Dream Jobs Provide Respect, Independence and Appreciation

By Mary Ellen Slayter Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, June 4, 2006; K01

The perfect job: We might not know how to find it, but many of us have a pretty good idea of what it would be like. And, managers take note: It's not all about money.

A few weeks ago, I asked you to tell me what you think the most important aspect of the perfect job would be. Judging from your e-mails, what we crave is respect, flexibility and camaraderie. We want challenging projects, bosses who give us room to get the job done, and a little recognition for when we go beyond the call of duty.

Kathy Corr, a customer-relations worker for a nonprofit organization, said the perfect job for her starts with respect. For her, that means "a boss who gives you an assignment and let's you run with it!" Such bosses don't bother with micromanagement, she said, because they trust that you are a professional and will do what needs to be done, whether you are in the office or telecommuting. In such a job, there would be respect for your ideas and alternative points of views and a real willingness to listen to "out-of-the-box thinking," Corr said.

Jim Schlesinger, an emergency physician in Fredericksburg, said the perfect job for him revolves around whom he works with. He says he respects the dedication and compassion of the physicians, nurses, technicians and secretaries at his hospital. "Money is fleeting, but . . . relationships are forever."

For Bonnie Atwood, a lobbyist in Richmond, the perfect job is one with a mission. "I have to feel that the world is becoming a better place because I am doing this work. I don't have to be saving lives necessarily, but I have to be giving the world something that it needs. I don't want to invent and produce widgets and then convince people that they need them, for example. I want to create and protect beauty and civility. I want to feel each and every day that I have had a part in the positive evolution of the human race. I want to leave a mark of value."

Karen Sandler, a consultant in Bethesda, said the perfect job is all about having the right boss. "A great boss will recognize your strengths and build on them, rather than force you to play to your weaknesses. A great boss will also be a teacher who guides the way while allowing you to step up to challenges with the confidence that you won't be left to flounder on your own. A great boss wants you to succeed, even if it means you'll be promoted away from his or her department."

Jacquie Roth, publisher of M.D. News, a business and lifestyle magazine for physicians, said she has the best boss of all: herself.

David Endicott, a graphic designer who lives in Alexandria, wants to be challenged. (So much for dreams of idleness!) For him, the perfect job "involves a fun working environment that focuses on the creative side of business, without forgetting the bottom line. A job with that focus allows workers to put in their eight hours and more, because they love the job." He wants to be rewarded for his creativity and productivity, not just face time. "The perfect job is built on creative energy that drives people to not dread the workweek but to embrace it."

Amanda Brown, a federal worker, also wants a place where she can work hard, but she wants to be appreciated for it. "I find that I need verbal and monetary recognition. I never realized that this would be important to me. I actually pursued a master's degree in social work, which demonstrates my lack of financial motive."

She wants to hear her supervisors say, " 'Great job, Amanda . . . you are really making a difference to the team.' "

I just wrote about how much I dislike the seemingly ubiquitous flip-flops at work; some of you responded by saying that, for them, the perfect job would be one where they could wear whatever they want.

Elissa David, a marketing and communications associate in Arlington, said that for her, being able to dress as she likes would be a crucial part of the perfect job. "Just as you have a pet peeve -- flip-flops -- I have one: dress codes. At my perfect job, people would judge me based on how I behave and what I produce at work, not on what I'm wearing."

For her, it's a matter of being true to herself. "I don't want to fake it at work. I want to thrive at a job because I'm good at it. I don't want to think that that doesn't matter, that all people really care about is whether I look the role. . . . My personality is a valuable asset to my job. I don't have to strongly separate my real life and my work life or inhabit two personalities."