Posts Tagged ‘career’
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.
Tags: career, work
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?
Tags: career, reflections
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?
Tags: career, life, work
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?
Tags: career, reflections, work
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!
Tags: career, work
I’ve worked with a fair few interns in my time. They range from the one who didn’t last a day (so gung-ho at the start but quickly realised the reality of journalism was not what he envisioned) to outstanding candidates I wished we could pay. I’ve been asked by students for industry advice, which I most assuredly do not feel qualified to give.
Ergo: this braindump covering most of the things I would like to tell would-be writers.
You will be overworked, underpaid and underappreciated. Perennially underresourced.
Pay starts low and stays low. It’s not like, say, accounting – where you start on $40k and work on up to $100k in a few years. The industry is relatively flat; it’s not like there is a huge ladder to climb.
You will in all likelihood need to pay some serious dues. Internships help get your foot in the door. (I hope you got yourself qualified, because the degree is practically mandatory now.) Working the crappy shifts will help you get your foot in the door and rack up valuable experience. Although depending what you go on to (breakfast TV? online news? Talkback radio?) the hours may ALWAYS be bad. (At first you’ll feel SUPER IMPORTANT because you’re NEEDED at all hours! And then that novelty wears off and you’ll resent the intrusion.)
It is not (always) as exciting or glamorous as you might think. Sometimes we get to meet important and/or famous people. Sometimes we get wined and dined and plied with crap. There’s also the mundane and often repetitive stuff. You’ll get used to writing stories about similar things: awards, surveys, reports, acquisitions, events, fires, arrests, issues that “spark a debate”, etc. You don’t always get to choose what you write about. The unsexy stuff (tech, business) pays better and has better hours. You might have overbearing subeditors – or none at all.
You’ll need to be fast. Onto it. Understand digital. (I never want to hear “do you use hyperlinks in your web stories?” again.). It will be to your benefit to know what CMS stands for; have a few basic Photoshop skills; have profiles on social media so that you know how those networks work, for starters. You need to exist online. It freaks me out to Google you, expecting to see clips, or at least a Twitter or LinkedIn profile, and come up empty.
It’s thankless. Not just in terms of readers, but also, the self-deprecating, self-mocking culture among us. (From what I can tell, this can be found in academia too – why do we keep doing this? There must be something wrong with us. But we keep plugging away anyway.)
Some of this applies to wannabe pro bloggers, too. I am not one of them, so I won’t speak to this for long (I’ve made a few bucks online without trying but it took me a couple of years; the hourly rate is good but spread out over all the hours I spend on blogging, would be well into the many decimal points of cents).
Again, you cannot simply write about whatever you want and expect to be able to make a living doing so off the bat. You’ll need to learn about SEO and marketing and find a niche, and it’s only getting harder from hereonin as everyone and their dog pursues the lifestyle design movement. You are relatively late to the game; you won’t be a Dooce or Tavi or Gala Darling. (But if that’s the path you want to pursue, you can do it authentically and without being a douchebag.)
If you go the freelance route? Much the same. Learn to pitch. Learn to sell yourself. Learn to market your skills. Read the blogs of those at the top of their game, because you’ll find everything you need to know there: finding outlets, utilising social media, crafting pitches, crafting letters of introduction, setting rates, choosing markets. (See the Career section in my blogroll for some awesome resources.)
I haven’t done the full-time freelancing thing, but I know people who are/have. It’s tough. Rates, at least here, haven’t changed in decades. There are fewer and fewer staff writers these days, which opens up freelance opportunities…but still. Hopefully these days there are also opportunities overseas too.
They tend to supplement writing with non-editorial work (advertorial, marketing, corporate copywriting); many have steady or semi steady/ freelance subbing gigs (it’s infinitely tougher without some regular contracts to rely on). They’re always juggling multiple assignments and looking ahead to securing the next one.
That said, we wannabe writers just keep coming. Most switch over to PR after a couple of years (I’m tempted to sit down and calculate the percentage from my graduating class, but I’ll restrain myself). A few soldier on.
Last thoughts: Like Amy Poehler says in her kickass commencement speech to those who want to follow her into acting, don’t. But if you ignore this and insist on doing so anyway, then you’re probably in the right place.
