Steps to figuring out your next career move

Here’s how you figure out what to do next in your career: you line up all the stuff you like to do and you figure out which one will pay best. Don’t complain to me that I’m too focused on money. Really. Just do the exercise. The ones who are complaining the most right now, after reading just this far, are the people who are most in denial of what adult life is about.

Look, figuring out what you should do is actually a hard task. Because you have to start eliminating stuff.

1. Eliminate stuff.
Cross off your list all the stuff that you like to do but that pays well only if you have the career-equivalent of winning a double bingo game. Stuff like, being a feature film director, being an opera singer, or being the owner of the Chicago Cubs.

Then eliminate all the stuff that you think would be fun but probably will never pay well: working in a nonprofit, working in local government, being a travel writer.

2. Look at what’s left. If you are a risk-taker, entrepreneurship is left. If you are not a risk taker, then something in corporate life is left. That’s because this is what adult life is for most people. You get up every day and work at a job you never dreamed about doing when you were a kid.

3. Check in with yourself. Do you feel like you are going to die? Have you been writing songs since you were five years old and you cannot imagine living if you don’t write songs? You can still write them. At your house, after work. Have you been skiing every day you possibly can since forever? Then get a job in Aspen and ski at night.

You don’t need to go into journalism because you love writing. You need to write because you love writing. The same is true for everything else you love. Just because you love something doesn’t mean you need to get paid for it.

4. Be honest about what you love. If you’re not making time to do it regularly unpaid, then you probably don’t love it. Here’s the litmus test: Sex. We do it regularly, unpaid, and we love it. Run this test on other stuff you supposedly love. Do you crave it like sex? Then you probably don’t love it that much. You probably love the idea of loving it, the idea of who you are when you say you love that thing.

When I graduated from college, I did all these things that I’ve just told you to do, and it was soul-crushing. The corporate jobs made me ill. But it was very clear to me what I wanted to do: I wanted to play professional beach volleyball. I was ready to commit everything to that. It did not meet the criteria of being something that could probably support me, but I did it anyway, because it was so completely clear to me that that’s what I wanted no matter what.

5. Admit if you lack a clear passion. If you don’t have something that is overwhelmingly important to do, then you probably don’t have anything that you’d absolutely rather be doing than getting up and going to work every day. So just start doing that. In any field. And stop deluding yourself that you have so many interests that you can’t choose. Really what you have is no clear interest and only a bunch of things you would consider if you had nothing to do.

6. Get busy. Doing anything. But you do have something to do. You need to earn money. And since you don’t have anything that’s making you feel like you’re gonna die if you don’t do it, go get a job in a cube and stop complaining. The best way to find yourself is to start doing things. When it comes to ourselves, we find by doing, not philosophizing.

When I stopped playing volleyball, I tried tons of different jobs, trying to figure out which one was right for me. I changed jobs every year. And I figured out where I fit.

But all that time, I wrote at night. After work. Marci Alboher writes about “slashes,” those people who have two careers, like, lawyer/actress. But really, we all have two careers. We have the career that is what we do that earns money, and we have the stuff we do at home because we love it. Career is not just your day job anymore—career is how you spend all your time. Spend it doing things that matter to you, and don’t discount that struggling with what it looks like is a necessary phase. Time spent struggling to figure out what matters to you—that something that should be as important to you as sex—is essential to you becoming you.

Posted in Finding a career, No image
68 comments on “Steps to figuring out your next career move
  1. Joe Fusco says:

    What has gotten into you? You seem liberated…

    Good post.

  2. Finance Monk says:

    Great post. :)

    Though there’s some good in convincing yourself you’re passionate about your day job…

  3. Brian says:

    Working in local government (depends on the locality) can actually pay pretty well – plus the benefits are fantastic. These jobs (the well paying ones) also don’t typically require more than 50 hours/week, so you have time to pursue other interests.

