Empowering. This is the word that best describes Joanne Gordon’s book Happy at Work: Wisdom from Women who Love their Jobs. Profiling the stories of the women she calls the “Happy 100” Gordon deftly shows how they searched for the career that would make them truly fulfilled and happy. By interspersing these women’s stories said in their own words with her own piercing analysis, Gordon enables readers to understand the significance of each decision made, each lesson learned, and each step taken. And because those featured are real working women, their individual experiences and the obstacles they had to conquer to find happiness in the workplace resonate to all women no matter where they are in their careers.
Gordon believes that there are three Ps that enable women to find joy in what they do: Process, Purpose, and People. She says that these three themes recur in the women who are truly happy at work. When women love the process in their work, they obtain “great pleasure from the day-to-day activities her job requires.” She is also happy when she finds purpose in her work, where she believes that “her labors lead to a worthwhile outcome.” Finally, she is happy in her job when she “likes and, at the very least, respects the individuals she works with.” Gordon also recognizes a fourth P that the Happy 100 share: That of being proactive. She closes her book with seven proactive steps that all women can take to be happy in their jobs.
What makes Gordon’s book such an empowering read is the fact that she crystalizes these concepts and themes of happiness through the stories of the Happy 100. Many working women would find it challenging to understand why the three Ps are a common thread among those who truly find joy in what they do. But by retelling these women’s successes, failures, and their “a-ha!” moments, and giving her insightful views on why their decisions mattered, Gordon concretizes their experiences. Women are able to identify certain aspects of their personal circumstances—whether it is something that relates to their spouses, their children, work-life balance, opening a business, or taking that huge step towards something everyone around them thought was crazy—with the Happy 100. In the end, they will close the book with their nerves tingling in excitement at the thought that it is actually possible and feasible to be utterly happy at work!
Then there is the diversity with which the writer chooses the Happy 100. While the sheer number alone might even be enough as far as profiles go, Gordon did not stop there. She endeavored to represent a very broad spectrum of working women and did so successfully. She did not single out CEOs or those who earned very high salaries as the only ones who are happy in their work. Nor did she only include those who are already accomplished and nearing their retirement age. She manages to represent young professionals, older professionals, women working in multinational companies, those in small ones, those in firms they own, those in writing, in nursing, in nude modeling, in engineering, in herbal tea buying, and in countless other professions that you would not even think women would be fulfilled and happy in.
Finally, every working woman would easily identify themselves in one, two, or even three of the ten types classified by Gordon based on their predominant traits and values. Will you consider yourself a Lover? A Thinker? A Determinator? Perhaps you’re a Surviving Artists or a Builder? The very act of discovering which among these groups you belong to makes turning the pages faster.
Happy at Work: Wisdom from Women who Love their Jobs is more than just a working woman’s book. It’s a must-read for all women who seek to find joy and meaning in their chosen jobs. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career path. You can be happy if you choose to be. You will certainly find inspiration in the stories of the Happy 100. But in the end, it is all up to you. As Joanne Gordon says: “Ultimately, the onus falls on you to be happy at work.”
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