Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The West Coast Early Morning Tease.

Okay, the holiday weekend turned out to be more action-packed than anticipated. Generally, I have three or four posts sketched out by Sunday. I did nothing this weekend. However, yesterday after my Advanced Resume Workshop, one of the participants walked back to the Center with me and we talked about his career plans. More on that later today. He did, however, ask one of those simple questions that has a simple answer that changes every time you think about it. Here is my first hit on the question and I would like to encourage everyone to leave a comment/answer or send the answer to me at 17.things@cox.net.

The Question: How did you know when you had finally found the right career?

My first answer: It was the day that I realized that I was no longer simply looking for a better-paying job, but was trying to figure out what steps I should take to move towards my boss's job.
To be a bit more explicit. I worked in the insurance industry for almost four years. I then went back to school with a coin-toss decision to become a priest or a lawyer. Somehow, along the way I ended up working at a large group home for gang kids from Southcentral and East LA because I needed a temporary job to pay graduate school expenses... I never intended to stay. In my previous jobs, I had spent most of my time planning my escape, but in this job I started thinking about the things that I could do that would change how the program was run day-to-day. Likewise, instead of vacillating between studying law or philosophy, I began to think about getting more training in counseling.

The biggest single difference, however, has been that most of my job dissatisfaction since that time has been situational. That is, due to budget or staffing shortfalls, changes in management or resources, or the realization that I need to be doing more. In my earliest jobs, I simply wanted out.

You might say that in my earliest jobs, I too busy trying to get out to spend anytime appreciating the surroundings. I knew I was on the right career path when I started picking up the litter on the side of the path.


  1. My answer changes every time as well, but always has the same theme: I know I'm in the right place when I wake up and don't want to go to work simply because I just want more sleep. Instead of not wanting to go to work because I really don't want to live another day in that office.

    I'm only 27, but I feel incredibly blessed that I love my job. My position allows me to help people of all ages make decisions that will better their future. I recruit for an academic institution which allows for a blend of creativity and strategic thinking. Like you said, I think about "the things I could do that would change how the program was run day-to-day."

    Previous time with other companies have not been as rewarding, and I am lucky to have had that experience. Because now I know that if I'm not excited about going to the office in the morning, something is very wrong and I need to either fix what I'm doing or find another company.

  2. I still struggle with the answer to that question. And the reason for that is, I'm in constant conflict between what I love to do and what seems to provide a steady and growing income. As a writer, in the arts, you are faced with constant inconsistancy. So many of my jobs have had one purpose-- to allow me the finances and time to keep pursuing my passion: TV, screen and creative writing. I believe that what you love and what will earn you money can intersect, but as an artist there's always that fear about money (unless you're mega successful and lucky.) I write because that's who I am, because I have to, because it's the most fun I've ever had and because it terrifies me. I feel more alive when I'm writing, developing a new story-- even when it's not going that well. Now, does that make me an adrenaline seeker or even a dewy eyed unpragmatic dreamer? I don't think so. It makes for a slightly anxious adult who periodicallys wonders why she couldn't have been an accountant, and clearly knows it's because she feels like an alien in the world of numbers, even with her calculator. And yes, there are other things I like to do, like teach, talk, direct, sometimes organize stuff.
    So, what I'm trying to say is that I'm still looking for that perfect career, but accept that sometimes you can work at something you like and have an avocation that is your passion and at other times you can meld something you like with your passion.
    Val Stulman

    I live with anxiety everyday and when I have job, one that pays steady money, I'm always figuring out, when and how I'll make my writing time.
    I can do other things, but

  3. Can a career services professional say that she may not yet have found the right career? That her search for a career has led her to guiding others to careers but all the good advice has not yet circled around? Or has it?

    I think I 'found' the right career when the disparate experiences I've had coalesced into a critical mass that has been leveraged towards increasing levels of responsibility and dare I say, fun? As a writer--poet, no less--I've gnashed my teeth endlessly over vocation/avocation, looking to Kafka selling insurance and the legions of artists with day jobs to find some sense of balance in being my own patron/matron, and in the bargain actually finding/earning a position where creative thinking accompanies the mundane things that are, frankly, just a part of the human condition.

    "Picking up litter on the side of the path" is an apt metaphor, as after five promotions in eight years, the stakes continue to change and the landscape has opened up. Daryl's notion of preparing for the boss's job, or in my case a job like my boss's but at another institution in five years in a different time zone where you don't have to be a bazillionaire to live in a beautiful place, resonates. Having an eye towards the next move, establishing priorities, being strategic and taking time to hone the skills and experience for that move seem a hallmark of having found the right career.