Very few people become writers by accident. Obviously I’m in the line of work and care enough to write a blog about it. Nevertheless, as I worked my way through grad school and then the apprenticeship phase of my career, I found some tasks appealed to me more than others. Until I tried them, I really didn’t know what would motivate me and what would bore me to tears. I’m not the guy you want to call to do medical writing, for instance. Nor do you want me to analyze postmodernism, deconstructionism, theology, or poetry. I learned most of these lessons the hard way, though I would say that it’s a bit more rewarding and cost/time effective to learn in school than on the job. Still, even if you’re in a job where you want to be, some tasks will brighten your day more than others.
What will those tasks be? Only you can know that. For me, the day-brighteners are tasks that require me to write about new topics. I work for a space-, energy-, and technology-oriented small business, so novelty is a regular part of my work “diet.” But that is not my sole task, and I realize that. There are regular, maintenance-oriented tasks that require my attention: editing or tweaking existing products, reviewing and updating current documents, and writing marketing materials about content I’ve already addressed.
Why is it important to know what you enjoy on your job? Because those tasks are interesting, you’re good at them, and this self-reinforcing cycle eventually makes you an expert the more you do them. These are your differentiators, the things you can talk about with honest passion (or at least interest) during interviews. If you want to go whole-hog on the concept, you might even discover a way to start a business with your individual “favorites.”
Not sure what you’re good at (or what you enjoy)? Pay attention to which tasks seem to take forever to accomplish. Which tasks do you put off? Which ones make you fall asleep on the job? Okay…now you’ve got the “don’t like that” list. Of the things you do on the job, what’s left? Or, if you’re still not sure, ask others which tasks they think you’re best at doing. In what areas do you need improvement or (be honest) help?
The trickier part is finding ways to ensure that you get to do more of the things you like and less of the work you don’t. Sometimes you can make up your own projects. Sometimes you can identify internal needs that require your specific skill sets. And yes, sometimes you have to change jobs to find people who want to hire people with your particular passions.
If you’re going to spend a lot of time at work, you might as well enjoy yourself, right?