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Ditch Diggers

One of my favourite hashtags to follow on Twitter is #Tchat. #Tchat is a place for people to connect about talent management-related matters.

Recently, I was off on a medical leave. While on leave, I was on strict doctor’s orders to do nothing.

Well, doing nothing is an impossibility for me, so of course, I spent some time writing blogs and following #Tchat.

Largely, I think I have a dream job, or what some people would characterize as a dream job. I do organize my own show, get to work with some great companies, and the projects can be challenging/interesting. The only complaint I have about my job is that the pace can be blistering, and lately, due to my health challenges, I was having a hard time keeping up.

During a #Tchat exchange one evening, @jenbaty wrote, “Enough ‘dream job’ stuff. A job should help support your dreams. If you happen to love what you do, that’s just icing on the cake.”

That got me thinking about the things I would characterize as my “talents”. Photography, cooking, animal (pet) magnetism—these are my talents. Ok, I’m pretty wicked with an Excel spreadsheet and have a knack for dealing with projects that have a lot of moving parts, but at work, I’m not so sure all of my talents or things I enjoy doing are best put to use, even if it is a dream job.

Perhaps I was just trying to be funny/flippant, but I replied to @jenbaty by saying, “To quote Caddyshack, the world needs ditch diggers too. Find joy in what you do.”

Afterward, I started thinking about this. Would I be happy being a ditch digger? Where would I find joy in that? The fact that it is outdoor work? The fact that you know when your work is complete? The fact that there is no evening work involved? The fact that no one would expect me to clean up other people’s problems? Would I find ditch digging more satisfying that dealing with the myriad of crisis and planning issues in HR?

Hertzberg’s Two-Factor Theory suggests that there are two levers to reward satisfaction—motivators and hygiene factors. The theory suggests that a job can be fully rewarding if it contains both motivators (such as recognition, upward mobility, intrinsic satisfaction) and hygiene factors (such as a good working environment, competitive pay and a fair supervisor). Unfortunately, a number of studies cast doubt on this theory. These studies have shown that some people stay in dead-end jobs and choose not to pursue advancement because they’re able to find personal satisfaction elsewhere. Maybe @jenbaty is right! If a job is a lever to the things you enjoy, maybe that is OK.

I would love to find a job that utilizes my talents and is considered a dream job. I’m hard-pressed to think of a job like that that exists.

What are the untapped talents that are needed in human resources? How can those talents be utilized in a way that is rewarding? How can human resources turn into that career everyone wants to gravitate towards?

I hope these questions can be answered quickly so that ditch digging loses its appeal for me.



  1. Really interesting. And I connect it with what I see around me : people always say they want dream job, to use their talents, to get more satisfaction from their work and that they should move to something better. But when they come to choose between security and “find joy” (or “intrinsic satisfaction”), 90% choose security.

    I guess that lucky people are those who can combine the security level they (inconsciously) need and joy in the same job.

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