When I was a reporter for ABC News back in the 1980s, I was not a happy guy, at least about my work. I felt no connection to the stories I was being assigned. Moreover, the ones that I wanted to cover didn't thrill the producers there.
I wanted to report on subjects that meant a lot to me personally and were not being covered by anyone else. One morning, my wish started to become true. I was having coffee at home watching the morning talk shows when I saw one of a series of reports on Today called "Today's Woman." A light bulb went off: Why can't I report on today's man? After all, the women's movement was really gaining steam and many women were responding to the changes taking place. I reasoned that if women were evolving, men had to react.
I took my idea to Good Morning America, as I was still under contract at ABC. The female executive producer loved the idea, the male host of the show at the time, David Hartman, I was told, did not.
Through some connections, I was able to get to Today show executive producer Steve Friedman. Friedman bought the idea immediately. He knew that two-thirds of the audience for morning network news shows is female and that women are the primary audience for information about men. As my then-Today colleague Gloria Steinem explained to me, the underclass is always interested in what the overclass is thinking.
Reports about men also gave the program a competitive advantage. No one else was doing anything like it. It also gave me exactly what I wanted -- and it was a job that I invented.
That wasn't the only time I created something for myself at work. When I was a student at the University of Denver, I listened to the local talk radio station and concluded that everyone calling that station was quite old -- a demographic sponsors don't like. I talked the program director into giving me a job expressing the youth point of view. It was the era of Vietnam War protests and the counterculture. I got the gig and loved it.
My current employer, Bob Dilenschneider, has also afforded me the freedom to re-configure my job so it not only works for me but also for our firm and our clients. I was originally hired to be the media trainer -- something quite common at PR firms. I had nothing against media training, but I just thought it was too limiting. Instead, I re-fashioned myself as a persuasion communications consultant. After all, our clients are CEOs, politicians, people in the not-for-profit arena and entrepreneurs. All of them need to be expert influencers in order to succeed -- including with the media. Having studied the great thinkers in the area of influence, I was able to come up with my own formula for effective persuasion. And I love my job. It connects to my passion and my interests.
Managers would be wise to allow employees to invent, or re-fashion, their jobs as long as it fits the company's needs and that of its customers or clients.
My guess is that workers would be happier and more productive because they have found personally meaningful and satisfying work that they are probably quite good at. And, if they like their work, they are also more likely to stay on the job.
What about you? Have you ever invented or re-fashioned a job?
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