    I have a job I really like (IT project manager), that pays very well, and gives my family great stability. Granted, many small cities and counties don’t pay well at all. But local governments in major metropolitan areas tend to be very competitive in pay, and knock the ball out of the park in benefits.

    Other than that, I thought your advice was great.

  4. Chris Severance says:

    Good post, but I have one bone to pick.
    “And stop deluding yourself that you have so many interests that you can't choose.”
    While I agree with your seemingly intolerant approach to indecision, I must defend those of us that are truly meant to be professional “scanners”. Refer to most reputable personality assessment, and you will find one or two “types” that are more likely than most to be prone to bouncing around among different interests. It becomes far too easy to make diagnoses that are inaccurate, lumping an INFP or INTP into a box labeled ADHD. There are jobs for people that hop from one obsession to the next more often than most people shower. I happen to be one of them, and I started my career off headed straight for corporate boredom. I was successful at achieving what I set out to, unfortunately the whole thing made me crazy. Now I am aiming at making a good living, and doing it by my own rules, at my own pace, and about anything I please. I may need to invent a new category of professional, but my calling is for the constant investigation of interesting subjects. Example: Yesterday I figured out that I am eligible to join no fewer than 4 different societies concerned with Mayflower descendancy. Saturday, my issue de jour was the iPhone. Friday was something I can’t begin to recall, but my web browser history tells the tale if I care to look.
    My point is this: I am bright and driven to have a purpose. I don’t need you telling me I am deluding myself, my internal dialog is plenty critical without anyone else chiming in. Just lookin’ out for my peeps, all you scanners out there. If you can relate, but still think a scanner is just computer hardware, or haven’t any idea what an INTP is, email me. I would love an excuse to tell you all about it…

  5. Briana L. says:

    As an INFJ, I agree with what Chris Severance said about different personality types being drawn to different interests. I have many high-level categories of things that catch my interest (from philosophy, science, writing, technology, baking, and astronomy to government, civics, and sports just to name a few), and within each of those are myriad specific things that I may be fascinated with at any given moment.

    I’m fortunate that my job allows me (or rather requires me) to participate in a wide variety of projects for many different types of clients. Not only do I get to learn a lot about many different subjects, I get to use a lot of the random knowledge I pick up from my various interests. For some of us, the ability to be a Rennaissance man/woman is a benefit and not a disadvantage.

    • Erica says:

      Briana,
      May I ask what you do? I am pretty close to you – I am an ISFJ. Whatever your job is, it sounds like it would be a good fit for me as well. I am struggling with finding my place and would love to know.
      Thanks!!

  6. Brett Legree says:

    I almost gave up on your article since the opening seemed to say, “grow up, dreamer, it’s all about the money!” – but the closing paragraph was really good.

    Do what you have to do to pay the bills, do what you love at home, if these two do not intersect. Someday, they might…

  7. Chris Pommier says:

    I’ve been reading your blog all morning. Just discovered it and I’m already a huge fan. I absolutely agree with the theme of this post, “When it comes to ourselves, we find by doing, not philosophizing.” However, I’m a bit confused about your advice in this post. Would you clarify?

    First, how do you suggest we generate this list that we then whittle down? List everything we like to do?

    Also, #3 seems to build on the second half of 1, but 4 seem to contradict both.
    1) Eliminate what you love, but won’t pay well.
    3) If you love it, do it in your off-time because you don’t need to get paid for it and it may be better if you’re not paid for it.
    4) If you really love it, do it regardless of whether it pays well or seems to provide a stable future.

    Thank you!

  8. Jerry Matthew says:

    PT – €“

    GOD I LOVE THIS POST! A huge "Atta girl" for putting this out there.

    Life is not a spectator sport! Get off your backside and get out there and do something – €“ anything – €“ to get yourself involved. Sitting around watching, thinking, and wondering is only good for about 30 seconds. Action goes much further.

    Try something. If you don't like it, try something else. There are plenty of things to try out there. Sometimes finding out what we like or what we can tolerate the most is a process of eliminating what we don't like. Eventually we find something we like that provides a roof over our head and food on the table. Then work your way up from there.

