The second lesson I learned is this:
Work and Fun Are Not Mutually Exclusive So Find Work You love
In fact, I learned that if I'm not having fun, I should quit.
Am I nuts? Do I know how hard it is to find a job in Ghana? I'm looking for fun at work? And if it's not fun I should quit? What is this girl smoking? Aren't these things you hear in America? Do fun jobs even exist in Ghana?
Well, when I moved to Ghana, I had never really worked before. I was naive as it gets. I didn't set out to look for a fun job. But I was very excited about my job and I believed in it. But you know how it is, sometimes you can get excited about something but then you do it and it sucks. And you realise maybe it was the prestige attached to it or the money that made it seem attractive but that in reality, you hate it.
Thankfully my first job wasn't like this. I was really pumped and my boss was amazing. He allowed me to do what I wanted to do. He didn't micromanage me. No one was watching the clock to see when I came in to work or when I left. No timesheets to fill. And yet I'd go in and I'd work till 9 or 10 pm. And sometimes at 7 pm, my boss would come in and say something like...young lady, won't you close?
It was challenging and different. I hadn't done any of what I was doing before. I had absolutely no experience. But I was going to find out how to do it if there was a way. And I was going to do it the best way it could be done. I don't care what anyone says. Enthusiasm trumps experience anyday. This is why it's important to find work you enjoy. Because you'll get the work done if you like it. And when you get it done, you learn.
I had to do some market research for my project. I went around the places posing as a college student looking for data. And got what I needed. It was fun! If I didn't like it, I'd have sat there and complained about how there's no data.
And I'd send proposals to all kinds of people...for potential partnerships. One day I found myself sitting in the office of the CEO of Korle-Bu with the management board. Like 10 of the most important doctors at the largest hospital in Ghana and me. I had a proposal for them and they were willing to listen to me. And interested still at the end of the conversation, they wanted to take the project forward. And at the end of the meeting they make a joke and asked, "aren't you intimidated by us", and i make a joke and i say "i've done this before" and they say, you did really well. You walk out of such a meeting feeling like a million bucks. And you want to create a new song called "and this is why I love my job" And you go back to your boss to tell him what you did, and he's like awesome! I would never have had this experience if I hadn't liked my job. This was not part of my job description. It was something I did on my own. If you don't like the job, you just do the minimum you can do to survive. You don't exceed your employees expectations. And then nobody will remember you.
It was the fact that it was completely unchartered territory for me that made it so great. Everyday was different. It was a wonderful 6 months. But then I considered doing something else. Why? The project stalled and I got bored.
My review of employment terms letter said:
The past six months at xxx have been wonderful. I have loved my job. I have been impressed at how willing the xxx team has been to giving me big responsibilities but most all, I am grateful that you trusted me to execute them well. By doing this, you enabled me to discover what I’m capable of. I’ve found energy and drive here for work that I did not know I possessed. Thank you. Having tasted how productive a person can be when they’re truly interested and committed to their work however, I cannot settle for less.
Haha! I'm sure my boss was amused. This girl paaa! He was awesome though. He still calls me about once a month to check on me. Wonderful guy, Fred Asamany. Couldn't have asked for a better boss.
What's my point?
My point is that I probably wouldn't be so happy in Ghana if I didn't love my job. But everyday, for 18 months, I've wanted to do the job I'm doing. And I've gone to work and done the best work I know how. For more hours than was expected. And once I tasted that, I wanted more. I decided if it was possible to have fun at work, that's what I should be doing for the rest of my life.
Think of the context. People say that it's hard to find stimulating work in Ghana. That people are lazy, they sleep at work and don't do jack shit at their jobs and expectations are low etc etc. I'm sure there are places where this is exactly the case but that has not been my experience.
Which means that it is possible to find what you seek. They may be few but they exist.
My current workplace is super chill. Shout out to Publicis Ghana,and my boss. There came a time when I didn't actually need to go out because hanging out with my co-workers was more fun. No one works harder than us. No one has more fun than us. There are many people at work who inspire me. You know how we sometimes buy into the idea that all good things come from abroad. You think because you've come from America, you're all that. Then you meet people who've never left. Who went to KNUST and got a solid degree. And they're brilliant at what they do. And they work harder than you. And you love it, because it reminds you that genius is possible here. I'm talking about my colleagues at work. They're smart, and hardworking, and cool. That kind of environment inspires you to achieve great things. I think of it sort of like what Google is famous for being. Except I can't possibly imagine Google workers having as much fun as we do. It's not humanly possible.
Funny I wrote a long post about work and not a single mention of money. So I'll throw in something. Make sure they pay you what you're worth.
I guess the short way of saying this is that when you think of the things you want out of life, don't leave work out of it. If the work doesn't move you, try again. Try something else. That in fact, since you're going to spend a lot of time doing it, if it's something that you like, it will bring a lot of joy into your life. And you'll be awesome at it, and you'll get bonuses, and raises, and your bosses will love you and you'll never have to worry about finding another job.
Oh, and they make such fun interviews. I light up when I talk about my work experiences. So if someone gives me an interview today, I'll be able to tell great stories they'll want to employ me. So yeah, lesson two...awesome jobs exist. Find one. And leave the job that puts you to sleep. hehe.
Watch out for lesson 3 tomorrow.