The two conversations could not have been more different.
About a year ago, I sat with a friend having lunch at a local diner. “I can’t believe how great my job is,” he said, beaming in the process. He had found a position that offered everything — a great environment, good pay, lots of benefits and, most importantly, the ability to do the kind of work he wanted … to be creative and bold, to move things forward.
A few months ago, we met again, this time under vastly different circumstances — we were now talking exit strategy. How had things gotten so rotten in the state of Denmark so fast? In an all-too-common scenario, a bad quarter led to overreaction, and heads rolled — one of them being my friend’s boss.
In the first meeting with his new boss, my friend reviewed the current projects under his purview and the areas he hoped to focus in the future, the type of work about which he was most passionate.
“That’s the least of my concerns right now,” his boss shot back.
As I’ve written before, something akin to the “meeting that changes everything” happened to me, but often a diminution in job satisfaction is less dramatic, more difficult to pinpoint. Instead of a specific event, we look back upon, or forward to, a year that leaves us wanting.
I got to thinking about the nuances of job satisfaction while interviewing Henry Ford Health System SVP/CIO Mary Alice Annecharico, who recently took that position after serving as SVP/CIO at Cleveland-based University Hospitals. Why, I wanted to understand, had she made the move?
After some discussion, I tried to summarize her feelings:
GUERRA: Is it fair to say that you are someone who likes big change and a big project to tackle, and what happened was you had done a big project and it was then a question of incremental improvements, so you were looking for that next big project?
ANNECHARICO: Absolutely, absolutely. I think I would characterize it by saying that dynamic change is something that does excite me and keeps me fresh. Although I hadn’t planned to make a career change from one large very well respected organization to another, the allure of this opportunity and the aggressive timeframe of the implementation of Epic to replace multiple systems and create this clinical integration was very appealing to me.
Most of us are familiar with the experience of focusing a pair of binoculars or camera. Well, imagine a device where no matter how perfectly we set it, over time the controls slide and the picture blurs. We must realize our jobs have the same dynamic. Over time, either we change or our jobs change — usually the latter. If, like Annecharico, we like to manage seismic shifts, a return to normalcy can mean it’s time for the next challenge. If, on the other hand, we prefer fine tuning, perhaps a new-install environment isn’t the place for us.
Whatever the case, be cognizant of the fact that today’s perfectly focused picture will blur, and with it will come a feeling of complacency that the passionate abhor. Take a moment to conjure up the image of your career. Are you 100 percent locked in or are you slipping into “been there, done that” purgatory? Whether you stay and change things or find a new adventure doesn’t much matter, but promise yourself one thing — never settle.