    Make your mistakes and take most of your (uncalculated) chances while you're young. It's easier to recover and your still have time on your side.

    Talking with your friends, networking, and visiting the college placement center are great ideas but don't let them be your only source of activity. Don't confuse "activity" and "achievement". Activity is fine but if you don't get anywhere or learn anything it's really a waste of time and a way to kid yourself.

    More than anything else keep trying new and different things. It's how we learn and grow as individuals. It's a way to prevent growing old and stale. It keeps your mind and perspective fresh and tuned in.

  9. GenerationXpert says:

    I don’t think your job needs to be your calling – but I do think you need to weight the B.S. to $ ratio.

    I think the more a job pays, the more crap there is to deal with. If crap doesn’t bother you, then you should go for the highest paying position. I have a friend who works at General Motors and makes A LOT of money. However, he always has to go stick his nose in it every day.

    I only have a middle level B.S. tolerance and therefore I only make middle level money. And I’m cool with that. This is the level at which I can work all day and not complain all night.

  10. t h rive says:

    I like that do something theme, though it’s at least mildly pessimistic.

    Do anything is better than wandering around wondering what to do. It’s a start. It’s a resume buffer-upper, and shows that you’re active.

    Don’t forget that the time between career moves is also a good time to take a holiday for yourself. Especially if you have a plan to continue with.

  11. Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    “Career is not just your day job anymore – career is how you spend all your time.”

    You coined something important there. “Career” really means “journey”, and it was invented to be better than dead-end jobs, but it’s really your whole life, not just one particular moneymaking path to be picked and stayed on. Whatever we do, our approach can make it part of a journey, a random waste of time, or just a necessity like going to the bathroom.

    I’ve done a bunch of things over the past 22 years, but now even the disasters seem to make sense (thank G-d). It can feel a bit scary at the time, but you just have to go for it and keep going.

    It’s so great that you are making young people finally feel OK about trying stuff out and finding what they really want by doing it. Things have changed so much for the better in that respect.

  12. Dave Atkins says:

    I agree with most of this except for the ‘default’ option of entreprenurship. The same principles apply there too. I would add that we should remind ourselves that life is hard and unfair…not in a cynical way, but to help us avoid being trapped into over-philosophizing. Find things to do that matter and pursue them relentlessly.

  13. Jo says:

    Seems good. Most of us think better in motion.

    To those who don’t want to admit we have no passion (or not heaps anyway), heck it works for me. I just want to remain curious. I begin my day doing what I am wholehearted about (fortunately
    that includes the shower, the coffee and my email). And I take it from there.

    “What you can plan is too small for you to live.
    What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough for the vitality hidden in your sleep.”
    David Whyte

  14. Mark W. says:

    OK I’ll bite on the litmus test – sex. Sex is great with a great partner willing to give as well as receive … and willing to experiment so as not to finish up with the same ‘well established’ routines. The same line of thought can be carried over to a career. If you’re just putting in your time at a company to complete the assignments handed to you by your boss you will most likely not be challenged and bored by your job. Sex and career – change it up and get out of it what you put into it!

  15. Kate says:

    I love this post. Am currently struggling with this exact type of work/life balance. As in – I just want to spend all day wrapped up in my hobbies…

    Particularly love the last paragraph…

    Kate

  16. Jeff Clark says:

    Another blogger I read has mentioned your two-job idea. He calls it the Sex and Cash Theory: http://www.gapingvoid.com/Moveable_Type/archives/000889.html

    Basically he’s saying that you do one job to pay the bills, and have the other to get laid. I think this is expanding on #6 in your post.

  17. JenFlex says:

    Agree with GenXpert re: BS/$ ratio; only thought would be to be realistic that BS itself is a somewhat..ahem…fluid term: one woman’s BS is another woman’s compost.

