For WHOM and with WHOM are highly connected and depending on the structure of your work, one or the other component is more or less foregrounded in the day-to-day, but it is precisely for this reason that I wish to consider them separately here. Your work will be much shaped by the people you come into contact with daily, and difference between working with them and working for them (as I will loosely define below) does shape the experiencing of the work as well. Let’s begin by first considering the WITH.
Say for example that you are thinking about work in a university setting. The “with” will be very different depending on your role and function within the institution. As a tenure-line member of the faculty, your time will be largely spent with students (for WHOM), but also with colleagues in your own department, peers from other departments, and likely graduate students with whom you begin to take up mentoring relationships, also possibly – depending on the nature and structure of your workload and expectations – alone. There are structures in place to support this, including regular faculty meetings, and assigned committee work, dissertation committees, and supported research leave. This is likely to be quite different from the day-to-day of an adjunct who may or may not be invited to participate in faculty meetings, and probably does not have committee work, dissertations, or financing for research. Consider again how this is different from the day-to-day of a departmental administrator who is likely to be interfacing much more regularly with peers in other departments (as is the typical structure of administrative meetings), much more frequently with faculty members (as there is a built-in many-to-one ratio of this network), and the nature of this interaction is a great deal closer to work FOR than work WITH. While considered at a higher level, it is of course the case that at a university all employees work for the students, accountability structures and expectations are designed such that departmental administrators are evaluated for different work than are faculty. In some situations, administrators work with and for students more than and with and for the faculty, and in some jobs it is the opposite. The nature of much administrative work is such that administrators tend to spend comparatively much less of the working day working alone, much less frequently from home, and even the timing of the work is different – administrators tend to work 12 month schedules, while many faculty are paid to work a 9 month schedule, etc. And so you start to see that this question of with or for WHOM starts to pull up others of the signs: WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, which is exactly where we want to be in our thinking, so keep it up!!
Some tools for thinking about the with WHOM
There are great exercises for learning about the with WHOM in What Color is Your Parachute. Exercises that are designed to help you think about the kids of people that you naturally gravitate towards, the kind of people that you like to be around. He has you imagining yourself at a cocktail party comprised of different personality types and imagining what group you would instinctually approach first.
Also, there are answers in your Myer’s Briggs results. Not just in the sections that tell you about what kind of work environment most supports your productivity, but in which work environments and factors contribute to burnout and overwhelm for you. Which cause you to shut down?
Set yourself the task of writing for the length of a Pomodoro to reflect on these questions (whether you have the book and the test results or not). What personality styles and work styles do you tend to naturally gravitate towards? What has been the result in past experiences? What was the impact on your work? As experiences rise to the surface, make a note of them as something to consider as possible sources for pocket examples. Chances are, some of them contain seeds of insight about the best and worst with WHOMs for your workstyle.
Another very important source of information about the with WHOM will be job interviews, and your challenge as job seeker is to become increasingly comfortable with this interaction so that you can stay as present as possible to everything that is happening around you in that moment. This is after all, a chance to spend time with the people with WHOM you will be working. That is really what a job interview is for (on both sides of the table). And this is especially true for interviews that happen over food. Practice helps, including the practice of meditation. Remind yourself that job interviews are as much about you learning whether you want this job as it is the other way around.
And let us know how it goes!!
You can also read the career path interview with folklorist and ethnographer Tom Carrol, written using the work interrogatives as a frame 🙂