Tags: career, work, writing
I greatly enjoy reading Passive Panda. Huge respect for James; if I recall rightly, I first heard about him when he personally reached out to me via email when he was first building up the website and it’s since seen some phenomenal growth.
Recently, he put out the question: are you doing yourself a disservice by working for someone else?
Much like the lifestyle design set (which goes hand in hand with the entrepreneurial set) the self-employed seem to be more and more the norm online. Too often, you’re looked down on if employed by the man.
So not surprisingly, that post pulled in a stupendous number of comments, a couple of which I’ll highlight here (the more nuanced, insightful ones):
Gregory: Working for someone else comes with the benefits of LEARNING from someone else in some instances, that would be my main counterpoint.
Illiya: It all depends on if you’re happy with your job / career or not. If you’re not, go change that. You only get ‘one’ life.
Ben: The thing is, you can work for your self and still settle for mediocrity. Just after high school, I worked in a mom-&-pop computer repair store for almost 5 years. The owners could have been very free and prosperous, but settled for being mediocre and thinking of it as “just a job”. They did themselves – and their customers – a disservice in that.
Faith: Everyone can’t work for themselves, because if we did there would be no employees.
As some astute readers of mine pointed out in an earlier post, the nature of work is that you’re always serving somebody else.
Maybe you don’t have a boss lording it over you. But you will have clients. Those customers are paying you; and you have to deliver the goods.
Maybe you’re not a wage slave to a single company. But you are directly beholden to multiple parties, a responsibility of an entirely different kind and scale.
And some occupations just are not conducive to self employment. Teacher, economist, policy wonk.
I think it’s pretty obvious that you’re only doing yourself a disservice as an employee if you feel that you are.
But what I’ve come to realise is that we all rely on others to get by. To produce the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in. We create our own value and we exchange that for the things we need. In the post I linked to above, I originally asked if true independence is possible as an employee. But in fact, bona fide self-sufficiency is darn near impossible.
Tags: career, work
T recently said (somewhat jokingly) “You’re turning 24 this year. Better start thinking about when we’re going to have kids…”
24 is scary. 24 is firmly mid-twenties. It’s nearly a quarter of a century. And it feels far older than how I feel inside.
Mainly due to him, I’ve already bumped down my planned kid-having age from early 30s to 28-29. And that doesn’t seem so far away. I am so nowhere near ready for it, and is five years enough for that to change?
We all got together recently for the birthday of a friend, S. She’s a doctor, or pretty close to being one. One of our other friends, F just got married and just started a corporate career, and plans to have kids once she gets her CA. All of the girls in this group want their kids young, and to stay home with them for at least some time. Including S.
Medicine and child-rearing. Two very different lifestyles, neither of them conducive to the other. She is perfectly suited to medicine, but the family thing is just as important to her. We mapped out her professional trajectory on paper (from house officer to registrar to fellow to consultant – the US names are vastly different) and tried to determine where she would fit in two kids. Apparently some people take a few years out as registrars to get their PhDs and have their kids then (!), as that seems to be the best window to take time out in.
The last newsroom I worked in, only the most senior people – almost all men – had spouses and families. The hours just aren’t conducive to it. Medicine is even worse. S can’t have the kind of life she wants (or any life, really) in surgery, so she’s thinking about pursuing radiology or anaesthesia, which have more regular hours, (though they may be harder to get into). It’s something I pointed out to her back in high school, but I don’t think the harsh reality really hits you until you’re faced with it. Ah, the march of time.
I’m also really interested to see what happens to the rest of my girlfriends in the next couple of years. As I said, one is married. Another will probably be engaged soon. Three more literally have plans to get married in the next two years, but haven’t met anybody yet. And they may well end up having arranged marriages – a tradition I can’t help but wonder how much longer will continue quietly in Western countries, albeit in increasingly more informal ways. Probably longer than you might think.
Did you factor in family and kids when planning your career? Have you thought about when they fit into the picture?
Tags: career, life, reflections
Confession: I watch Desperate Housewives.
Confession two: I am ridiculously sad that Tom and Lynette have split up.
They’ve always been my favourite couple. She, the Type-A superwoman; he, the easy-going complement. T and I always agreed he was the best husband on the street.
To me, there’s one big lesson to be learned from their demise.
Imbalance can be deathly to a relationship.
If you are a driven person, it will be very hard to take the back seat to your partner’s career.
