Tag Archives: career

How long do you wait for the perfect dream job to come along?


I’ve found a new hobby.  And nerdy as it sounds, that hobby is writing cover letters. 

Job hunting is so much easier when you have a passion for an industry. Helping T do cover letters is super enjoyable because it’s a breeze to communicate that – and those letters are getting responses, because that passion shines through and stands out.

Still, time has flown; it’s been about a month already with no solid leads. Obviously it’d be great if he could score a dream job doing what he was doing, now that he’s had a taste of it … but with limited experience, that’s a long shot.

How long, then, do you hold out for the ideal job? Money is money and at some point bringing in an income becomes top priority. (You can always keep looking, and they do say a lot of employers prefer to hire people who already have jobs…) And I think we’re shifting into that mode now.

One option would be to keep going down the sales path – there’s never any shortage of sales jobs out there, many of which are happy to train people up. If you can sell, you’ve got a pretty versatile skill that’ll never go out of demand, and your earning potential is massive. But he rocked car sales because he loves cars, and it’s doubtful that he’ll find the same level of a) enjoyment and therefore b) success selling insurance or water coolers or whatever.

The other obvious path is to look for something else in the auto industry. Now that T’s found an area he really likes, it’s a no-brainer. Even if it doesn’t pay a ton, as long as it pays enough, is steady, not too physically taxing, and doesn’t trigger Sunday night blues – that’s pretty good in my books. We’ve been doing this to some extent but it’s probably time to really ramp that up and expand the search.

This is where I think I need to play cheerleader a little. Sometimes he’s a bit narrow-minded about his skillset and will write off postings because he doesn’t fit all the criteria; I find myself having to persuade him that his experience applies just fine to roles that don’t bear the exact same title or description, and that there’s nothing to lose by applying for jobs that are a little bit of a stretch if you don’t tick every single box. (This is no time to fall prey to impostor syndrome…)

There’s something really exciting about all the potential, all the opportunity that comes with the job hunt – imagining yourself doing various jobs that sound particularly awesome and what your future might look like. But conversely, it’s also a bit depressing seeing how mundane and poorly paid many jobs out there are – it makes me feel really privileged to be able to do work I enjoy that I am decently compensated for.

How long would you keep hunting for the dream job? On a scale of 1-10, how perfect is your job?

I love my job because…

why i love my job

It’s hard to believe sometimes when you’re entrenched in the digital world, but not everyone hates their job and wants to quit.

So, inspired by KK, here’s what I love about my job:

I actually get to do what I love all day – write and edit. If I were freelance I would have to spend the majority of my time marketing. Ugh. 

(I can’t lie – when full-time freelancers I know post links to their projects, I click out of interest, and some of the work they do makes me wince. I get to write about  inspiring people and companies all day; the thought of doing marketing copy about curtains and joinery makes me die a little inside, even if that stuff commands a higher hourly rate. Of course, when you’re at the top of your game you get a lot more choice – I’m sure superstar designer Jessica Hische has her pick of projects – but that’s not the reality for most.)

I get to work autonomously. My days are mostly self-directed, which is freaking sweet. I always forget how rare this is when I talk to people who work at other organisations…

I work with cool people and in a reasonably nice environment. It ain’t Google or Facebook, but it’s not an underground bunker (as a colleague essentially described her former TV workplace).

I have flexibility. I occasionally work from home and I don’t have anyone breathing down my neck; we’re trusted to get the job done and things like the odd weekday appointment would not be a drama at all. I’m also not totally chained to my computer – I have occasion to get out of the office and mix things up.

I get a lot of random freebies. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a nice perk. Event invites, free lunches, vouchers, and all kinds of products.

I don’t suffer a terrible commute, nightmare coworkers or feeling stuck. (A lack of room to move up seems to be a common complaint out there, but in my field you don’t really move up, you just move around.) Really, my only complaint might be a lack of resourcing – but it’s hard to find someone who isn’t stretched these days. Oh, and you know, a little more money would never go amiss :)

I’ve been really fortunate so far despite graduating right into the GFC. Steadily employed, and in jobs that I like, to boot.

It’s easy to forget this – you do get complacent with anything good in life – but overall, I am stupidly lucky. With T on the job hunt, I’m extra aware of that right now.

Women’s Money Week: Overcoming impostor syndrome – how a virtual stranger opened my eyes to my real worth

overcoming impostor syndrome One of my fears about taking half of 2013 off to travel was that my fill-in at work would totally outshine me.

Fortunately it did the opposite – highlighting how much I juggle every day and how well I do it. It wasn’t just the people I work with every day who noticed but people externally who noticed the difference. That really struck home for me when I was chatting to someone – a person I don’t have much personal, frequent contact with but really respect – who went as far as to say our team had been obviously “screwed” in my absence.