    I would also add, that it helps to be able to say, yes, I’m doing this job because right now it’s the best balance of money, freedom, and self-fulfillment (i.e., I’m good at it and it doesn’t conflict too much with who I want to be).

    I love that PT challenges us to think of multiple parameters for a career/job being “right,” and validates so many different paths.

  18. Christy Ramon says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

  19. juliette says:

    There’s also the issue of having enough energy when you come home from your day job to do the stuff you’re passionate about :-)

  20. Juliet Jones says:

    I liked your post – I think we all need a swift kick in the pants sometime to get out of the “thinking” mode and into the “doing” mode.

    But before crossing things off your list, do the career exploration homework first. Like local government and nonprofits – depending on what you go into, those jobs can pay well. And don’t rely solely on online sources of information for salary. While they are good starting places, it takes a few informational interviews to find out what your local market is like. The legal profession is great example. National surveys show lawyers making a lot of money, and yet when you talk with most practitioners, they are making similar salaries to teachers or civil servants.

    Juliet Jones

  21. KD says:

    My favorite is probably #6.

    “The best way to find yourself is to start doing things. When it comes to ourselves, we find by doing, not philosophizing.”

    This is a sentiment I’ve often repeated with friends. As recent college grads, my friends and I often find ourselves in the position of finding out that what we initially thought we wanted to do after graduation is not what we like to do after all. But we’ve always consoled ourselves by saying, at least we tried it, and now we know.

    Question is, how much time should we invest in a position before making up our minds that it’s not for us?

  22. Miriam Salpeter says:

    I remember taking career assessment tests in high school. They asked questions such as, “What is more important to you, money or flexibility?” With perspective, I now know how absurd it seems to expect people to know the answer to this type of question before experiencing it.

    My favorite quote from this blog: “The best way to find yourself is to start doing things. When it comes to ourselves, we find by doing, not philosophizing.” This is so true.

    Ultimately, everyone needs to pick something and try it out, whether they have “so many passions” or none. When we acknowledge that the job is likely to be one of many, it is easier to take a chance.

    Miriam Salpeter

  23. Matt Bingham says:

    We love to do what we love until we are forced to do it. That is why we should never get paid to do the things we love. My paying career side has a goal, and each job or function of my job should lead me to that goal. I lay that goal out in front of my employers at the interview so they know up front. If my job is not pointing me in that direction than I must adjust. That is how I figure out what to do next. I am always trying to put myself in a position to move toward the goal. I had a long talk with a friend (whom I borrowed P’s book to) regarding what she wanted to do. She LOVED being an ICU nurse at night…good pay, very rewarding and challenging. But her life was built around sleeping patterns. She had an opportunity to take a day job, less stress, less challenging, less pay – but it put her in a very good position to finish her masters and try what she really wanted to do, which was becoming a prof at a college. The job she took was never on her radar until she chose her future path over her present path.

  24. Jean says:

    Any chance you can fix the link for “doesn't mean you need to get paid for it.” Sounds like another interesting post I’d like to check out. Thanks!

  25. Paul S says:

    Geez Penelope, thwarted much?

    I return to your blog occasionally because you’re an engaging writer, not so much because I need the career advice. But I had enormous difficulty finishing this post because it starts with a premise so powerfully at odds with my own experience.

    I have a job I love with a nonprofit I believe in, and not only do I make good (OK not *great*) money, I work daily with writers who are, dig this, paid to travel. Apparently my social circle consists largely of lottery-winners, career-equivalent-wise. Including: a handful of artists, two published book writers, at least three travel photographers, more archaeologists than you can shake a stick at, several risk-averse entrepreneurs, and two hand-made bicycle builders. And I don’t live in a place like New York which is brimming with these types. I live in a smallish city with a middling economy.

    The keys are: a) none of us started out doing this, and b) none of us expected to make a lot of money. It’s easy to live a life that is fulfilling, balanced, passionate, whole, and ultimately comfortable (in the “not-rich-but-comfortable” sense) if the “stuff” you eliminate is, well, STUFF. (Hey young people: you can live like royalty on $13/hr. if you don’t have a credit card company to support.) It’s even easier if you take the time (and by “time” I mean “decades”) to learn love what you do, to hone it, and to grow masterful at it.

