You’re only lost when you run out of petrol

road-trip3-edit

I read that quote on my old university’s alumni Facebook page – a past student had added it to the end of a little piece of advice to this year’s graduates. As long as you have the hope and motivation – the petrol – to keep going, to keep searching, then you’re never truly lost, or at least not permanently lost.

I enjoy driving, and I’m not the sort of person who worries too much about planning a route before heading to a new destination. A quick look on Google Maps, memorise or scribble down the roads, then off I go with about 10 minutes added to the journey time just in case I should get lost (which of course is highly unlikely).

But, inevitably, I do get lost. First I continue to drive, I turn around, thinking I’ve missed a turning, or keep going hoping it must still be ahead. Then I finally give in, pull over and get out a map. Except now I’m watching the clock worried I’m going to be late, so it’s a glance, guesstimate of location and how to get back on track, then I’m off again, full speed ahead. But my hurry often means the journey takes longer than necessary, when I miss the turning again, get in the wrong lane at the lights, or realise I wasn’t quite where I thought I was…

Wow. The more I think about it the more this feels like a perfect analogy for my career (or lack of it).

It’s funny because right now what I want more than anything is to quit my job and never go back. And in order to do that I need to find a new job. Except despite my extreme desire to resign (which increases every day I go into work), somehow I’m not in a hurry to make a decision and grab hold of another job. I want to make sure my next choice is the right one for me – not me pretending to be sorted, me pretending I’ve found something different when it’s actually just a variation of what I currently do and dislike, but me knowing that I’ve thought about my next move, planned it and made sure that this time it’s different. This time I’m taking a very good look at the map.

lost.Because when you’re pulled over at the side of the road, you might still be in the wrong place, and not all that happy to be there, but it’s worth taking that extra time to make sure that when you head back on the road to take a different turning, you’re taking the right road – the one that’s going to get you to where you want to be, not another dead end.

And something else to remember: dreams are journeys, not destinations. As soon as you take one tiny little step towards a dream you’re already living it. You’re already no longer lost. I came across a great post about this by Paul Angone: The big lie about your dream.

So I may feel pretty lost right now, but I’ve definitely got the energy and motivation to get moving, and becoming un-lost could just be a matter of one or two tiny little steps in the right direction. It’s all about taking a good look at the map before getting started.

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In and out of control

controlI’ve been thinking a lot about the type of job I’m looking to move on to, and one of the aspects I’ve been thinking about is control.

I like to be in control, to be able to see the bigger picture and move things forward. I guess to have some degree of power and influence. I’m not one for maintaining any kind of status quo just for the sake of it.

I’ve never been one for following the rules. If it’s a useful rule with a clear and valid purpose then I see no reason to break it, but sometimes you’ve got to see the bigger picture and be flexible about things. I see rules as guidelines, if they’re not working, try something different.

So in a job context let me give you a couple of examples of levels of control:

Teaching assistant vs teacher

Teaching is something I’ve always had an interest in – learning, communicating, creating, planning, supporting, presenting, leading. Yet I dislike working as a teaching assistant. In the past I’ve helped out in classes and most of the time I’ve just felt like a spare part. I hate that. When, on the other hand, I’ve been allowed to take a lesson or work with a small group I find the work much more enjoyable. It’s all about the level of control and responsibility.

News editor vs news reporter 

Writing news stories is something I have experience of and really enjoy doing, and I’ve worked both as a reporter and as an editor. Both have their pros and cons. Being an editor is stressful yet rewarding, you have control of everything, you arrange and attend the meetings, you interview people, you allocate stories to writers – you do what you like to get the job done. Whereas being a reporter or writer is much more relaxed, yet can be frustrating. I’ve had stories changed so much I’d rather my name was no longer alongside them, and it’s much harder to see the bigger picture when you’re focusing on just one small article in a publication.

I’d choose high responsibility, a high level of control and flexibility over working for someone else on just a small part of the puzzle any day, but you have to start at the bottom.

You can’t edit others’ writing until you’ve written lots yourself and had your own work scrutinised. You can’t teach others until you’ve observed lessons and worked alongside rather than in front of classes. Sometimes you might not enjoy the stepping stones as much as you’d enjoy the final position, but they’re the only way to get to that great job.

I guess it’s about enjoying the journey as much as you can, knowing that you will get to where you want to be in the end, and that it will be worth it.

What’s blogging all about?

I was more than a little surprised to find the following, rather unfriendly and cryptic, comment in my inbox a few days ago. I was in two minds about sharing it but it’s brought up a couple of things I’d like to discuss, so here it is:

Forget the blog post. I won’t blow smoke in your face and say I’m so glad that I read your post. What I will say is that people who go by a pseudonym annoy me. No name, no way to connect on LinkedIn or follow on Twitter. As well, your subtitle is a bit self-defeating and not a good way to start the branding process. None of this would have to be said in the form of a reply if I knew who you are and how to contact you; because I would like to offer a bit of professional advice. Namely, I’m not the only professional old-timer who is going to see your talented prose but wonder, “Are you for real?” So, two things that piss me off: one) you are a talented writer, yet immature; two) I don’t know how to contact you to tell you this in front of others who are to follow your writing, including my much respected pen pal, Rebecca. Sorry if this offends you, Rebecca. Bob McIntosh http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobmcintosh1

Assault on the anonymous

I choose to blog anonymously for two main reasons:

1. I feel that it helps me to be more honest in my writing

2. I’d rather my current and potential employers didn’t come across my confused ramblings

I don’t write this blog as any form of self-promotion or marketing. I write it for myself, to help me to explore career ideas and thoughts and to share these with others, and to enable me to read the thoughts and ideas of others who I can learn from. Being anonymous allows me to do this completely freely.

