Friday, September 01, 2006


No, not that kind of satisfaction. I'm talking about job satisfaction.

And actually, although you wouldn't know it from reading my blog, in some respects job satisfaction is more important to me than sexual satisfaction. If you asked me about my fundamental self image, until very recently, it would not have been She Who Loves, or She Who Mothers. It certainly would not have been She Who Has Sex. It would have been She Who Works.

Because I am one of nature's workaholics. I love to work hard, as long as I believe I am achieving something. When I have no meaningful work in my life, I drift aimlessly. When I am working hard on something I believe in, although I bitch and moan about the hours, I secretly like it. And my partner knows it. He says that there is an Australian army saying that applies to me: "A bitchin' soldier is a happy soldier" (ie a bitching soldier is not currently being fired at or walking through a mine field - that soldier has the leisure to complain about the food, the heat, etc).

When I am working hard on something that truly challenges me, that demands all my capacities and energy, I feel that natural flow from the universe, like a creature that is doing exactly what it is designed to do. I hum like a machine on song.

I had great news yesterday. As you know, I work in the government. And I have had a win. A policy I have been writing and trying to get accepted for the past six months looks like it is going to go through. This represents the final stage of a project that has consumed almost two years of my working life.

Now, this is one of those irritating bits where I have to get vague. You know, where I cannot reveal the specifics. But my policy area is quite controversial. And the changes I am trying to introduce are also controversial. There is no way it will go through without substantial public debate, media coverage and a very pissed off minority. And, inevitably, the final product will contain some things I am not so crazy about. But I truly believe that the overall result will be good for the country in the long run.

Wins like this don't happen very often. As I think I have said, years can go by before they happen for you. Actually, I have been lucky in that I have had more wins than average, and most of them have been of the "warm inner glow" variety that clearly make the world a better place and make me feel good about what I do. A lot of government people would be jealous of the little roll I have had on for the past few years.

This is not really my most satisfying win so far. My best win was a few years ago, when an analysis of mine led to a very substantial sum of money being applied to a very big problem, and as far as I could see it was spent in pretty much the best possible way. The second was a huge source of satisfaction to me. Its one thing to get the money - its another thing to see it spent well. Government wastes a huge amount of money. Every time I see even a few thousand go on some worthless project, mainly due to political patronage or bureaucatic laziness and inertia, I think about what the local cancer ward or children's hospital could have done with that money, and I get angry.

So part of the reason I am so proud of my previous win is that it satisfies my inner perfectionist to see a job well done. And it satisfies my inner efficiency nazi to see the money well spent. To get the biggest possible bang out of the smallest possible buck.

But most of all, I still rank that as my best win because thousands of very vulnerable people have benefited from it every year. A group of people I did my PhD in, interviewed at length and find very easy to envisage. A group of people who, when I feel down, when I feel frustrated, when I feel like a failure, when I question whether I should be in the career I am in, I can think of and know that I have already done some good. Because although I am sometimes perceived at work as kind of driven and bloody minded, maybe even a little callous at times, I am basically a softy.

So I am very lucky. And while this latest win of mine doesn't involve practical help for a specific group of people, it does address some real problems. And I have a sneaking satisfaction about what it means for my career. My previous big win was great in personal terms, but in professional terms it was largely anonymous. I may have done the key analysis, but the final product was officially co-written (even though mostly written by me) and only a few people will ever know that it was me. And that's a good thing. Bureaucracy is all about team work. Its all about discretion. A wise bureaucrat aspires to be as faceless a bureaucrat as possible. A bureaucrat who is on TV is generally in trouble. A bureaucrat who is on TV is generally being made a scapegoat and is about to be burned in effigy.

This one is different. I was able to lead the analysis of problem, manage all the people and the complex processes involved in examining the existing programmes, write up the analysis of emerging trends to show why we couldn't just go on doing what we usually do, and now am in the final phases of writing the public statements and making final programme changes. I started this thing, have led it from the beginning, and am about to see the fruits of my labour.

I got my big promotion out of that process. A promotion I was interviewed for two weeks before my baby was due. A job interview I did when I was so huge I did something I rarely do and really applied some serious makeup, hoping to attract their eyes up to my face. Hoping, you know, that if I just acted naturally, no one would notice that I was not only pregnant but about to give birth any moment!

And I have finished the process while working part-time and looking after a baby and my sick partner. Circumstances that a lot of people would predict would stuff my career don't seem to have stopped me. Instead, I have hugely increased my skills and confidence in the last two years.

And I feel good about what I think the results will be. I believe they will be good for Australia. Now, I dislike flag-waving. Nationalistic ceremonies usually see me getting irritated at the parade of opportunistic politicians and muttering about how patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. But I am quietly proud of my country, with all its flaws. And I am quietly proud to contibute to it.

And, you know, sorry about all this boasting. I'm aware that this is not my most attractive mode. But this is the only place I can really do it. At work itself, I will have to be murmer humbly about the honour of the thing, and talk loudly about the contribution of the whole team, some of whom were actually more of a liability than a help.

This is the one place where I can say YAY, I DID IT!!!

I am very happy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations!!!! Now enjoy your three day weekend!!!

I'm a workaholic myself. I can relate. I just don't work for the government.


5:48 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

"I am very happy."

And you have every right to be, Emily! Congratulations on jobs well done! They say that if you want anything done well then give it to the one most busy. I would presume that would be you? :-)))

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To me, this is the sexiest you've been.

Grats on working hard. Grats on earning satisfaction. Grats on finishing the job. Grats on being dedicated.

9:22 PM  
Blogger oldbear said...

Congratulations Lady! Or in the vernacular "You go girl!"

I am glad to hear you stuck with it and tried to make Aus a better place.

Too bad the cronyist hacks and demagouges who run our country right now are so lacking in public service!

Congratulations and may you have many more great days!

11:40 PM  
Blogger freebird said...

You are one hell of a girl, Emily!

2:33 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Thanks, all. Your praise and congratulations are very sweet to my ears. Obviously you are people of great judgement and discernment.

Oblivion - You know, I kind of sensed that about you.

Rob - Well, its true about the busy-ness, but then I am a bit of a maniac in that respect. I am the only person I know who wrote a PhD and a book on a totally separate subject at the same time. Madness. I was a quivering wreck when I was done.

Mr Husbland - Thanks, I find workaholics sexy, too :-) And you have had an excellent career triumph yourself, with particularly excellent timing...

OldBear - I can't tell you how irritating it sometimes is, when you have to deal up close with them all the time. Just looking at their smug, lazy faces makes you feel like giving them a good slapping!

Freebird - Thanks! Somehow I get the feeling you are too!

2:33 PM  

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