from my own life, when I felt like giving up my job, but this might not be the right platform or occasion to do so!

But I didn’t quit, I just chose to smile :)

justforpraveen said...

Good comments.Very interesting to read your views.I just wanted to say that though this might have been a random post ,It surfaces a very important aspect of life.
Many times we would keep coming back to this question in our lives again and again.

Are we really happy/satisfied?

Yes for the examples they could not think anything more than earning money for survival which is the minimum basic human need. Unfortunately many of us have to divert from their interests to fulfill this need. And once we do that the answer to this question is even more difficult to arrive at.

Arpita said...

I do reserve your take on no worries :)
Thank you for mulling over the issue so intently and at length!