The guide to professional happiness- yes, it’s that easy.

Strangely enough I’ve had to turn down at least 5 jobs in the last year. This economy has impacted us all, yet somehow I was able to land interviews and get job offers in its midst. This entry will tell you how.

My first job was the kind of job some parents encourage their children to take as an impetus to go to college: I awoke at 2am so I could be at work at 4am. I watered plants, weeded landscaping, and listened to terrible amusement park music for 8 hours a day 5 days a week.  My lunch “hour” started at 9am and lasted for 30 minutes. My day ended at noon just as my high school peers were beginning their shifts at fast food restaurants and grocery stores.

I’m now 14 years older working at a job that’s much different making the kind of money I’d only dreamt of as a kid.  This is how I got there:

Know yourself: That’s crux of everything I believe.  You have to have an intimate knowledge of yourself if you’re going to be successful in any aspect of your life. It’s what I tell my students, employers, family and friends. Now, it’s what I’m telling you.

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for a dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

Find your dream organization: If you are going spend a huge chunk of your life somewhere make sure it’s a place you want to be and supports your beliefs. I always check an organization’s mission statement before I check for employment opportunities.  What do they want? Does it align with what you want? This is helpful when it comes to cover letters (But that’s another entry entirely).
Tailor your résumé: I know, I know EVERYONE says this, but it’s true.  During the last 14 years of working I’ve done everything from cleaning up dog poop, to working as an Alzheimer’s caregiver, to being  a paid actor, to living in the woods for two weeks with a group of youth. If the job I had is irrelevant to the job I want– I don’t include it.
Market yourself: I created a website for myself. I KNOW I KNOW. I know how it sounds. It’s so pretentious.  Well, humility doesn’t pay bills, or cash checks.  When I apply for a job the website is in my signature at the end of my email.  Employers can click if they like and it’s a place for them to know more about me.
Follow directions:  If they tell you not to call, don’t.  If they ask for a résume, cover letter, writing sample, and photo. Do it — unless you have an allergy to employment.
Know your limits: …and completely ignore them. If I think I can do a job then I apply for it.  If I think something is out of my league; I apply for it. The older I get the more I understand the importance of confidence.  My undergraduate degree has very little connection to what I’m doing now — to other people. I see the connection and that’s what’s important.  It’s my job to see how I can move an organization in their ideal direction.  It’s up to them to believe in me.
Network: But don’t sell out.  I’m a woman with dreadlocks and a tattoo the size of my forearm.  When I network I’m usually wearing combat boots, jeans, a sweater, or some other form of athletic gear.  You don’t have to wear a business suit to shake hands and get to know people.  It’s for you just as much as it is for them.  If you don’t like them it won’t be a good fit. Imagine a world where everyone worked at a place that made them happy. If only….
Know your worth: I once left a job that paid me more money that I’d ever known to move across the country and accept a job for significantly less.  It was, however,  a well-informed decision.  I knew that the “step down” would give me the professional experience necessary to require more financial compensation and responsibility from future employers.
Don’t sell yourself short: Try not to put yourself in a position where you HAVE to take a job because of money.  (Finances is a-whole-nother topic).  If you’re at a place where you can refuse an offer it’s better for you. The economy is spanking us all.  Try to wear as many layers of underwear as possible; they’ll protect you from the switch of regret.

This started out as a list of tips for “how to land a job interview” and ended up as a guide to professional happiness.  I live in the same State as one of the richest men in the world.  I probably make the same amount per year as he spends on his children’s private schooling.  It’s not all about the money we make.  We both pursued our passions.  It just so happens that his passion is more valuable to others than mine.  Hopefully that won’t always be true, but until then I hope you’re able to obtain a wee bit of professional happiness as well and please, let me know how it shakes itself out.

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