Monday, November 19, 2007

Finding your passion at work

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why my job makes me happy, and why it even matters that I’m happy at the office. I’ve decided that what you do in life is not nearly as important as how what you do makes you feel.

I sell exhibit trade show space. What does that mean exactly? When you go to a trade show, exhibit, or fair, there are people there in the booths. These people are probably going to try to sell you things. For example, when I was pregnant, I went to a Baby Fair. There were stroller guys there, and bottle guys, and pacifier guys, and diaper guys, and safety product guys. Some schmuck somewhere had to contact these exhibitors, sell them the space, process their payments, and help them with show logistics. I am that schmuck. It’s my job to sell the show experience to our exhibitors. But if you get right down to it, I basically sell 10x10 pieces of concrete for a living. And my customers don’t even buy the concrete, they just rent it for a few days.

There’s nothing glamorous about what I do. I sell them their space, maybe some advertising, and for the smart ones, some sponsorship opportunities. I don’t sell fancy jewelry, high end electronics, or fancy cars. Just 10x10 pieces of concrete. So, why exactly, does this job make me happy?

I really do love what I do. I love working an account for a year and FINALLY landing it. I love meeting someone in the industry and selling our show to them. I love taking existing business and growing it. I love creating the perfect sponsorship opportunity to help an exhibitor meet their goals at the show. I love the excitement of knowing our numbers and watching them grow and approach our goals. And as any sales person will tell you, making the goal, or exceeding it, is the greatest!

I love the excitement of the show itself…getting onsite and seeing the floor turn into actual booth spaces, then the booth spaces becoming displays, then having booth personnel on the floor, and I love seeing the floor filled with show attendees. I love the parties and the early mornings and the late nights and the networking. I love it when the show closes and everyone packs up, excited to be on their way home. I love the follow up calls after the show, and most of all, I love it that it starts right back over. Love it, love it, love it!

I’m pretty good at what I do. I was very lucky to work for some really smart people for more than 5 years on another show. I learned a lot from those guys. Now, I work for even smarter people, and I’m learning even now. I understand how trade shows work and why they are effective. I know the lingo. I understand how a computer can make my job easier, and I let it, every day. I work for a successful show, #4 in my company to be exact. Out of 18, that’s not bad odds. There are only two of us selling this show, and it’s growing, so obviously we have some talent.

I believe in what I do. I can look myself in the mirror every morning because I’m selling a product I believe in. Our shows are the best – we have the smartest people in the industry working here, and it shows in everything we do. Our trade shows are second to none in professionalism and smarts. It makes me proud to sell a product others view as the best in the industry.

I like the people I work with. I am surrounded by a very smart group of people who are good at their jobs and like what they do. I have friends to go to lunch with, chat with over coffee, and lament with when I need to. People here celebrate our successes and encourage us when things look bleak. We work for a terrific company, and many of us appreciate the opportunities we have here that just aren’t floating around out there for other people. Am I best friends with everyone? Nope, in fact there are a few people here I don’t care for. But in the real world, do you think you can just waltz in someplace and love everyone? No, and I’m ok with that.

Are any of these reasons on their own earth shattering or life changing? No, but the combination of them is so powerful and encompassing, because they define for me why this works for me. As far as I’m concerned, I have the greatest job in the world. I like what I do, I make good money doing it, I like the people I do it with – the trifecta!

My Uncle Jim would dispute that, because he thinks he has the greatest job in the world. He makes things for a living – cabinets and furniture and such. He builds beautifully and with love and respect for his product and his customers. My sister is a CPA – the worse kind of bean counter – and she will tell you she has the greatest job in the world. I have a friend who travels with alumni year round, and she will tell you she has the greatest job in the world.

The simple fact of the matter is that there is no one cookie cutter perfect job, one everyone in the universe should reach for. But I do believe to the core of my being that there is one perfect job for each one of us, and it’s our challenge and duty to find it and go after it.

I love my job for all the reasons I just mentioned. Uncle Jim loves his job because he can take a piece of wood and turn it into something to be treasured for a lifetime. My sister loves her job because somehow all those columns all offset each other and really do mean something. My friend loves her job because she travels the world making new friends and living life large. The common thread for all of us is that we work consciously, seeing the work for what it is, and appreciating it anyway.

I look back at where I was a decade ago, just kind of clicking along in a job with a steady paycheck. It was ok, but nothing compares with having a job I look forward to doing every day. What will today bring? A new sale? A challenge? A roadblock? I never really know, but I’m always excited to find out.

If your job isn’t doing it for you right now, I urge you to find out why and do whatever it takes to make a change. You’re giving 40+ hours a week to your job, and it ought to be a source of pride and enjoyment for you. Whether it’s concrete or cabinets or columns, find out what lights your fire, then fan the embers every day. You owe it to yourself and your sanity to find your passion at work and then hold on to it.

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