Unicorns, leprechauns, fairies, minotaur, and… people who love their jobs! If your first thought is, “things that don’t exist,” I wouldn’t blame you. The idea of loving your job may seem like lore pulled from an ancient book of mythology.
The truth is, though, people who love their jobs aren’t unicorns. But they do share some traits that make them special—and help them love what they do. If you’re ready to make your career the stuff legends are made of, here are a few things career heroes have in common that you can start working into your own professional story now.
1. THEY’RE COMFORTABLE WITH FAILURE
Embracing failure is a popular concept for good reason. Every person who has made their mark professionally—and loves what they do—has failed epically somewhere along the way. Why? Because, when they’re looking for change or growth in their career, or when something’s not working, they don’t stick with the status quo. They try new things! And, as expected, while some of those things work out great; others not so much.
But that’s absolutely OK. Happy and successful people know that, with each failure along the way, the sting lessens just a bit and you begin to realize the importance each failure has for your learning experience. Over time, each failure becomes less of a tragedy and more of a tool in your toolbox. Understanding how you’ve missed the mark just makes it easier for you to calibrate for the next shot.
How to make it a reality
Time is the best teacher when it comes to failure, but you can speed up the process with some practice. With every failure, no matter how big or small, embrace your mistakes and do everything you can to understand what can be learned from the experience. If, for example, you bombed a presentation, suck it up and ask your boss to give you honest feedback about where you missed the mark and how you could improve. Then, bite your lip and brace for impact (and maybe read this article on taking feedback seriously—not personally). Hearing the cold hard truth won’t be easy, but I promise it will help you fast track your acceptance of failure and open your eyes to the lessons you can learn from each.
2. THEY’RE CONFIDENT
Being confident in who you are and what you do goes a long way in helping you feel great about the work you do. When you believe in your own abilities, you’re more likely to put your all into a stretch assignment, go after projects that excite you, and forge friendships with others in the office—all of which can provide a big boost to your on-the-job happiness. Plus, showing you’re sure of your work and at ease with whatever obstacles may come your way give others the comfort they need to let you operate in your own way. If you’ve ever had a boss who micromanaged you, you’ll understand how liberating and rewarding working on your own terms can be.
How to make it a reality
Confidence comes with experience, but that’s not the only place it comes from. Even if you’re new to a role and have zero experience, you can still exude the confidence that your colleagues need to see to trust you to work with minimal supervision. Start with something you know you’re great at—no matter what it is—and find ways to work that into your daily routine in the office. If you’re a great writer, for example, take pride in crafting awesome emails or reports. Put your heart into the things you know you’ll nail. You will feel great about the work you’re doing, and your colleagues will recognize you have a special skill and give you the freedom to pursue your other talents as well.
3. THEY DON’T ALWAYS LOVE THEIR JOBS
I think the only true unicorn in this story is someone who’s loved every job she’s ever had. No one loves what they do all the time, and unless you’re actually sitting on a pot of gold with a leprechaun by your side, I’m willing to bet you’ll have bad days at work. It happens to all of us.
The difference is, people who love what they do know that days, weeks, and months come with ebbs and flows. Accepting that things won’t be perfect all the time gives you the optimism and emotional space to accept a bad day for what it is and look forward to tomorrow, rather than let it fester and turn into something bigger.
How to make it a reality
Many years ago, a colleague tried to calm me down after a horrifically bad day by telling me, “It’s not as bad as you feel like it is now. Go home, get some sleep and look at the situation with fresh eyes tomorrow. It’ll be better.” Guess what? He was right. Bad days happen, but they don’t happen every day—if you don’t let them. When crummy things happen to us on the job, we can choose to let those things affect us, or we can accept that it’s just part of the game and look forward to a new day tomorrow.
Finding your passion, making loads of money, or working from a laptop from a beach in Thailand all sound like keys to loving what you do, but I guarantee they’ll have little effect if you don’t have these three traits mastered. Myths and legends may be fiction, but loving your career doesn’t have to be a fairy tale. Keep these three tips in mind, and you’ll be on your way to a happily ever after career.