Sunday, May 4, 2008


A few weeks ago I listened to a program on NPR called America's Labor Challenges The program was primarily focused on the economic landscape of today’s American workplace. It talked a lot about the financial disparities between corporate senior management and the average worker. It also focused much attention on the decline in worker benefits, and the challenges today’s worker will have laying the foundation for a fruitful retirement. The program offered useful, thought provoking information, but painted a dismal future. After listening, I felt pretty discouraged.

Later on, on my way home from work, I listened to NPR again. I heard more depressing information about our economy: job loses, retail store closures, increased real estate foreclosures, rising gas prices, inflation, etc., not an uplifting way to end the day.

While I was listening to this program in the car, I thought about how many other people in the Bay Area, and the entire nation, were also hearing the same information. I then thought about how this information, combined with all stresses in both our work and personal lives, can feel so overwhelming. It was certainly weighing on me. So, I shut off the radio, and turned on my iPod instead. To me, that action represented an effort on my part, though minor, of intending to be happy.

The events I just described motivated me to write about how being happy at work, or in life for that matter takes effort. For most people, happiness in any capacity usually doesn’t come knocking on the door. We have to make efforts to attain it. When it comes to our work lives, environment, demands, and market conditions can make it especially difficult to find emotional satisfaction. This makes me think of that saying, “if work were fun, it wouldn’t be called work.” What does that mean? Perhaps we agree to this outlook, so we don’t have to accept the challenge of intending to be happy while at work.

The next time you’re having a rough day, and are feeling cynical about work and the system we live in, here are a few things to think about, that may help you feel better about your circumstances.

n You could be living in a third world country where just having a job is treasure.
n Does the work you do stimulate you, challenge you, make you feel good about yourself? If so, hold on to that. Doing the work you do, makes putting up organizational annoyances worth it.
n Is your work meaningful? You may have to put up with many ridiculous roadblocks on the way to trying to get your job done, but in the end, what you do has a positive impact on the world. That’s why you do it. Focus on that.
n Does your work enable you to make a good living, so you can afford life in the high priced Bay Area? If so, hold on to that.
n Does your work give you the flexibility to pursue meaningful activities in your personal life? If so, hold on to that.
n Are there people at work who you consider friends, who make you laugh and feel good about yourself? If so, reach out to them in your times of crisis.

The point of this list is to say that despite all the challenges and work-related misfortunes that we might encounter, there are always ways to make ourselves happy. We just need to have the intention. However, if you look at the above list, and see nothing that applies to you, it may be time for a change.

For more information about job change and career development, visit:

--Steve Hernandez