Helping happy cows stay happy
Posted by Ken Klaus on March 14, 2008
I can’t vouch for the science behind the Happy Cow theory but their commercials do make me smile. Over the past couple of weeks there have been some great discussions around the benefits of employee mobility. Amy, Meg and Mark have waxed eloquent on the advantages of allowing an employee to move up via promotion or move on by finding a new role in the organization. Sometimes though, the employee is already in the right job and keeping them engaged and successful (read happy) means helping them grow where they are, to cultivate new skills within their current position.
Over the past year I’ve been struggling with the question of whether I’m still in the right role or even on the right career path. I’ve been working in the software industry for more than ten years now, but this wasn’t actually part of the plan. Life is funny that way. Most of us have a pretty good idea of what we want to do after we finish college, but then we hop on the job train and ten years and a whole lot of miles later we find ourselves in a career we didn’t even consider as undergraduates. That said I really do like the work I’m doing. I just feel like there’s something missing – that I still haven’t reached my full potential. So is it time for me to move on?
As I nearly always do when these sorts of questions creep into my thoughts, I asked my good friend and informal mentor to lunch. (I am so bad in this regard that an invitation to lunch now carries the implied message: “I’m having a career crisis!”) Anyway, we have lunch and, as usual, my friend patiently listens as I explain all of the reasons why I need to quit my job and find my true path in life. When I finished, I was confident she fully understood my problem and was now going to reach into her bag – the one labeled All the Answers – and give me the one that would solve my career crisis. But instead of an answer, she asked me a question: “Rather than quitting your job, have you thought about how you could grow your current role to include what you feel is missing”?
It was a really great question and one that I hadn’t considered. Rather than give up all the things I loved about my job, why not find ways to grow the job into something even more interesting and fulfilling. Too often employees find themselves in great, if imperfect, careers and so go hunting for something new. However, the truth is for most of us the perfect job simply doesn’t exist. But there are a great many jobs that are nearly perfect; so maybe the trick is to find an almost perfect job and see how we can improve it. Strong, effective managers will consistently cultivate a culture of mobility and encourage their employees to develop new skill sets to grow beyond their current roles; but there are times when the job itself needs to be grown to ensure the goals and aspirations of the employee can be fully realized.