His validation, as an outsider, was the key to altering how I see myself. That marked a real turning point for me.

I’ve always had a strange thing about self-confidence.  I love what I write, at least until I hand it over, at which point I immediately start to hate it. Until very recently, I couldn’t ever stand to read my own work once published. I’ve always gotten good feedback about my work, but my own self-belief has always been patchy. There has never been a solid foundation underpinning it. Hello impostor syndrome!

This is only my second full-time job (although I have learned so very, very much over the past couple years) and I’ve basically always been the most junior on the team. I’m  naturally reserved, I’m quiet in meetings not just because of shyness but because I don’t feel I have anything to contribute.

But I’m firmly mid-20s now. I’m not necessarily always the junior person, or even if I am, I now do increasingly have things to contribute. It’s expected of me – and I shouldn’t hold myself back because of how I feel inside. It’s time to adjust this mental perception I hold about who I am. I’m not 18 and clueless anymore.

I look older than I am, which I think has helped people take me seriously up till now. And I need to take myself seriously too, and not sell myself short.

At what point did you realise you had outgrown the ‘junior’ card and couldn’t play it anymore? Have you ever had a random incident change how you perceived yourself and your professional worth?

Women’s Money Week: Career progression and climbing the ladder

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2014.

There are companies that reward talent, and there are some where it’s more or less impossible to move up.

Companies where feedback is given and an active interest taken in career progression, and companies where people wake up one day and realise they’ve been doing the same thing for 5 or 10 years.

It can also depend on structure. In some places, the number and type of roles is more or less fixed. Creating new positions is unheard of within the hierarchy and the kinds of titles and duties available are strictly limited, unless somebody vacates their spot and a specific post opens up.

A few years ago, T found himself in one of these. It started off well; he had a good relationship with the boss, who promised opportunities for advancement. (Sponsors, not mentors, are your champions within an organisation – I now realise my boss at my first job was essentially a sponsor for me and was key to my moving up.) Initially, he was being groomed to fill a position that the incumbent was retiring from. However, when it came up eventually, it was made clear they’d rather he remain where he was.

It was probably a mix of factors: he was too good at what he did, and too valuable to lose there; the fact that he’s a bit rough around the edges, so not necessarily preferred management material; and that the company just wasn’t big on promoting – most workers stayed where they were and other top performers went elsewhere in order to advance.

In the end, we decided to go travelling for awhile and that was the impetus for him to hang on until we left. If we hadn’t, I imagine he would have started job hunting a lot earlier.

What, in your opinion, are the characteristics of a company that encourages growth and promotes talent? How do you spot them?

What Cards Against Humanity teaches us about our careers

Last week I played Cards Against Humanity for the first time with friends (oh, the dark hilarity). Surprisingly, the game also reminded me of a few important career lessons…

Excellence always speaks for itself

There are some cards that everyone immediately recognises as being head and shoulders above the rest awesome. I won’t list any here, because they’ll probably vary a little depending on the crowd of people, but trust me, you’ll know them when they’re played.

Just like in real life, truly great work speaks for itself.

But self-promotion is important

I’m not sure if this is how we’re actually meant to play, but our first game (and only game so far, though I hope that won’t be true for long!) was marked by a healthy dose of campaigning. I’m talking back-and-forth arguments over certain cards and their merit in the context of that particular round. Now, I’m not saying that players always argued in favour of their own answers, because  - as per point number one – excellence always stands out in the crowd.  But it definitely happened a lot.

In the workplace, being a rockstar will get you noticed, but it helps to have some PR behind that. Help yourself out and learn to self-promote – subtly, that is.

And finally, you can’t control absolutely everything

As amazing as the ‘being a fucking sorcerer’ card is, you can never count your chickens before they hatch. Every round is decided by a different card ‘czar’ and their own biases and preferences might not mesh with your sense of humour. Ultimately, your fate is out of your hands.

No matter how well you know your boss, client, etc, people can surprise you at any time. Even master manipulator Frank Underwood (a different type of Cards reference there…) sometimes gets blindsided.

Have you played Cards Against Humanity? How much do you love it?!

Three career tips we can all learn from

A wee break from travel talk today….

The prospect of rejoining the real (working) world this month has me mulling over career, personal development, and other such big picture things.

Funnily enough, I happened to click into this Billfold interview with a digital analyst, which offers a ton of nuggets that all of us could learn from, regardless of industry. Here’s the three most important points I took away from it:

Know when to say yes … and when to quit

She says: “I call it punching above your weight class, and it happens when you keep showing up and enough people like what you do that they keep asking you to do it in more and more senior places. For a company, that’s what you want, because you have someone young and excited to do the work…and you don’t have to pay them much … And the truth of the matter is that if you punch above your weight class they’re never going to promote you to what you’re worth. Because they know they can throw you little bits. They will always get more out of you than you are being compensated for. It’s the way of the world. I’m not saying I have a problem with it. But it got me thinking about what I wanted to do.”

