Last year, while interim executive director at the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, I overheard several graduate school interns bemoaning how much they hate looking for work. I chimed in to share that, as a consultant I was always “looking for work” and actually enjoyed it. I shared how much I liked meeting new people and enjoyed the prospective client meetings tremendously.
Somewhat incredulous, they asked if we could schedule a time to chat about how to find work you love. Being a bit of a gregarious person, I readily agreed but only if I we did it over wine one evening after work.
In preparation for the meeting, I created a list of “Thoughts Finding and Keeping Work You Love.” I think these rules apply whether you are just graduating from college, in the middle of your career, or considering semi-retirement options and can be divided into three categories:
Meditations on Meaningful Work
- Pursue what truly interests you. You’ll spend more time doing this activity than any other in your life. So be certain that you’ll enjoy it.
- A job isn’t work – it’s how you choose to spend your life.
- Do what you love or do something else.
Suggestions for Enjoying the Job Search
- Looking for work is the one time it is socially acceptable to tout your accomplishments. Enjoy having a license to brag just a little bit.
- A job search presents you with a world of possibilities. There are hundreds – if not thousands – of jobs for which you are qualified. Enjoy having all these options; there are people on earth who never will.
- A job interview is a chance to meet someone who will be very impactful in your life and your career – your next boss. Ask yourself if this seems like someone you want to work for and with, someone you’d like to spend 10,000 hours in very close proximity to (2,000 hours per year for five years). Also ask yourself how this person can help you grow and if it’s someone you will be proud to have as a reference in 5 years.
Contemplations on Compensation
- When negotiation salary, trade your life for the most you can (legally) earn doing what you love. Always ask for more than the amount offered – your leverage is highest before you accept the job.
- After you’ve negotiated salary – forget about your salary – you no longer work for the paycheck.
- Work as if you are paid a million dollars per year – which is still less than the value of 2,000 hours of life.
Tips for Getting Ahead
- Enjoy the intangible aspects of work: being productive, working with others, feeling competent, doing something that interests you, feeling good about the work you do.
- Think of jobs as engagements or tours of duty. Sign on to complete a specific assignment – which may take years – and stay until it is finished.
- Remember the keys to moving up: competence, achievement, loyalty, diplomacy, uniqueness, and friendliness.
- Work as if you are paid a million dollars per year – which is still less than the value of 2,000 hours of life (this is so important, it had to be on here twice).
I also offered the interns the following suggested readings, which are available at nearly every public library. These books shaped and informed how I approached my career, my personal finances, and my general satisfaction with life.
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez.
An excellent resource on becoming financially independent even when you have a moderate income (and financial independence allows you to make career decisions divorced from income considerations).
Ten Fun Things To Do Before You Die by Karol Jackowski. Written by a former Roman Catholic Nun, this irreverent book makes you really think about what bring you joy in life.
God’s Men by Pearl S. Buck. One of Buck’s true classics, this work of fiction presents a morality tale about obsession with work and achievement.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Take a year and focus on your happiness – with the book outlining a theme for each month