A reader asked me last week what she can do to find work that’s more fulfilling. I promised a response.
It’s an interesting topic for a blog on business emotional intelligence, because most of us don’t think of loving our work as part of the EQ equation. Self awareness, self mastery, and an ability to manage relationships and interactions—yes. But loving our work?
Actually that’s an important part of business EQ, too. It takes self awareness to know what kind of work you enjoy (as well as, perhaps, the assistance of a life coach, mentor, therapist, or a lot of good books.) It also takes self awareness to figure out what you do or don’t like about your current job. And it takes self mastery to behave appropriately (and do good work) when you’re doing work you don’t like—or for people you don’t respect.
But there’s another way of looking at this, too: We don’t always get to do only work we love with only people we respect. In small businesses, especially, most of us have to do some work we don’t enjoy. (Go ahead, choose your poison: Is it inventory? accounting? taking out the trash? hiring and firing? customer service? dealing with permits? No one likes it all.) As such, one way of developing emotional intelligence is finding ways to get absorbed in the task at hand, to find something interesting about even the most mundane of job responsibilities.
Maybe you can concentrate on fulfilling your job duties to the very best of your abilities. Maybe you can focus on going the extra mile on a boring or unpleasant chore (e.g., wash out that trashcan, in addition to emptying it.) Maybe you can try extra hard to get along with someone who is giving you grief – i.e., practice being polite and empathetic, while setting firm personal boundaries. Or maybe you should set your sights on getting a promotion, so you’ll be more challenged, which will keep you more engaged.
Whatever the challenge — and whatever your solution — remember this: It’s up to you to figure out what kind of work is most engaging. And it’s up to you to handle the work that’s not so engaging with skill, maturity, and professionalism. At the end of the day, that’s what will make you feel good about yourself, no matter how much you dislike the actual task itself.