I hear a lot of young professionals today talk about finding their dream job. It’s hard, though, right? In this economy so many talented people are settling for a job that pays the bills. They’re living their lives dreading the 8 a.m. and celebrating the 5 p.m. They buy into the “lucky to have a job” mentality and dream of the future where they will, after “putting in their time,” find the perfect job.
Other young professionals aren’t willing to wait for their dream job, so they’re looking for it right now. Whether they’re searching for it on LinkedIn, bookmarking job bulletins or submitting resumes on monster.com, they refuse to settle for a boring 8-5 existence because they need more purpose. They want more now.
Whether you fall into the first or second category, I want to challenge this concept of finding a dream job. I believe that, more often than not, we can make our own dream job or at least significantly improve our current jobs. In my experience, it’s a lot more possible than you’d think.
I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill (go heels!) in 2009 and promptly fractured my back in a Jet Ski accident. Needless to say, the interviews and potential job opportunities were out the door and I faced a summer staring at my bedroom ceiling. By mid-summer, my biggest post-graduation accomplishment was walking up and down my parents’ driveway after which I collapsed into bed to take a celebratory nap. My second biggest accomplishment that summer was starting a blog. I called it “The Diary of an Unemployed Graduate”. Eventually I was hired by someone who read my blog.
I was grateful for my first job but it was far from a dream job. I moved from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Atlanta, Georgia, and found myself in an office by myself, behind a computer, cranking out press releases about doors and construction materials. Every. Single. Day. I was lonely behind that computer and my creative soul alternated between painful tears and hopeless sighs. Wasn’t there more to life? How long could I last like this? Why had no one warned me?
In an act of desperation I emailed a trusted mentor who told me to stick with it and make the most of it. She said this was normal for a first job. So I came up with what I fondly refer to as a survival plan. It was do or die. I traced the root of my suffering to two big problems: 1) I was lonely and 2) I needed a creative outlet. So I went to the owners of the company and asked if I could do two things: 1) Start an internship program (hello new friends) and 2) Start a social media program.
The owners of the company quickly agreed to both of my requests. So I worked hard…using lunch breaks, nights and weekends. I hired interns, found guest speakers, put together social media webinars, created a blogging schedule for the company and developed an online corporate personality. Ultimately, I created a completely new job than the one I was hired to do. I was able to step out from behind the computer, make my daily life better, bulk up my resume and truly add value to my company.
In my second job I found myself in a similar situation – once again, I sat behind a computer all day. My first job had been at a small agency and this was a large corporation. Was it possible to redefine my job role here, too? Hopeful, I immediately began volunteering for any task that would get me out of my desk and in front of customers. Today, while technically in the same job role, I’m attending conferences, traveling to meet with customers and even patenting a new invention. I love my job. It’s exciting. I’m getting to apply my talents and I’m getting recognized for work well done. I still sit behind a computer, but the exciting additions to my job make the parts I don’t like so much more manageable.
I want to tell other young professionals what I told myself – Don’t settle. Find a way to do what you love! I’ve outlined three simple steps for improving your current job situation.
- Figure out what you like and what you don’t like. Note: You probably like things you’re good at and don’t like things you’re bad at. If you want to do some self-exploration, I suggest buying StrengthsFinder2.0 and taking a quick quiz. I’m completely serious when I say I’ve seen it change lives!
- Come up with a creative way to add value to your company and ask your boss if you can lead the effort. Examples include: starting an internship program,a social media program or a company blog; organizing a charity event or partnering with a non-profit that makes a difference in your community; convincing people you work with to start a sports team together; or possibly starting a club at work for young professionals where you bring executives in as guest speakers. Whatever you do, make sure that it’s something you’ll enjoy doing and that utilizes your skills and talents.
- Volunteer for everything. This is one of the best pieces of advice a mentor once gave me. Whether it’s volunteering to get coffee for the team or volunteering to stay late to take the international customer call, become the go-to person. I’ve taken this advice seriously and found that while some opportunities were not fun, volunteering for the “unwanted” tasks gave me a leg up in getting selected for the fun ones. Establish yourself as a hard worker. It will pay off and will ultimately lead to a more enjoyable role than what’s detailed in your current job description!
Jody Porowski is passionate about business, entrepreneurship, technology and people. She currently juggles two full-time jobs, acting as a social media analyst at SAS Institute, a leading provider in business analytics software, and the founder/CEO of Avelist, a useful website whose mission is to organize the Internet. Jody can be found tweeting @jodyporowski.