My takeaway: Say yes. Take on more responsibilities, more projects. Rack up as much experience as you can, and when you can no longer get ahead to where you want to be, move on and parlay that experience into a new and better job.

The 80/20 rule

She says: “My theory is that 20% of every job is shit. Not to say that you can only be 80% happy, but you will always have status meetings and timesheets and things that are not fun for you. But if, on four out of five days per week you aren’t doing things like that, that’s pretty good. So I tried to tell myself that on good days—when I started looking for a new job, I said to myself, “What did I do today that made me happy? How can I do that?”

My takeaway: I firmly believe that even ‘dream jobs’ have their mundanities, and thinking anything else is naive. It’s about overall balance; when you’re miserable more often than not, that’s when you need to reconsider.

You need a champion – not just a mentor

She says: “Ten months. I got promoted out of cycle, which was really amazing. My boss led it, and the moral of that story is to find someone who will fight for you. It’s the Sheryl Sandberg thing—you don’t just need mentors; you need champions as well. I had a boss who was getting on people’s cases, saying, “I want to hire this person.” “I want to promote this person.” “I want her to work on these projects. I don’t want her to have to work on these other things.” Chances are you’re not going to get that relationship, but look for it, and look for opportunities to turn a relationship into that sort of relationship. You’ll know it when you see it.”

My takeaway: Advice is one thing; someone who knows your capabilities, believes in your potential, and will go to bat for you is another. And this is why clicking with your boss is more important than I ever thought. I’ll never forget my first boss, who did exactly this for me, unprompted.

Pursuits that make for better hobbies than jobs

Every so often I get comments asking why T doesn’t become a chef (see: Boyfriend in the kitchen). He also gets the same query in real life from friends once in a while, particularly as one of his distant buddies is in the business himself.

It’s simple, really: cooking is one of those things that often makes for a better hobby than a career. Obviously, this isn’t a blanket rule, but in this case, it’s true.

The hours and the pay aren’t great. And progressing to the stage where you actually have real creative control? I suppose you might reach that point quicker if you had, say, your own catering business instead, but again, I don’t think this would be a good choice to fit in with the kind of lives we want to live.

Occasionally he likes to pontificate about how we should start our own cafe/restaurant after a disappointing experience dining out or a particularly ridiculous episode of Kitchen Nightmares - HOW do some of those incompetents ever get started? But I can’t think of anything worse – long and late hours, huge investment in a brick-and-mortar venture, low margins, stress and a high chance of failure. We are both interested in working to live, not living to work, and that’s especially true on his part.

Being able to put together amazing meals on the fly is a wonderful talent, but I don’t think it necessarily translates well to the daily bulk grind of a commercial kitchen. I’m almost certain it might even leach out the enjoyment altogether – in many cases turning a hobby into a career ends up killing the magic. Plus, every essay I’ve ever read by a chef or the spouse of a chef reiterates that they never cook at home. Call me selfish, but I want to keep his skillz for myself.

If cooking was a calling, a burning and all-consuming passion, it might be worth the sacrifices – but it’s not. It’s just one of the many things he’s picked up over the years (including welding, installing car audio, skating, and others) and happens to be outlandishly good at. Now if only he could figure out a direction…

There are lots of other pursuits of which you could say the same. Writing, while a wonderful hobby, is ostensibly one of them. Sports. Acting. Art. Music (for about five minutes back in high school, I was contemplating doing a degree in contemporary rock music).

Got any to add to the list? Ever been told “you’re so good at [X], you should do it for a living”? Or flagged a career path for lifestyle reasons?

The pros and cons of shift work

As some of you might recall, I worked shifts up until the middle of 2011. It’s funny how quickly you forget about that kind of thing, though, once you’re immersed into the dominant 9-5, Monday to Friday mindset.

My journo friends who don’t work in magazines/community papers/business news all work constantly changing hours. There are a couple of cops from our high school group who also work long and varying shifts, with long stretches of days on followed by long stretches of days off.  And of course, there’s my other friend, who’s a newly minted doctor and gets slammed with shifts that would probably find me passed out from exhaustion by the end of my first week. Plus security, hospitality and all kinds of other industries also operate round the clock, year-round.

An ex-colleague has decided that as much as shift work stinks, it’s more about the people and environment than anything else: i.e., it’s better to work shifts with an amazing boss overseeing you rather than work regular hours but chafe under management by a total prick. Intellectually, I agree – but having experienced the pros and cons of shift work, I still hope to manage to stay firmly on this side of the fence.

