“What the worst job you’ve had” sings Stevie Jackson on Belle and Sebastian’s Chickfactor. Now I appreciate that in this world many people find themselves with no choice but to accept work in awful conditions, but in the rosy context of a teenager growing up in the suburbs of London I’ve had some questionable jobs. I was happy to have them but if you ever wondered how shops that sell ice cubes in bags get those cubes into the bags, well it’s not as automated as you might think.
However the job that I really loved during that period was at large super market. My job was to make sure that all the shopping trolleys moved from the trolley drop offs dotted around the car park, back to the front of the shop, so that new customers had a trolley to hand.
On the face of it, this job was just like any other that I had had, it had little variety, was physically tiring and was hardly something I could use to impress girls, and remember these were girls who were impressed by people who tore tickets at the cinema.
So why did I like it so much?
I think the best way to answer that is to draw upon Daniel Pink’s book Drive. He proposes that the three tenants of intrinsic motivation are:-
So the question is, if it’s such a great job, why don’t I do now? Why isn’t this just a sentimental piece about a job that was actually pretty rubbish when it rained?
Well the thing is, as a sixteen year old, it satisfied my expectations. I could have earned more elsewhere but I felt reasonably well paid (for my age), and in terms of professional development, I really didn’t care, it wasn’t a long term career choice.
If I took the job now both of those points would cause problems, I have a mortgage to pay, and I expect my job to stretch and teach me things.
So the perfect job matches, at the very least, general expectations but also satisfies the individual’s need for autonomy, mastery and purpose.