Lynette was a career woman to the core – as evidenced by her inability to defer to Tom even after encouraging him to pursue a big career move that saw his star really rise.
She supported, pushed him even, into accepting a high-powered job. He wasn’t keen, but eventually embraced his new position. And Lynette found that difficult to accept – being relegated to spa sessions with the other wives on an executive retreat, refusing to treat Tom like an actual client when he hired her to redecorate his office, and so on. She wanted it both ways – she wanted him to succeed, but not to play the role of supporting spouse – and refused to accept that the dynamic was irrevocably altered.
All of that made worse by the fact that they both work(ed) in the same field, and that Lynette brought the entire situation on herself. Sometimes the things you think you want don’t make you happy, after all.
Worst of all, it seemed she’d lost her own financial stability – surely having Tom stop by the house to drop off a cheque would have to qualify as a serious lifetime low.
I’m not saying that who makes the most holds all the cards. But I am aware that if you’re in a partnership where one party ultimately calls the shots, and the other suddenly becomes a power player professionally, that’s probably going to seep over into the personal realm.
I’m thankful that T does not work in the same industry as I do – partly because 2 x journalist incomes will never equal pots of money – but mainly because I think the competitiveness factor would kill us dead. And that’s all on my part. I can’t help myself. I would not be able to separate the personal and professional – to stop comparing our work, to make sure I measured up or better, to stop any envy eating away at our relationship.
I’d like to think if we ended up in the same scenario, that it wouldn’t break us. Him making most of the money would not represent a seismic power shift, because I’d still be the household money manager, keeping things humming along, perhaps working with a bigger budget. And if, like Lynette, adjusting to the new order proved tougher than it might seem, I’d hope that I would be able to rationally view how I was dealing with the situation and actually communicate with T to figure out how I could cope better.
I’m still rooting for these two.
Who’s your favourite DH couple? To what extent do you think money plays a role in relationship dynamics?
Tags: career, Desperate Housewives, money, relationships, television
I’m ambivalent on Penelope Trunk. But you can’t deny that she calls it as she sees it, and she gets it spot on in this interview.
There is no magic solution.
There is no get rick quick online.
A blog in itself is not a business.
Want to quit your job and work for yourself? You need goals. You need a strategy. You need a business plan.
Listen good, online empire wannabes.
What really stood out to me was the point that she made that business and lifestyle go hand in hand. If you want to spend more time with your kids, you’re not going to be able to put in the kind of hours someone single and single-mindedly devoted to growing a business will. (The fact that starting a business takes hard graft goes unsaid, surely.)
For me, the lifestyle is the most important part of the equation. I changed jobs this year in pursuit of better balance, trading off a few financial benefits, flexibility (a double-edged sword; it goes both ways) and the prestige of a big name for no shift work, shorter commute, more variety and room to stretch myself. As much as I loved my previous position, and felt I was part of something important, I was increasingly frustrated with the sacrifices that came with the territory. In any choice, there are trade-offs, and those may chop and change at different stages in your life.
(BUT I have to disagree that you are either a people person or a writer and that the two are mutually exclusive. I work with people every day who disprove this theory. There are plenty of journalists who are rather awkward in person – me included – but there are just as many writers who thrive in social situations.)
As evidenced here on Stuff Journalists Like, it’s a lifestyle that ends in a crash and burn for many. How many times have I read about people giving up on the pay and odd hours that cut into plans or make it straight up impossible to make plans ahead of time? (Answer: Enough to depress me.)
I’m not convinced by the assertion that journos don’t have many transferable skills, however. True, we have to sell story ideas to editors, but pitching a feature is probably not on the same level as attempting to close a five or six-figure business deal. And some of us are lucky enough to be largely autonomous and work independently – in which case getting used to answering to others in the corporate world could be a nasty change.
But we’re articulate, know how to ask the right questions, know how to research, have good contacts and know how to handle people, something that shouldn’t be underrated. Some of us have particular areas of knowledge and expertise, although that’s rare nowadays.
If I couldn’t be a journalist … well, I’d like to try my hand at doing something in the music industry, in arts, in a university setting, in a nonprofit – what exactly I don’t know, but ideally something incorporating creative and editorial aspects.
Do you agree with any of these points? Or are you just sitting there shaking your head?
Tags: career, life, reflections, work