    So, maybe: you’ll get rich doing what you love if you either a) do it all the time, for a long time, and damn the money; or b) love whatever you do.

    You redeem yourself in points 2 through 6 which collectively amount to the advice “you need to start somewhere, so just get started.” I suppose that’s your way of saying “love what you do, don’t just do what you love,” and Amen to that sister. But altogether this post says a lot more about Penelope Trunk than it does about careers — starting them, changing them, or choosing them.

  26. Scott says:

    Nice post. The problem is concerning the economy right now. Most employers doen’t want to take the chance on someone new or lack some of the skills even though they may have the ability to adapt.

    My current employer (County Government) is discrimitory in ways. I am unable to move up within the County so my only option is to move out! I have ten computer certifications and they will not allow me to use most of them. I also graduated recently with an MBA in Information Security yet when there is an opening in the Security Group I am constantly overlooked while they place undereducated and inexperienced people in instead.

    The problem I have is getting the experience that I need to move up and I am not about to get it HERE! They promote only those who belong to their clique and only to the clique! Those who are more experienced, educated and even doing the job are cosistantly overlooked and disgarded. I know several County employees who are looking to leave. What to do then?

  27. karen says:

    Great post and lots to think about. As I’m moving into a new job, I’ve finally realized I have to think outside of the box to find what I’d like to be doing. As you said to me over coffee a few months ago, figure out what I want to do and make that my job. To me, job searching via craigslist/newspaper tends to put you into the box of what someone else is looking for.

    One of the MANY take aways from my current job is to negotiate the possibility of a tweaking a job description a few months into the job. Think about it…if you’re looking for something that will be a perfect fit for you, is it something created by someone who’s never even met you? I started my job and a few months in, my boss realized I could do much more than was in my description and talked with me about what I liked/didn’t like and we tweaked it…and he paid me more. I really liked that!

    You never know when a passion/hobby will turn into a career, or at least a paying gig. Take a risk…what’s the worst that could happen? If it’s not so bad, why aren’t you doing it?

    P–thanks for sharing your thoughts. Encouraging!

  28. Daniel Dessinger says:

    That was one of your best posts yet, Penelope. Inspiring, yet grounded. Call to action, yet warns of foolishness.

    I’m not sure what was the magic potion in this, but replication would be desirable.

  29. Becky says:

    Oh Penelope, I wish someone had told me this when I was twenty-four! I could have saved SO much money on therapy.

  30. Milena says:

    Penelope – you are hilarious. Seriously. I appreciate that you don’t delude people into the “you can have anything you want if you just work hard enough” philosophy. It’s not always possible. You are right, a lot of people need to grow up.

    As someone who once wanted to be an opera singer it took me years to realize:

    1. I only like singing arias and art songs and I find full operas dreadfully boring unless they are cut down to 1 hour synopses.

    2. It’s okay be an amateur, “lover of.” I love to sing, and do it regularly outside my day job. I teach students on the side and continue to study with a private teacher myself. I met my husband on Craigslist because I was looking for a guitarist to start a band with. 4 years later we are still playing at a tiny restaurant in Detroit for the love of it.

    3. Corporate jobs are great. They offer stability, clear career paths, benefits up the wazoo.

    4. What’s the most important is relationships. I know people who are leads on Broadway who complain about their rehearsal and travel schedules, even though they are ON BROADWAY making craploads of money, hello!??! No job is ultimately or inherently fulfilling. I also know plenty of people who are wildly talented, and I think deserve to grace the world stages, but they just didn’t get the right breaks at the right times.

    5. I want to be a good wife, mother, sister, and friend, and that’s good enough because nothing in life is guaranteed. The best laid plans can fall apart at any time…and even when they do, things will be just fine.

