Starting vs settling

settlingAfter reading How to customise your life and not settle by Katie Robinson at Ask the Young Professional, a blog I’ve only recently discovered and look forward to following, I just had to share my own thoughts.

Katie makes such an important point, and one that I’d never considered before – understanding the difference between starting and settling. It’s really helped me to to think differently, and hopefully more clearly, about the idea of ‘settling’.

In past posts I’ve talked about striving and searching, rather than just settling for an ‘it pays the bills’ kind of job – but how do you define settling? And what’s the difference between starting out, doing what you have to do in order to reach your goals, and giving up on your dreams?

You have to start somewhere, whether you have very specific or only very vague goals in mind, but you still want to find a starter job that you enjoy (at least some of the time) and that’s on the right path towards your career goals.

The way I see it, you want to have links between your starter job and your future career ideas – a basic framework based on your current interests and skills that you can build on.

For me, these links are science, writing, communication and education. My job doesn’t cover any of these things in depth, but the fact that there are bits of all of them means I’ve got something to move forward from. These links also don’t cover all of my interests, but they’re a start. If I compare this to my previous part time work waitressing, which had just one very vague link to my goals – working with people, then I’m in a far better position to move forward now than I was then.

Settling is continuing in a job that you neither enjoy nor is moving you forward. Settling is not thinking about future career goals and convincing yourself that the job you have is good enough when you know it isn’t. Settling is giving up.

Starting is accepting that you have to pick something for now and give it a go. Starting is finding and creating links to your future career ideas and planning ahead. Starting is being realistic, but thinking forward.

So I’m not settling for a nine-to-five desk job that doesn’t include half the things I want in a job, I’m starting with a nine-to-five desk job that’s going to get me to future jobs that do include more of the things I want in a job.

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Life lessons from the job hunt

hearty-cloud-roadIt’s only now that I have a job that I appreciate not just how frustrating it was not to have one, but also how wildly idealistic I was while searching for one. At the time I clung on to hope, blindly believing that something just right would turn up out of the blue if I waited long enough, but it’s only now that I realise just how overly optimistic I was being (well, overly optimistic in between the odd “no-one is ever going to hire me, I’m going to be unhappily unemployed forever!” breakdown).

Since finally being offered a job that I chose to accept, I’ve continued to check the same job sites (not quite as obsessively and excessively frequently!) but it’s as if my eyes have finally been opened to the fact that it really is just the same old roles coming up again and again. Perfect positions don’t just miraculously appear – and even if one did, I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t recognise it!

Maybe the lack of variety in openings is partly due to the economic climate, but it doesn’t change the fact that I never really knew what I was searching for, yet I still expected to find it.

The number of options out there is ridiculous, and I struggle to see how graduates could be fully prepared for the working world when faced with what feels like endless possibilities. Maybe there isn’t much more that can be done. Maybe it’s just one of those periods of life that you have to go through to work out the realities of adult life for yourself.

I’m ever hopeful, but sometimes I think that maybe I’m a little too hopeful. I said in a recent post that you’ve got to believe things will work out. And I believe that you do. But you’ve also got to accept that they’re going to work out imperfectly, and that it’s going to take time, some risks and a lot of learning and adapting.

Looks like I’ve joined the rat race

pjworkingjpeg

I started a new job last Monday. I’ve put off writing about it due to some initial uncertainties but I’ve come to the realisation that, whatever happens, taking it was definitely the right decision and a positive step forward.

I’d had an interview the week before – a very awkward affair involving going out for lunch with the three members of staff, before an interview back at the office during which I downplayed my skills on purpose in an effort not to get offered the job. Yeah, not sure what went wrong there either.. (And note to anyone in charge of conducting interviews: Having lunch with applicants, no matter how well-intentioned, is definitely not the best way to relax a potential employee before an interview.)

This is really what inspired my last, rather drastic, post about emotion/fear versus intuition. My intuition told me I didn’t feel very comfortable with the people, and I was coming up with all sorts of reasons why this job was another wrong choice and I should do something totally different, but after giving myself some time to think I realised that it was my emotions talking and I had nothing to lose. They wanted me to start straight away and said I can give it a try for a few months and see how it goes – the perfect offer for a commitment-phobe like me!

Before I started I was thinking that I’d do it for two months and that would be it – I’d carry on looking for the ‘right’ job and this was just another good bit of experience, but just over a week in and, dare I say it, it’s actually going quite well so far.

I dislike the 9 to 5, but I don’t yet dread it. There are some things that could be better about the job, but there are many things that could be a lot worse. It’s informal, there’s variety, and it relates to some of my interests (and there’s no uniform! Though sadly no working from home in my pajamas either).

One thing that really does scare me though is how fast a working week passes. And how much faster the weekend goes. I can see how easy it would be to get stuck in a full time job, feeling like there’s no time to look for alternatives and gain other experience, and letting the weeks, months, even years, speed by. But I’m determined not to let that happen. This job is just the start.

