A few years ago, we moved to a lovely new home, with a large (and as yet untended) garden. Since neither of us had any gardening experience, and the large space seemed so daunting, our first thought was to hire a professional to help us plan the garden and to do the actual work.
We met with a few gardening professionals, but something was holding us back — and it was not just the price of professional landscaping.
And then a friendly tour of a neighbor’s garden helped us clear up the issue.
Josh (not his real name) had used the services of a truly excellent local gardener for most of his extensive garden and had left one small section for his own tending. As we went through the “professional” part of the garden — which was well tended, lush and pleasant by any standard — our friend continually expressed his annoyance at things the gardener had done or had not done: I wanted to plant a vine here, but he said this would grow better…It’s too bad he didn’t plant a larger variety of herbs here…I think this ground cover was a mistake…
Then we arrived at the small section that Josh had planned and cultivated himself. It was creative and interesting, though clearly there were issues and challenges. Josh, however, became much more animated and positive here. I tried to grow a new kind of plant here…it didn’t work so well, so I’m trying something new now, take a look at this…
We came home with a clear decision: we would make this garden our own, because then we would even love our mistakes. And we did.
What does all this have to do with jobs and careers? As an HR consultant and career counselor, I find that making the job your own is often the key to job satisfaction, while feeling a lack of ownership and investment can leave you unhappy and dissatisfied even in a very successful venture.
It is true that the amount of “ownership” you have in your job is not always up to you. Often your boss (or her boss) will retain the creative and emotional ownership of the business, project or organization to the exclusion of the employees. And in such extreme cases, sometimes moving on is the best response.
However, even if you are not the founder or CEO, the degree to which you take creative and active ownership of your role can determine how happy you are at work, and it often lies in your hands to define your commitment and ownership. It may seem tempting to leave the overall responsibility to your supervisor and just do your small piece of the puzzle to receive your paycheck; however in the long run, keeping your head down and your mind and heart out of your work will make you dread the daily grind.
At the moment, I am in the midst of redesigning my garden. The physical labor, planning and maintenance it will require do not scare me; in fact I look forward to it all — because I have made it mine. The same advice works just as well in the professional sphere. Whatever you do professionally — make it yours, take ownership, and you will find that you even love your mistakes.