  31. Jennifer SD says:

    I think most of the post is great but the part about not-for-profit. I work for a not-for-profit and I love my job. Your right it doesn’t pay as well as corporate america but it is not that I can’t eat or live. I hate to see you down play these agencies, What I feel you are suggesting is that people should only work for money?

  32. JC says:

    Chris Severance, I agree! What’s your email?
    or you can email me at drjacq@gmail.com

  33. Ken says:

    “And since you don't have anything that's making you feel like you're gonna die if you don't do it, go get a job in a cube and stop complaining”

    But be careful. As a fifysomething looking back I often regret the 30 years of cubicle life. The busyness of life and always being the ‘responsible’ person can rob you of some of the longings of life that might make you a more complete ‘you’.

  34. AllieJ says:

    I agree 100 percent with Paul S – especially about STUFF. I think many of the posts on this blog are great, but this one made me feel like I was 17 years old and being lectured by my dad. Also, it seems to directly contradict some of what has been written here in the past about career and happiness, including this nugget of Penelope wisdom from 2005:

    “Put passion before money. Research shows that once you can feed yourself and keep your electricity turned on, more money will not make your happier; no matter how much money someone makes they think they need 20% more to be happy. On top of that, research shows that people who choose careers they are passionate about make more money than people who choose a career for money. So stay away from jobs that won't pay enough for you to eat. But beyond that, choosing a career based on how much money you'll earn is one of the worst decisions you can make.”

  35. Kirstin says:

    Your advice is fantastic in many ways, but do you seriously want to tell us that NOBODY who is a responsible adult should be working in non-profits?

  36. JenFlex says:

    AllieJ: Could be that putting passion before money just means earning enough money in your “day job” to pursue your passion at night.

    I like dressage horseback riding, but there’s no way in hell it’s going to pay the bills for me. What I value most right now, is time, not additional money.

  37. Joe Flood says:

    Like many people who’ve commented, I’ve tried to balance having a career (web producer) versus following a passion (writing). My solution, which I didn’t really arrive at by a plan, but just ended up by doing, has been to work for 2-3 years and then take 3-6 months off to work on my own projects. I do enjoy working on web sites, but have to take time off periodically to write. You do give up something – income, status – but in return you have the chance to be creative, which makes up for everything else. Hopefully, down the road, I’ll be able to combine my vocation and my interests into one killer career.

    Also, reading this article, reminded me of the much passed-around keynote address by Steve Jobs where he says, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

  38. Andrea C>> Become a consultant blog says:

    It would be great to read a post about careers that pay well. The kinds of careers where you don’t have to go to med school or engineering school, given that you already have a degree or two and you perhaps have to get going on starting a family or paying the mortgage.

  39. Jim C says:

    An outstanding column.

  40. John Goodman says:

    You’re pretty much right on with your comments about “doing what you love”.

    Doing what you love as an avocation can end up being pretty much sucko when you have to do it as a vocation. I’m sure there were days as a pro volleyball player that you didn’t want to get up and go out and practice spikes hours on end. I’m a classical pianist by avocation, so I play what I want when I want. If I had to be ready to perform at a set time on a regular basis, playing something that was selected for me rather of my own choice and getting up the next morning to read a review by a music critic telling me how I did my job the night before I might have a diffent take on my chosen career. I recently came across a website called smithmag.net wherein they ask you to write your life story in 6 words. Mine is “Classical pianist; get a real job”, so I did. I’m a cubicle dweller and can’t say I much care for it, but I see my friends in the classical world scraping by and can’t say that that would have been much better.

  41. AllieJ says:

    JenFlex,
    That could be, and I think many people do that. Obviously, if you have a passion like yours that just flat out isn’t going to pay the bills, then, yeah.

    But what I took issue with about the post was the emphasis on money, the implication that if there is something a person would enjoy doing, such as working at a non-profit or local government, that would pay the bills but not meet Penelope’s mystery criteria of “paying well” (does that mean 100 K a year?) then the person would not be a “responsible adult” if they pursue that avenue.

