Looking for Joy on the Job (Even in a Recession)

Finding joy in your work requires these 3 things.

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Outside Voices - ''Working Girl'' aka Karen Burns
Is asking for joy at your job asking for too much?

You might think it is. You might say, "What kind of Pollyanna BS is this?"

But you're forgetting for the moment how important joy is. Yes, you can live without it for a while. But imagine yourself in 30, 40, or 50 years. Do you want to look back on a lifetime of arid, cheerless work?

That's why today's meditation is about finding joy on the job. Yes, even in a recession.

Where does job joy come from?

First, you need to be excellent at what you do. You'd think that excellence is a result of liking your work, but it's the other way around. Being excellent at your job makes you like it. Working to your highest potential is exciting and nourishing. In short, joyful.

Job joy ingredient No. 2 is ethics. To qualify as joyful work, that work must be in line with your values. If you feel that your work is harmful—to humans, to the planet, to yourself—then you can't love that work and it can't bring you joy.

Finally, joy on the job comes from engagement. Engaging work is challenging work, hard work. When every day you look forward to new delightful problems that (because you are excellent!) you have the ability to solve—that's engagement.

In these uncertain times, most people feel lucky to just have a job. And if you do, you should. But you only have one life so also try to find joy in your work. To start looking, see above.

Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.