The title of this is NOT a shot at working a lot or some sort of complaint about how work/life balance is needed etc.  This has been an incredibly busy week with 11 hour days, running and reading “Guns, Germs and Steel” in off time, so I’d be right in my element to start whining, but not so!  NO SIR.  This title is about knowledge work.

I am, as the title of this blog connotes, a marketer.  I do a lot of different things, but much of my job is project work meant to alter the process or function of many things within an organization.  Many people have these kinds of jobs, either formally or informally and do very similar work.  We are not all created equal and the skill sets of others may well pertain more wholly to other businesses or organizations.  Today many people work in jobs where they are expected to apply creativity and more pronounced skill sets to organizational issues.

Knowledge workers typically garner an education at a somewhat young age and apply it directly to their field over a course of time which derives experience and hopefully additional ability.

Meanwhile, as these workers are learning to become specialized in their knowledge set and capabilities due to the unique nature of their role, the entire world is changing.  And it’s changing faster and faster.  These changes are small, but incrementally they add up.  If you have your head down working the whole time, you may one day look up and realize that the landscape has changed entirely.

images (1)This is a true concept for multiple types of workers, not just knowledge workers.  For instance, mechanics today have a few borders around their skill set that are difficult to break and therefore insulated from competition in some ways.  But if you are a twenty something mechanic today getting paid well, do you think your vocation is insulated for life?  I’d argue that your work is actually in jeopardy over the next few decades.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be a mechanic or that you won’t have work, but it does mean that the expectations of being a mechanic are likely to change.  If you don’t or can’t adapt to those needs, you may well find yourself in an area of discomfort.

Knowledge workers face similar problems, but on a macro level.  This is why I say that marketers are essentially commercial anthropologists.  Most anthropologists would probably laugh at that, and maybe they should, but the connotations of marketing remind me that everything is changing all at once.  It’s your job to understand that and be prepared for the inevitable changes such that your employ is well equipped and doing things the market accepts.

So when I raise the idea of “work/work balance” I’m talking about how you balance your normal work schedule handling projects, interfacing with peers and managing necessary day to day tasks in accordance to keeping your eye on new trends and being generally knowledgeable about the markets within which you work.  Many would brush off this idea and state that we inherently understand enough of the market in our off time to adapt and flourish.  Perhaps.  Or perhaps others who have made it a point to understand shifts in culture are getting a leg up on how to further their organizational goals.

As a brief example, if you are a sales person who travels into Mexico to purchase your goods and then resell in Northeastern US and Hudson Bay areas, do you think you should be knowledgeable on common issues in both locales?  It would be silly not to be.  Not everyone has roles that so easily exemplify that need, but most people are expected to have a broad base of knowledge close to their field.

Knowledge workers are expected to maintain and improve their abilities relative to their jobs.  Marketers are expected to translate the needs of the market.  So when you research the market at work or at home, you are adding value to a certain extent.  This value is another type of work, though it’s not on a check off list or anything to that nature, it’s inherent in the role.  It’s enjoyable if you are, like me, naturally curious and eager to learn a bit more about the world.  I’m thankful for that part of my job.  It may not be easy to balance, but it’s needed.  Taking the time to learn about what is new today and how it will or has potential to affect existing business is important.  I don’t really know of most people share this view or take a utilitarian viewpoint on their jobs.  I believe that the latter will significantly limit your ability to flourish as trends shift, but that’s my opinion.

How do you handle your work/work balance?