The Best Job You Will Ever Have

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My career has included stints as a CEO of a large consulting company and an onion slicer at a hot dog stand. The same career includes serving as a college president and another time when I was a “sewer rat” for a municipal water agency. Once I was a partner at a top tier venture capital firm, and once I was a lifeguard on the ocean.

All of the jobs had beautiful parts as well as challenging and not so nice parts (ask me sometime about the sewer rat job.) Some jobs made it onto the resume or the LinkedIn profile.  Some jobs didn’t. Some of the positions that might be considered the most lucrative or prestigious were not the most rewarding.

Some jobs had me thinking, “I am the luckiest bastard who every lived and I can’t believe I get paid for this.” Others, not so much. Some jobs had an effect on me that will last a lifetime.  The people I worked with or around or met in some jobs are with me every day.  There were other people that I couldn’t wait to rid from my life.

Some jobs pay a lot. Some are prestigious. Some are neither. All the good jobs have three things that can change you. Without the potential for these three things, it won’t be a good job. The best job you will ever have includes:

A chance to develop meaningful relationships. Friends matter. Working on a team matters. The joy of successful completion of a project with others matters. Feeling like you are part of a special group at a special time matters. Getting to understand others matters. I am still in touch with special people from long ago jobs.

The opportunity to learn something important. The learning of which I speak is not about spreadsheets or PowerPoint skills. The important learning from a great job is about what matters and how to work your way through a complex world. In a “best job” you will learn how to deal with others, where your true passions and skills lie and about science or poetry or economics or…

 A sense that you are making an impact or helping others. It is not necessary to feel like you are competing for a Nobel Prize. The best jobs have an inherent sense that your work matters whether it is in the sewer department or as a CEO. That’s why firefighters and special education teachers are consistently at the top of the heap when it comes to the most satisfied people in any profession.

No matter what point you are in your career, some jobs stand out as special, whether you have had four jobs or fifty. These are the jobs that you remember fondly. These are the jobs that make you smile. These are the jobs that make you say, “too bad that didn’t or couldn’t last”. But things change. You move on, the economy changes, summer ends, the job disappears, or something happens. But those jobs that mattered and the people you worked with stay with you.

Each year lists come out of the “Best Jobs”.  The lists might give you an idea of where there are opportunities and how much they pay and the geographies involved; but they don’t really give you an idea of what your best job will be. Stick with the simple three ways to know what your best job ever will be.

What was your best job?

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