A supportive community?

Until I received the comment above I was pleased to be part of what I’d so far found to be a welcoming and supportive community of like-minded people. To me blogging isn’t about always agreeing with others’ views, but it is about being constructive and supportive.

I’d love to hear your views:

– How do you feel about anonymous bloggers like myself?

– What’s blogging all about for you?

Which would you regret more?

what ifYou regret more the things you didn’t do than the things you did. No, really, you do.

It’s taken me a very long time to even begin to accept this.

Let me give you an example. When I was offered a paid internship that I was really unsure about taking, one of the first things I asked myself – and one of the first things many others asked me when discussing my dilemma – was which choice would I regret more?

Having worked, unpaid, for the company, I knew lots of the good things about them, but also lots of things I didn’t like so much. I’m very much drawn to variety and new things; I’m bad at commitment. And my expectations for a first job were too high.

I tried to picture myself in the role, and rightly or wrongly felt that I would regret taking on something which I felt so very little enthusiasm for. I knew the company was looking for someone to stay on after the internship and I didn’t want to take the position fully intending to leave after the three months and to be actively looking for other opportunities while in the role. I thought I would feel guilty. I thought that would be taking advantage. Except that’s what opportunities are there for – taking advantage of.

Yes, looking back my thinking didn’t make much sense. Even now I have to remind myself that companies don’t have feelings. You can start a job and quit in a month. It’s about you, not them. And you know what else, I might have changed my mind. I might even have grown to like it – first impressions can be wrong. But let’s keep this balanced, intuition can also be pretty accurate, it might not have worked out. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

I turned it around in my head and asked myself – would I regret more taking something with so little conviction, or would I regret more not taking a risk to continue to look for something better. Of course this is rubbish – I could have worked and searched.

We regret more the things we don’t do than the things we do, because it’s the not knowing that drives us crazy, not making a mistake. We can deal with mistakes because we can learn lots from them. All we can learn from ‘what ifs’ is next time,  just give it a go.

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.

Not so great expectations

I was looking through some old school reports the other day. Back at school the teachers knew and supported everyone, and had high hopes for many of those they taught, but from university onwards each student becomes more and more anonymous.

clowntvweather

Well it would certainly be a conversation starter…

My tutor at university was great, I remember him telling me that I could do anything I wanted when I left. Nothing at all to do with my intelligence – one of his suggestions was joining the circus and another was becoming a weather girl! I think he was really just trying to say ‘the world is your oyster’.

Then you start applying for jobs and you realise just how big a pond you’re in, and just how small a fish you really are. And even once you’ve got that first job, there’s always that niggling feeling – is this really it? Can’t I do something better than this? Aren’t I destined to do something more meaningful?

And it begins to feel like you’re not living up to your potential. All of that talk of becoming an artist, a doctor, a teacher – whatever good solid, or even dream, job you thought you might end up with when you’d finished your education – has gone out the window, and worst of all, no-one really seems to care what you do or become anymore. You’re told you’re lucky to have any job in this economic climate, that it’ll ‘work out eventually’, that no-one really knows what they want to do.

Those dreams of doing amazing things, of travelling, of excitement, of adventure… “Oh yeah, you want to do that? Sure, you do that one day,” they say. Well I want to remind everyone, and myself, that we’re not here to live up to other people’s expectations of us; we’re here to live up to our own expectations for ourselves, so we better make them high.

pacific-blue-eye-really-is-a-small-fish-in-a-big-pond

Being a small fish in a big pond doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Sitting in the park

parkbenchThis might well be the longest I’ve gone without writing a blog post since I started – where does the time go?!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the idea of fate. And I’ve come to the conclusion that believing things are just ‘meant to be’ is a really positive way of thinking and living. If you don’t accept things that come your way then you’re just left fighting against them.

I’m not sure that I really believe in destiny or fate, but I do believe in believing that everything will work out in the end. Hope is absolutely everything, and I can’t even imagine what it must be like to lose all hope. You have to believe that something better is around the corner when things aren’t so great, or you’d just stop trying, and to get anything really worthwhile out of life takes effort.

If it’s meant to be, it will be. If it’s not meant to be, it’s because there’s something better out there.

I’m starting to appreciate the fact that my job is actually a pretty good starter job. Life’s not a race and I’m holding on to my dreams and ideals, but right now I feel like maybe things are on track and where they’re ‘meant to be’. I’m finally beginning to let go of the regret I was holding about past opportunities and whether I made the right choices. I did what I thought was right at the time and that’s all that matters. Those things simply weren’t meant to be.

I’ve also done a little reading up on mindfulness – the practice of being fully in the moment here and now. It’s really calming and helps me to feel in control. Essentially (from my limited reading on the subject!) it’s a case of paying attention to each individual sense and appreciating them all without judging. I’ve been noticing the birds singing more than I might usually, and not getting so annoyed at music and chattering on the train. I’m not talking about anything spiritual or religious, just relaxation and acceptance – give it a try!