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Magazine Aims to Make It All Worthwhile

By Mary Ellen Slayter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 19, 2004; Page K01

Kevin Salwen and Anita Sharpe love their jobs.

You would certainly hope so, because they are the editors of Worthwhile, a new business magazine aiming to inspire us to love our own jobs. "Work with Purpose, Passion and Profit," the cover promises. What exactly should that mean to the masses of frustrated cubicle-dwellers?

Salwen and Sharpe hope it means not settling for the dull, oppressive and ordinary when there are opportunities out there to really thrive, for people to contribute to something bigger than their pile of credit card debt. They want people to know they have choices.

They have certainly strived to make the most of their options. Dissatisfied with the modern business magazine, the two veteran financial journalists instead modeled Worthwhile on social and personal magazines, such as O, Oprah Winfrey's magazine. Cross Fast Company with Real Simple, and you have Worthwhile. It's a very personal take on life at work that goes beyond the usual metrics of how we measure success. It bypasses the scales of fat paychecks, opulent offices and fancy titles in favor of one simple question: Do you enjoy what you do?

Initially, Salwen and Sharpe expected their primary readers would be people like them -- accomplished professionals over 35 who are looking for something more meaningful to which to devote the rest of their careers. What they discovered was a broader interest, including many workers in their twenties. "They don't want their parents' career," Sharpe said in an interview.

"Many people are just not willing to swap out dollars for hours on a straight basis anymore," Salwen added. "They need something deeper than working for the shareholder."

Of course, this all presumes you have a career, or at least aspirations of one. The Worthwhile world is a white-collar one, in which people have achieved a sufficient level of economic success to begin asking the existential questions. There's no talk of unions, gender and race discrimination, or the demoralizing effects of prolonged unemployment, so if you're looking for that kind of work life magazine, keep waiting. (Also, if you're the sort of person who is put off by unabashed optimism, you'll want to keep browsing the magazine aisle.)

That said, the first issue holds plenty to inspire you, which can be especially helpful for a twentysomething whose confidence in her career choices is floundering.

Salwen said every issue will provide role models for workers as well as practical advice on how to bring more joy into their work lives. "We never talk about problems unless we have solutions," he said. "There's only so much I want to read about negative stuff."

The first issue, published last month, includes profiles of designer Kenneth Cole and an ex-Microsoft executive who now runs an educational nonprofit. Another feature highlights nifty gadgets to make your commute a bit more pleasant.

Years of top-notch work as journalists mean Salwen and Sharpe have the Rolodexes and credentials (Sharpe won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997) to recruit prominent writers to their fledgling project.

Contributors include Gail Evans, author of the bestseller "Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman." Evans writes an old-fashioned Q&A-style advice column for the November issue.

David Weinberger, co-author of "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and frequent NPR commentator, weighs in on the ways we adopt different personalities at work from those at home. "If I treated colleagues the way I treat my kids, I'd be sent in for counseling," he writes.

Salwen and Sharpe both emphasize that they believe that companies will profit by investing in their employees' personal growth just as they invest in technology. They seek to encourage a positive work culture that promotes ethical leadership.

They both see a serious hunger among white-collar workers for this "softer" approach to career issues and hope the magazine can spark more dialogue about these issues.

"The saddest thing is a life unlived," Salwen said.

Join Mary Ellen Slayter for Career Track Live, an online discussion of issues affecting young workers, at 2 p.m. Jan. 7 on www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/liveonline/jobs.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company