Why career-hunting is just like house-hunting

oldnewhouseI feel like this blog has become a little too idealistic, so I want to bring it back to reality. Sometimes you need to work for money so that you can have your independence, do the things you want to do in your spare time and plan for your future, and, temporarily, that’s ok. If I can just find a reasonable full time stop gap job sometime soon, hopefully, I’ll be happy, and it doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on finding work I think is really great, it just means I’m doing what I can to get by while I’m searching for that great job (or those great jobs – still quite like the idea of a portfolio career…).

As Kirsty Allsopp says on Location, Location, Location (yes I have far too much time on my hands), when house hunting your aim is to find your, what she calls, ‘forever family home’ in as few steps as possible, because moving house is a pain: it’s expensive and time consuming. I like to think career hunting is just the same in that you want to find that great job that suits you so well in as few job changes as possible, because moving from job to job is a pain, and you don’t want to be unhappy for too long in a job that doesn’t fit with who you are and how you want to spend your time.

People can’t afford to buy that perfect house straight away, and they’re not ready to anyway, they might meet a new partner, have (more) children, get a job in a different area, find another part of town they’d prefer to live in. It’s only by experience that they can work out where they want to commit to. And it’s the same with work, very few people will stumble upon their ideal career path early on in their lives, they need to build up experience and find out what’s out there before they’ll find the best fit.

So I haven’t given up on that great job, but I have decided that right now settling is more important than searching, so fingers crossed an ok job comes up soon.

(And to make clear that I haven’t given up on the dream, Create a meaningful life through meaningful work highlights the three things a great job should be – important and meaningful a) in the long term, b) in the opinion of those whose opinion matters, and c) to you.)

The secret to a super career

strengths…Your personality?

As obvious as matching career with personality sounds, I’m not sure it’s so straightforward. Previously I’d thought that by considering my skills and interests and challenges I could take on, that I was essentially taking into account my personality when it came to finding a job I could really succeed at and enjoy, but now I’m not so sure this is the case.

In Free Range Humans (a book on self-employment that I reviewed a few weeks ago in a post titled ‘Dream BIG’), the author, Marianne Cantwell, questions whether skills – things we’ve become good at, are actually strengths – things we enjoy that we also happen to be good at. Marianne talks a lot about playing to your own strengths (which will be closely related to your personality) and not feeling that you have to do it all and be good at everything (i.e. not feeling you have to constantly build new skills and challenge yourself).

In the drive for perfection and success it’s easy to forget the things we’re naturally and effortlessly good at and comfortable with.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet (which I reviewed in my last post) talks a lot about finding a career that suits your personality. There may be things that we really enjoy doing, but only in small doses, and there may be things that we’ve taught ourselves to be very good at, but which are actually a struggle and oppose some of our inbuilt personality traits. Of course we can put on a bit of an act when we have to, but it’s really important that we do still have the time and space just to be ourselves.

Considering where we get our energy, whether from people and action or from alone time and quiet, is really important in keeping up our energy levels. 

I guess the key thing I’ve realised is that I need to make sure I’m focussing on my strengths (as defined by Cantwell), and not just my skills, and to consider where I really get my energy from and make that an active consideration in my job search.

After all, no-one really wants just a job, or even a career in the long term, do they? Aren’t we all ultimately looking for something a little more meaningful? And I would argue that finding this ultimate career/life path is going to mean much more focus on personality, passions, values and strengths, rather than skills, vague interests and considering things you could learn to get better at (i.e. challenges for yourself).

See this great post Job, Career or… Something Else, and it’s reference to an ‘All I want to be…’ statement. And check out 20 signs that you’ve finally found your life’s work not just another career change for more inspiration.

The waiting game

waitingstarToday my great aunt gave me a box of chocolates she’d been saving until I got a proper job. She’d obviously given up waiting, and I can’t say I’m surprised, I’m pretty fed up with waiting myself.

Waiting for jobs I want to apply for, waiting for application deadlines to pass, waiting to hear back, waiting to attend interviews, waiting to hear back, waiting for the next opportunity.

This is the start of my career and while I realise that my first proper job isn’t going to be perfect, I also don’t want to settle for something that feels wrong. I don’t believe that my standards are too high, but I’ve been playing the waiting game for a long time now, and something needs to change soon. I don’t want to settle for a job that I have no enthusiasm for, and I don’t feel ready to resign myself to just any old office job just yet. I don’t want to lower my expectations just because that’s what’s expected. 

Essentially I’m struggling with the balance between satisfaction and idealism, compromise and dreaming big. Strive or settle?

Here’s a nice positive article on not giving up (some good comments too): Don’t let low expectations destroy your high hopes and big dreams.

And talking of waiting, my next book should arrive soon…