A blog post written by Jeff Woodward
How many of us have the pleasure to honestly say we love our jobs? How many of us look forward to Monday mornings as much as we do Friday evenings? How many of us feel challenged by what we do and also feel that we're able to positively impact the world around us just by going to the office? I know the answer to these questions is...not very many, and for that I feel incredibly grateful. Let me get a little more specific about why I feel this way, I'd like to talk a bit, if you'll indulge me, about how Onlea has allowed me to hit the sweetspot around my three biggest career priorities. They are: lifelong learning, making a positive impact on the world, and exercising my creativity in my work. I promise this blog isn't going to be an extended humblebrag about my awesome life, but rather a little insight into how I approach my work, how I prioritize my work choices and how you might do the same, regardless of the field you work in. Okay? Let's go!
I have always been, and likely always will be, an extremely curious person. Sometimes this has been to my detriment because much like Dug from the Pixar movie "UP", I can easily be distracted by a new passion or interest. My recognition of this personality trait is one of the big reasons I got into the creative arts. Working in a project based world has allowed me to chase various personal curiosities and has exposed me to many curiosities I never knew I had (as well as a few that only lasted as long as the project). In the 13 years that I've worked as an actor/director/photographer/producer I've been lucky enough to make documentaries about things like 100 year old cars and the crazy guys who drive them, or how we grow and consume food here in Alberta. I've made films that explore sacrifice, love and forgiveness. I've made commercials for everything from car dealerships to restaurants to a professional soccer team. I've been lucky enough to photograph musicians, artists, actors and regular folks, none of whom were in any way ordinary. It's a great way to make a living, and so you might wonder, why am I so happy having chucked all that away to work at Onlea? It's a fair question.
Let's return to my top three career priorities for the answers. I talked about lifelong learning and for me that idea manifests itself in a couple of ways. First of all, I love to gain new knowledge about the world so my exposure to all of the incredible minds we work with here at Onlea has been absolutely intoxicating for me. I've got to hang with Astrophysicists, Computer scientists, environmental advocates, entomoligists, deaf teachers, geographers and Arctic experts, not to mention the incredibly talented designers and editors that make up my creative team. Even more than that, I get to help these amazing people share their unique knowledge with the world in a way that can genuinely and demonstrably make people's lives richer and fuller. From a totally selfish point of view, it doesn't get any better than that for me.
The more observant of you will notice that I snuck the second of my three career priorities into the end of that last paragraph. The work we do at Onlea has a positive impact on the world around us. I can't even begin to tell you how good it feels to say that, and mean it. Making documentaries is amazing, but it's hard to get funding and there's a lot of outside influences on your final product. Making commercials can be influential but there a lots of times where you're not sure what good you're contributing to the world through them. Short films and photos certainly help put my creative voice into the world but as an artist it's difficult to measure what your positive outcomes are from that work. However, when I (and when I say that, I really mean the incredible team here at Onlea) help a team of subject matter experts take their ideas and turn them into a course or MOOC, well that's concrete. People take the course, they learn stuff. Someone's made the decision to improve their lives via education and we've helped them do that. It's a very cool feeling! I imagine it's sort of like the feeling of being a teacher but only the good parts...like how I envisioned myself after watching Dead Poets Society but an online version. Our founders began Onlea with a mind to democratizing knowledge. Even to this day, the heart of Onlea's mission remains sharing knowledge and feeding our own hunger for knowledge. It's an incredible environment in which to grow and learn myself.
My third career priority is to challenge myself and grow creatively, and Onlea has given me the opportunity to do that in spades. I've had to dive into learning as much as I can about things like instructional design and UX design, just so I can keep up in conversations with designers and subject matter experts. I've had to learn about LMS (Learning Management System) platforms as well as dozens of other things specific to the online learning industry. This is all aside from the creative challenges of translating dense, academic, and often foreign to me material into engaging, online learning experiences. Not a week goes by where I'm not presented with the challenge of giving creative life to some sort of abstract concept. It's incredibly invigorating creatively. I'm also blessed with having unbelievably talented and imaginative colleagues who lift me up, challenge me and educate me on a daily basis.
So this probably still sounds like a humblebrag but let me get to the moral of the story and how it applies to you. Your career is a living entity; it changes, evolves and grows just as you do. Each job you take on along the way should help you grow, learn and prepare you for what's next in your career or even just in life. The sooner and more clearly you can identify your career priorities, the better off you'll be. Your priorities will almost certainly be different than mine and thus, the sort of job that turns you on will also be different than mine. This is a good thing, because I don't need you all competing for my thing! Just remember that each job is a partnership, you contribute to the organization but you also need to get things from the organization beyond your paycheque. Think about what matters to you and the question of where to work becomes much easier to answer. The "HR" term for this is "Career Values" and if you Google that you can find all sorts of self evaluations to help you clarify what matters to you.
I hope you all have jobs that make you excited to wake up in the morning. I don't know about the adage that says, "Do what you love and you'll never work another day in your life" because there are days when even this great job is a grind. The thing is though, having a purpose, knowing my priorities align with the company's, knowing I'm making a difference, those things make all the effort feel worthwhile and in a way, that feels even better to me than "not working". That's why I love my job here at Onlea.