Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A job, a career or an opportunity?

Something a little different this week! A friend of mine, had a question that I thought would be relevant to anyone looking for a job right now. Hope you enjoy!

Hello, my name is Bonnie, and I am unemployed. It sounds like an admittance statement at a support group for the jobless, doesn’t it?

To some, this admittance may evoke a shameful reality or an overwhelming feeling of failure. And yet, to others, it elicits a sense of relief and an impetus to try something new or escape from the dissatisfaction of the status quo. When the world hands you lemons, make some lemonade, right!?

But I have to wonder how those lemonade makers got into a life of drudgery in the first place. Did they settle for below-average compensation? Did they choose the wrong company? Or, was it because they fell into the wrong career path altogether?

I have friends who have turned down good jobs in which they have great experience, in the hopes that their ‘dream job’ will come around the corner. And yet, they continue to search as their bank accounts dwindle, looking back with regret because they turned down a job during a recession.

Personally, I find myself stuck in a ‘seller’s market’ where competition is tough, and the ‘perfect’ job opening is hard to come by (let alone define). My grandmother, who grew up in the Great Depression, calls me weekly with worry over my jobless state. And my bank account too is dwindling day by day.

As I pursue my next employment opportunity, I can’t help but question whether I am looking for a job (a way to make ends meet) or am I truly paving a road by which my life’s happiness is dictated?



Hi Bonnie, I think this is a really critical question and also a great time to think about it. I was at U2 this week and had a revelation about your question. With Bono singing "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" I had an "Ah Ha!" moment!. Here's a quick sample of the lyrics:

I'm not afraid of anything in this world
There's nothing you can throw at me that I haven't already heard
I'm just trying to find a decent melody
A song that I can sing in my own company
I never thought you were a fool
But darling, look at you
You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight
These tears are going nowhere, baby
You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it

So, you're stuck w/ unemployment....well, it's time to get out of that way of thinking. So, when in comes to taking a job or finding an opportunity I think you need to do both......sounds silly right? If you get a "job" who cares about other opportunities. Wrong attitude. You can take a job, pay the bills and be a strong performer without having to feel like this is something you want to do long term for your career.

For example, let's say you always wanted to be an EMT or a Lab Technician. You could find a job, a job you like even that helps you pay the bills while you go through the requisite training to become an EMT. Make sense? Let me give you another example from my past employment history - I moved to Washington DC in 1996, "no job and no clue" as I like to say. I wanted to get into politics and work ideally on "The Hill". Well, anyone who knows anything about DC knows you don't just get jobs on the Hill they require a ton of networking and even that doesn't usually work. So, what did I do? Well, I first got an internship (unpaid!) for a place called the Center for Security Policy. A defense "think tank" where I did a ton of government affairs work and started to build up a network of connections. To pay the bills, well, I sold Karate services....that's right, I sold Karate. My friends in DC can verify this if you need confirmation. Pretty much, the worst job ever. I started in "collections" and was promoted to "sales" after one day on the job. I can honestly say say, these were some of the hardest days of my life........BUT, it worked. After four months of 16 hour days, I found an open role with a Senator from my home state, was referred to the Chief of Staff by a friend and now not only had an interest in the role but had four months of government affairs experience that sealed the deal.

So I think if I had to give advice right now, I'd find something to pay the bills. Doesn't really matter if it's a good job, bad job, whatever......but make sure that it is something that gives you the freedom to keep looking for great opportunities. Of course it's not realistic to work 16 hour days or do crazy things forever but if you can find something you are passionate about than do it even if you can only do it on the side, weekends or at night. Eventually you'll build up a set of skills and experiences that will allow you to do what you love full time.........and then you'll be on that road to happiness! Happy hunting, if you are reading this and would like to try and hire someone awesome, ping me for an intro to Bonnie!

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