I frequent a cafe which is nestled in Sydney's busy media precinct.
As I was having my morning coffee, I overheard the chef gush to a waiter - "Do you know who that is? That's the CEO of Fairfax!", pointing at a departing gentleman.
"That guy is so loaded! I'd love to have his job!"
To give you some context, Fairfax is an Australian media giant which is attempting a recovery from the biggest decline in its history, as it changes focus from print to digital media.
Do You Want To Be A CEO?
I can't imagine how much courage, political savvyness and industry expertise it would take to navigate a monolith like Fairfax successfully to a brigher future.
To reduce this CEO's job description to a quip about his pay is to completely miss the point of what his job is about. But it's also useful to notice, because I think it captures how most people view work - and helps explain why so many people dislike their jobs.
We enter the workforce, largely, with a mindset of "what do I get?" We request money and titles (aka validation) to keep us happy.
The employers are happy to fan those desires and build entire pecking orders to keep us interested. In banking, Senior Associates brandish their business cards because they're finally "Senior" and finally feel justified to scoff at mere "Associates". In media, the editors and staffers fret about who will get to sit closest to the runway during a show. In law, everyone is chasing the partnership carrot.
This sentiment is echoed loudly in the popular media. When you walk past a business magazine rack at your newsagent, the bold headlines shout at you about the latest "rich lists", incessant stories about wealthiest people under 30, 35, 40 and 50, plus more lists of youngest CEOs, most successful women and so on.
What Is Success?
Is there anything wrong with celebrating success? Of course not.
But it seems to me that somewhere along the way the corporate culture began to put the cart before the horse. In all the noise about status and salaries we forgot what work is supposed to be really about.
Most people go to work to find a solution to this problem: "If I had (insert money figure/job title), then life would be better."
But perhaps this is the very root of the problem?
Being a CEO has little meaning. The title itself is not of significance. It's only important insofar as it indicates that the person is one who shoulders the responsibility of leading a group of people who are united by an idea.
Why Do You Go To Work?
Which is, in the end, why people began going to work. Making things happen. Creating things. Not so much working on an idea, but living by that idea.
After all, the company that you work for is a community of people who are creating a better future for other people in a certain niche.
Realities Of Work.
Of course, that's the idealistic, utopian view. We all know that in many companies the culture sucks, the company mission is nothing more than a hollow (and yet fancy) slogan that's buried somewhere in the back of their website and employees get paid just to turn up and look busy.
Does that sound like the company you work for? Well, what are you still doing there?
The great thing about being alive and working today is the flexibility in choosing who you work for, and on what grounds.
Your parents had a job for life. You have an opportunity to find a job which interests you. And then another one which interests you more. You can work for a company which is aligned with who you are, doing what you want to be doing.
You can be building something which you believe needs to be built. And deriving a lot of fulfilment from doing it.
The only question left - when will you seize the opportunity? Will 2014 finally be the year you'll get this part of your life handled?
Irene Kotov runs Arielle Careers, a boutique agency which specialises in personal branding, resume writing and interview coaching for executives and professionals. You an catch up with her here: @ArielleCareers.
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