My approach to my career seems to have worked fairly well. My goal all along was never to approach work any different than play. “Do what you love and you never work a day in your life” and “it’s all about the journey, not the destination” always rang true to me. But I also wanted to earn a respectable wage, which at first seemed at odds with enjoying work. And it certainly can be. I found that being the first to take risks, ones that others were unwilling to step up to, was the key. So in my usual “keep it simple” view of things, I developed a strategy to accomplish “rewarded fun”. The steps, in this order are, take responsibility, obtain authority and finally, achieve rewards. I’ll explain these in more detail.
The first step is to take responsibility and this is the only part that is mostly your choice. Volunteer to be part of a new and important project. Put in the extra time to make it successful. Make your team successful. But don’t select just any project, select one that sounds like fun but is somewhat risky. Avoid selecting the easy, low-risk project. Taking responsibility is a lot easier than you might think. Most people will shy away, or flat run away, from the unknown, the new and the risky. Becoming known as the person that steps up and delivers results in the face of unknown obstacles is the key to an interesting, and ultimately rewarding, career.
The next step involves getting authority and that’s a choice other people make. You may become team leader, a department manager or get formal authority over a business process. You get to set priorities, select your team members and deliver more results than you can personally deliver by yourself. You help set the culture of your team and how they interact with other functions. What you don’t get is control, but you do gain more influence. Accepting authority is not for everybody, and for most people only up to a certain level. You may like leading a group of three people, but the thought of leading a group of one thousand is unacceptable. But the level of authority, which reflects the overall level of responsibility you’ve undertaken, will play a significant part in how much you’re paid.
The final step, and the one too many people want to start with, is the rewards. You will eventually be fairly compensated for the value you bring, but that rarely happens as fast of you think it should. Sometimes company policies restrict advancing their employees too quickly. Or you may be in a smaller company without the resources to pay you to the level of your value. But the rewards will come, either with your current company or another. The important point is that the rewards come last, not first, and are earned, not handed to you.