Happy UN Career Podcast / Episode 2

Your UN Career Project Starts Here

Happy UN Career Podcast / Episode 2

Episode 2 / Sep 03, 2020


Hello – and welcome to the Happy UN Career Podcast!

I look so much forward to be sharing guidance and advice with you on how to create that happy UN career. But first I thought I’d you give you a little bit of information about who I am – and why you should be listening to me.

Hello, and welcome to the first episode in a small series I’ve called: What Drives You – And What Drains You?

Most people I talk to are well into their career. If you’re anything like them, you’ve had years of serious and hard study followed by years of trying to get into your chosen field and maybe your favourite organization. And at the same time, you may also be starting a family. So, life’s been busy. The days of lounging with your friends over coffee chatting and plotting your dream lives and careers probably seem very distant by now.

The to do list is long, the meetings are many and there really seems to be no time to sit and contemplate career and life dreams. And you’re a grown-up now, so supposedly, you should have it all worked out, right?

It’s just that, when pressed a bit, many I speak to don’t really feel that they have it all worked out. Career and work just sort of happened. There was – finally – an opening here, and then an extension there. You had wanted to move maybe, but then you were offered to be part of an interesting project and didn’t feel you could reject the opportunity. Or you had your first child and now stability became a big factor.

And so, life happens. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Often, it’s great!

But if you’re harbouring small feelings of: “I want something more” or: “I can’t continue like this many more years”. Then it’s time to take stock.

And I’m a great advocate for taking stock! And for that, it’s very useful to have some concrete data to work with.

Because you probably have some idea of things you really enjoy – or really dislike. But for many of us, a big part of our days and weeks happen in a bit of a blur. And those days and weeks are actually your life!

So therefore, I want to suggest that you shed some light on those days and start collecting data you can use for your onward journey to create a happier career:

How to Get Started on Project You

1st step is to monitor yourself. Just like you’d monitor an important work project. And if a work project is worth some monitoring and data collection, you should be too. Treat yourself as “Project You”!

Collecting Data for Project You

It’s really very simple – just start with a pen and pad of paper. Or, if you want to get advanced, create an excel sheet or a word document with a couple of columns.

  • Now write down, for a full day, what you’re doing about every half hour. Don’t only write work time but include also mornings and evenings.
    You don’t have to write lengthy paragraphs, but just putting in “work” or “meeting” won’t give you much to work with when you’re going to analyse your data later on.
  • This will provide useful information in itself, but you may consider adding a bit of additional info:
    Next to every half-hour slot – or every activity – you put one of 3 smileys. Either a happy smiley, a neutral smiley or a sad smiley. Indicating whether you were feeling happy at the time, neutral or “so-so” – or unhappy.
  • Writing down everything you do may sound incredibly boring and time-consuming – and you’re already busy, right?
    But first of all, it takes only a few seconds every time you note down for the last half hour. The challenge is to remember to write down consistently, so a tip can be to set an alarm for yourself.
    My own preferred method is to make a table for myself, print it out and carry the piece of paper around with me. Otherwise I forget. And believe me, you won’t be able to remember in the evening, all the details of what you did in the day.

And it shouldn’t be boring, because this is your life you’re observing. And I would hope that it’s interesting enough for you to spend a few seconds every half hour to make your notes! If you happen to have a past in accounting or another profession that bills by the hour, this exercise will probably be easy.

  • It’s great if you manage to do a full day, but for a project evaluation you would probably aim to have more data than this. So, consider extending your data collection to a few more days – maybe even a full week. It can be quite interesting also to notice how you spend your time during the weekend. Especially considering how much we often long for the weekend – and the many things we dream to accomplish during those two days.
  • Next, you sit down and have a look at your data. Try not to think: “Yeah – I know this life: meetings, meetings, meeting and emails, emails, emails.”Try instead to imagine that an anthropologist found your time log. What would they read out of it about your life and work? What would they be curious about? Would they wonder about the number meetings? The amount of time spent on thinking and concentrated work? The transportation time? Time for fun and play? The time for friends and family?

Or think: “If I was applying for a new job, would I want this workday?”

  • Look at the smileys if you put them in. Try calculating how big a part of the day has happy smileys, neutral smileys and so on.
    Is there a pattern that you were maybe not aware of? Is there a happy smiley the first half hour in the office before your colleagues come in?
    Or is your lunch break with colleagues sure to have a happy smiley?
    If some parts of the days are always unhappy, why might that be? Is there something you could do differently to change that?
  • Is it clear what the highlights of your day and your week are? Are there clear low points? Or is it mostly just so, so?
  • You can also use colouring to identify patterns in how you spend your time. Get out a couple of coloured markers and mark for example work with one colour and personal time with another.Or mark time spent with other people with one colour and time alone with another. This can be particularly telling if you’re an introvert who have to be social most of the day.You can also mark meetings with one colour and focus time with another. And so on and so forth – the possibilities are endless.

Realise that all of this is a picture of how you have spent your time for the last week or so. A week out of your life. Is this the way you like it? Or is there something you’d like to change?

So, What’s the Next Step?

In the next episode, I’ll talk about what more you can get out of your data collection and evaluation. And how you can start working on getting more of what drives you – and less of what drains you.