Working shifts enables you to:

  • Beat traffic
  • Get stuff done during off-peak times (banking, grocery shopping, exercise)
  • Can work well with your body clock

On the other hand, it often means:

  • You aren’t able to use public transport, depending on your exact shifts and where you live.
  • Wreaking havoc on your social and personal life
  • Messing with your body clock – you might feel that you have fewer hours to operate in when your routine is constantly changing and you’re always struggling to keep up
  • You can’t commit to certain extra-curriculars with fixed schedules

 When I worked Wednesday-Sunday, I pretty much never saw T, and the time we did have together was NOT quality time. I was getting paid well and racking up great work experience, but didn’t have much of a personal life. Monday and Tuesdays were my chance to breathe and catch up on things, usually consisting of: a cathartic run, some guitar practice, some reading, cleaning our little house, baking, making lunches for the week, and leisurely walks to the fruit and veg shop to pick up fresh produce. (Those days always went far too quickly.) And when we lost a few staff and I started having to rotate across various shifts pretty regularly, I felt like I had even less time, with the constant disruptions to my schedule. Life in the 9-5, however, means I sometimes actually almost have time to be bored! (I never am; there’s always something to do, but I technically *could* be legitimately doing nothing.)

There’s another benefit to industries that operate round-the-clock, year-round, though. When your company doesn’t shut down over Christmas, thus forcing you to take 2-3 weeks off when EVERYONE ELSE in the country is on break, you have more flexibility to take your holidays when you actually want to go away (particularly useful during winter). I used to volunteer to work public holidays quite frequently, or at least not whinge about being rostered on, because I’d rack up extra pay simply for being there – time and a half, legally, and I think those of us who were union members received double) as well as an extra day of leave to bank.

What kinds of hours do you work/would you prefer to work?

Can we all realistically expect to love our jobs?

can we all realistically expect to love our jobs

Modified from CC image, original by Flickr user Andi Licious

It is a great thing to work in the creative industries. While it has its downsides (see my post on this at Budget and the Beach) for me the positives continue to weigh in its favour. I’ve always worked with amazing, talented and pleasant people. I’ve always had reasonably fulfilling, autonomous work.  This is genuinely what I a) love and b) am good at.

But we don’t all have this first world luxury, and quite frankly, I don’t think it’s anywhere near possible. The numbers don’t stack up. The work that makes the world go round isn’t generally bursting with the fun factor – banking, freight, insurance, food production, retail, farming, tech support, cleaning. No doubt there are specific roles within those sectors that lend themselves to passion, but by and large the stuff we need to keep the cogs turning is fairly dull stuff. And passion jobs often require sacrifices in almost every other aspect aside from enjoyment/satisfaction – compensation, hours, work-life balance, etc.

If what you’re doing isn’t lighting your fire – and you have the option of walking away – at what point do you quit? A friend once told me about a fellow med student who dropped out after five years (one more and he would have qualified). Another person I know pulled out of a Big 4 graduate programme just a few months in after realising it was not the life for her. From the outside, it seems a waste to walk away after putting in years to get to that stage.

What price happiness?

Share your first job stories

I finished university back at the end of 2009, but I have a lot of friends who are graduating right about now. Conjoint degrees, law degrees, medical and similarly scientific degrees have added on more than the minimum three years for them.

While most have scored jobs relatively easily, some are struggling to get in anywhere. It’s hammered home the fact that qualifying in traditionally safe fields like teaching or law or engineering are no guarantees now. I’ve been blessed, and in fact, it was a good year to graduate, as almost all my classmates found work fairly quickly. Journalism may not exactly be a growing field but there are still plenty of opportunities for new grads, as turnover increases and more leave the profession after just a few years. Newsrooms, I’ve noticed, seem divided quite sharply between legacy staff (the hardboiled types who’ve done it for decades and are practically part of the furniture) and the young, cheap, fresh faces. And as print, TV, and radio expand online, there are fresh jobs for the digitally-savvy.

We suffered back in 2009/2010 with T out of work, and it put a huge strain on our relationship, but it’s funny how quickly you forget those things. It’s easy to point the finger, but the job market is still tough.

I’ll put it out there. Overall, I’ve been lucky and I don’t think I appreciate that enough. Yes, I worked hard to get where I am, and yes, I seized opportunities along the way, but in fact my career history reads like a pretty charmed life.

2007: First year of university. Landed a two-week internship. That led to a part-time job for the rest of my years of study.

Late 2009: With graduation approaching, I applied for another internship, and ended up with a regular part-time/freelance gig. At about the same time, I was offered temporary full-time hours at work.

Early 2010: Offered permanent full-time hours at work, and later a bump in position title/pay to match. Carried on with side gig in my own time.

2011: Side gig turned into an offer for a full-time role, which I accepted.

Tell me about the path to your first job. I want to hear!