    Why? Does being a responsible adult now include earning enough to have a flat-screen TV in every room? Most people I know (and I’m not saying everybody does this) who work in fields that “pay well” blow their money on stuff like flat screen TVs, gym memberships and expensive liquor (to deal with the stress of having jobs they don’t like) and enormous suburban homes with pools and hot tubs. I don’t see how that’s more “responsible” that foregoing that flat-screen TV to have the luxury of doing work that’s enjoyable, even if it doesn’t meet Penelope’s definition of a passion.

  42. Mary says:

    I am a big fan of your blog Penelope, but I am disgusted that you obviously have no respect for non-profit work. Millions of Americans work in non-profits. The pay is usually lower than corporate work, but many people do just fine spending their entire careers in the non-profit world. Many CEOs or Executive Directors of non-profits make six figures, and non-profit managers can easily make over $70,000. It’s clear that you know very little about that field; I would suggest doing more research before claiming non-profit work will “never pay well.”

  43. Leonard Klaatu says:

    Slashing your way to success (Marci Alboher’s book One Person/Multiple Careers is a solid read) is THE way to go. You talk about writing while doing other work – at night, after work. And you are dead on about doing and not philosophizing! I know many dreamers who never do – anything. They say they want to do this or that, but they never can be found doing this or that. I’d love to learn to play the guitar, but until I get the guitar out of the closet and start playing it, or trying – it’ll never happen. I’m not yet accomplished in osmosis. But many I know are attempting success by thought-osmosis. “Maybe if I think about it long enough, or dream of it often enough – it’ll just happen.” As Aerosmith sang, “Dream on!”

  44. Greg says:

    A husband and wife together once called Dr Laura because sometimes his wife “wasn’t in the mood.” Dr. Laura asked the wife what happened when she “wasn’t in the mood” but still accomodataed her husband. A telling giggle was the answer. Sometimes action puts us in the mood. Feelings follow action. And this may be especially true when trying to find out what we like to do. We find out by trying a lot of things. We may find out what we really dislike and that too can be very important. I liked this column because it is likely to lead to realistic expectations about work. Thanks P. This advice might just lead to finding out what makes you giggle at work!

  45. Jo says:

    @ Greg

    Well put!

    And it is a pleasure to read this colunmn and comments as part of my work!

    Thanks Greg – can we use your racy story?

  46. Jo says:

    @ John Goodman

    I agree John – one must always remember that if you turn your hobby into your work, you will have to find another hobby. It might be quicker and easier to find another job!

    The point is that hobbies and work serve different purposes. Work is not there for money – pleasing and useful that the stuff is. Money adds a focus – am I doing this work in the best way possible. Spending the money adds a reward – not only did I enjoy going to work, I enjoy the lifestyle I have out of work. (If you aren’t enjoying it, ???). But work isn’t about money.

    Work is about both a set of skills that you happen to have and love, AND, a set of relationships. You have committed to the people in those relationships to deliver those skills in ways that benefit them most (in exchange for money – the acid test – they pay you whether it is via an employer or not). It is a simple equation: I am committed to YOU, YOU and YOU. I will attend to your needs and bring you these services. Up to date and tailored to you and your needs. The ‘customers’ pay for the benefit to themselves and because you are running round making sure you deliver the best available defined by their needs.

    People get confused about money. The Ritz offers me a flash and attentive service. When I go there, that’s what I expect. At the local Starbuck I expect to stand in a queue, remove the debris from the table, find a battered newspaper, maybe use their WiFi. Both legitimate and catering to my wants at different times. I can choose to chase money. I can chose to earn less. Who cares? As long as I love what I do and the people I do it for and with.

    Hobbies are a different set of relationships. They are about you and people with similar interests. You commit to advancing each other’s knowledge companionably, you revere the best but don’t promise to be the best, you can cancel – it is not a breach of promise – the idea is to relax! At work we are full on – that’s the promise.

