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I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon is a brilliant article by Austin Murphy in the December 2018 issue of The Atlantic. Murphy articulates his career journey as a result of being in an industry disrupted by technology.
What really resonated for me about his story was his transformation from shame to pride. Somehow, he found his way to seeing his new job as rigorous, challenging, fun and something he strives to excel at. He discovered he can be – and has the right to be – proud of the job he does, whatever that job is.
After reading Murphy’s article, I found myself paying more attention to people doing their jobs. I noticed Jack, the cashier in Winners, whose attentiveness elicited a spontaneous “you should be in customer service” comment from a customer. He paused and beamed up at her, “Thank you. I think customer service is my thing.” He clearly takes pride in what he does and it shows.
I contrast this with the bored, lackadaisical barista at my local coffee shop. While she’s voluntarily employed in a service job, she clearly feels no pride in what she does and it also shows.
Is it important to feel pride in what you do?
According to researcher and author of Pride: The Secret of Success, Dr. Jessica Tracy, it is.
Pride is a primary, universal human emotion and closely linked to self-esteem. Humans are programmed to feel and express pride.
I heard Tracy speak recently and her ideas caused me to wonder: Do we spend enough time thinking about how to maximize our opportunities to feel pride?
We’re really focused on being happy. Happy is good. But what about pride? How might we transform ourselves and our experience of life if we felt more pride?
Since most of us spend the better part of our days working, it seems to me we ought to think about how we can maximize our opportunities to experience pride in our work.
So how can we experience more pride at work?
One main source of pride is accomplishing or achieving something. For an athlete, winning a gold medal is a moment of pride. For a child, learning to tie your shoes is a moment of pride.
Work provides an endless array of opportunities for achievement, sometimes large and often small. There are a number of ways to increase opportunities to feel pride:
Understand what motivates you. We’re all motivated by different things. If you understand what you really care about, you can focus on doing work that provides you with more opportunities for fulfilment and pride.
I love a challenge. I see navigating through a tricky situation as an accomplishment and it’s a moment of pride for me.
My friend Julie, on the other hand, would be the first to admit she’s primarily motivated by money. Nothing makes her happier than getting a big sale and the hefty commission cheque. That accomplishment makes her proud.
Try to do something you’re good at. Doing work that makes the most of your strengths is more likely to result in opportunities for you to feel proud.
As Jack discovered, when you’re good at something, people notice. Even if it doesn’t result in being regularly acknowledged by others, I suspect that inner sense of pride in doing something you’re good at is just as important to how you feel about yourself and your life.
Commit to doing your very best. We don’t always get to do jobs that thrill us. Austin Murphy’s decision to drive for Amazon was about having to pay the bills. How we show up in the roles we take on, however, is completely up to us.
When you’re doing your very best, I think the chances of feeling proud of yourself go way up. This is the lesson I learned from Sophia, who is an absolute star as a receptionist. She’s so good at what she does, I assumed she was in her dream job. One day I commented on this to her and she quietly confided it was actually her heart’s desire to be an actor.
“This is what I do to support my family,” she said. “When I decided I needed to play the role of receptionist, I decided to be the very best And I am proud of that.”
There are plenty of paths on the career journey. They’re all more fulfilling if you take pride in what you’re doing on that journey.
Rebecca Schalm, PhD, is founder and CEO of Strategic Talent Advisors Inc., a consultancy that provides organizations with advice and talent management solutions.
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