Management Update: Route to Happiness

If you haven’t already stopped to reflect on what you vow to do differently in this New Year, why not just skip it? Because if you are like most people, you will only feel bad six weeks from now when you realise that you haven’t kept your New Year’s resolution to improve your life by (a) working less (b) working more or (c) (you fill in the blank).

The problem with resolutions is that they require resolve, an unwavering firmness of will. Resolutions don’t bend. They stay fixed while everything else changes. Too often they take the form of commands when what we really need are suggestions, or permission to change things and see what happens. These changes can be as small as inviting someone outside your circle at work to lunch, or as big as leaving your job to start a business. What matters when stepping outside your comfort zone is allowing your interests and values to guide you.

Abby Dils did just that when she felt herself being pulled along a path that didn’t suit her Dils is a counsellor in a programme that helps people with learning and cognitive disabilities to find work. One of her clients is a young autistic man who loves his grocery store job. It was striking to see her easy relationship with the young man and the fact that she clearly cared more about him and his feelings than about publicity for her programme. It’s not often you meet some- one, especially someone in their 20s, who seems so clear about their purpose. It turns out that she had made a big switch severalyears ago. When she graduated from Notre Dame University with a major in Marketing in 2000, she got a good offer in Chicago from a Fortune 500 company, to work in human resources – her father’s field.

The salary was a little more than she had expected, and the work was challenging. The hours were long – she put in 1012 hours days – not because she was slow or disorganised, but because the company’s culture required it. Her employer made it clear that the company wanted to retain and develop people like her, but Dils grew uneasy when the first year, and then the second, rolled by.

"I started looking at it long term and thought, "I don’t see my personality fitting with this. Ilike the fast pace, but I know I’m going to get burned out,’" she recalled. "The further you move along, the more the things that you can have become visible potential, money benefits. That’s why I was sure not to go any ft1rther down that road because I knew it would be more difficult to leave.

" In her third year, she started researching social service jobs. At that time she was working a night shift, which left her days free for her job search, though it sometimes resulted in her going without much sleep. It took about six months to find her position at Bridges, a programme sponsored by the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities. The programme is partly ftmded with federal grants to assist local employers in filling jobs, while helping young people find vocations.

The fit seemed right. She would be working with employers as well as young people, using her corporate background and HR experience. She already knew she liked counselling and mentoring because she had done it as a volunteer while at Notre Dame.

Even so, the switch took courage. For one thing, her new job paid about 35 per cent less. That meant moving to a less-expensive apartment and forgoing some of the travel she enjoyed, like following Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish football team for road games. "It was a little scary," she said. "Most people would go, "What? You did what?" knowing the cost of living in a big city "Why would you give up good pay, good promotion prospects?" But if I’m not happy, what’s the point?" The change worked out well, and she’s glad she stayed with her corporate job as long as she did. "If I had not given it that much time, I would have wondered, ‘Did I jump too soon?’ but I feel like I gave it enough to realise it was not what I enjoy most. Leaving (for less pay) was an adjustment, but I don’t think it was a bad one. You deal with what you have or don’t have.

" Her rewards are many She recently got a six-page letter from a young woman who was very timid when Dils placed her in a nursing home job. She wrote to say she had decided to move on and try something ditTerent. On her own she had found work at a movie theatre, and her letter, complete with drawings, described everything she was learning. "She’s come out of her shell," Dils said. As for her job, she said she knows it won’t be her last. "I love what I do, but I know there’s stW more out there. I don’t know if you ever figure it out exactly, but I think I’m a lot closer than I was a few years ago. I think there are few people who are 100 per cent satisfied with where they’re at. There is always something new, something better to look at."

a Courtesy: McClatchy-Tribune (MCT) Information Services