    We want both. Let’s have both. I love this colunmn. Love the post. But Penelope didn’t stress the relationships. Who we have promised what – and why we made those promises? Why they were so meaningful to us! Why are those people important to us in the ways that they are!

    shh… I go on too long. Should learn to be concise.

  47. Jo says:

    @ Andrea

    I sometimes work in universities and we get managers from time to time who try to start with the money. It doesn’t work well. If we start with the questions “what do you want to teach”, we capture each person’s sense of what is exciting and relevant about a subject. Then we crunch the numbers to make sure it is economically viable – and hey presto, it works. Because we are fun, students enrol and the dollars flow in.

    I do the same for me. Let me give you an example of a psychologist in a small town – a little anxious about start-up costs and so she told the doctors she was there and “did anything”. The patients didn’t arrive. She thought a little more and thought – I like working with kids. So she sent out another announcement. Though she would see other people on the doctor’s recommendations, she was specialising in children. She changed the waiting room, and put in a sandpit. She communicated “children”. And the clients arrived.

    I’m a work psychologist. And I like projects. So I don’t have a waiting room. I go to companies. If it not that sort of work, I refer it to people who do that sort of work, and go play golf. So it looks flash. The fees look bigger and I have the expenses of suits, briefcases, planes, flash printers. My colleague who do retail have the expense of a room, daily accounting (I send out 10 invoices a year tops). Horses for courses.

    Start with the work you want to do, define your client (write a persona – where do they live, who do they talk to at breakfast, etc, and then figure how to make it pay. Review it. Is this the work you want, the clients you want and the lifestyle you want. And then stick to it! Let everything you do communicate to the world who you are, what you offer it, why you offer it, why you love it, why you love them.

    Have fun. Penelope’s having fun. So we come back because it is fun to be here.

  48. 2Cents says:

    First, I love reading this site. Second, I am not offended by today’s entry. However, I find it very very off. I write this because I am someone who works in a career that I love. My job may not be perfect, but I love my industry and I know there are trials and tribulation before anyone gets their brass ring.

    C’mon, you wrote this entry exalting all hope for anyone looking to find a great job. You wrote your entry like a parent who doesn't know what they hell they're talking about, yet he or she wants to give their child tough love. They just tell their kids to go for money, because they weren't wise enough to handle their finances. (I am sure your finances are together, which is why I don't understand the theory behind your entry.) There isn't a trace of hope in your article. I'm sure you're not selling hope, but darn at least put in a line or two about the number of people who do what they love and make decent amount of money. Overall, I am very disappointed.

    My advice to people looking to find their dream career… pick what works for you, handle your finances wisely, make strategic career moves, always look to improve your craft and learn how to bounce back from any mistakes. Period. When you aim for money you find yourself miserable.

  49. Dale says:

    Penny,

    I find that finding the courage to admit that a career move is needed, and the guts to implement the decision are two overlooked stumbling blocks for many people.
    I for one have been programmed from birth not to give up “a good job” on pain of social disapproval, damnation (and the threat of starvation of my family for added measure). So I am where I am.
    Additionally, upon finding a suitable position/vocation/pursuit, one needs the courage to actually go after it. In the modern individualistic American culture, this may not be a significant consideration, but for someone who gauges things by factoring in the opinions of significant others (spouses, siblings, parents, cousins and pets) the actualization of this decision is not easy.

    Ultimately, it comes down to finding the courage to start the process, and to finish it. Where do I buy that?

  50. Dave "The Volleyball Manager" says:

    Classic Avocation/Vocation dilemma. I recently quit a decent government sector job – as the B.S. was ridiculous. This being my 2nd time around in public sector employment, it reminded me why I previously departed during my early thirties. In the mean time I’ll drive a “Big Rig” for Schneider National (the orange semis you see on the highway) and take my $50K / yr. while I figure out whats next. To this end I’m in the process of renting my house. My children are out the house we’ll see. But quitting (on my terms) was EXTREMELY liberating.

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