Sunday, June 22, 2008

More on "Fit"

So Gaurav, who has gone off-consumption, linked me to an article by Po Bronson titled "What Should I Do With My Life?"

Interesting reading, in the middle of a job search. Especially in the middle of a search where I feel like I'll have to take the first job that is offered, simply because I can't really afford not to.

Mr. Bronson
, who rivals Studs Terkel in his continual assessment of the working world, does a variant of the old "follow-your-bliss" argument: he proposes that if everyone were able to find careers that aligned with their strengths and interests, workers would be happier and productivity and profits would skyrocket.

We are sitting on a huge potential boom in productivity -- if we could just get the square pegs out of the round holes.

He also writes:

Our economy is so vast that we don't have to grind it out forever at jobs we hate. For the most part, we get to choose.

This I find a little hard to believe because I know a lot of people who hate their jobs, and a lot of other people who wish they could be doing something different but can't find another alternative willing to hire them. (I know a lot of twentysomethings, which may be why my statistics are skewed.)

Still, he makes his point. Workers who get to use their strengths are happier. Happy workers work harder/better. Better work (should) equal more profits. Everybody wins!

At the beginning of my job search, I defined the career path I wanted as follows:

I'm not necessarily looking for a job in the fine arts, despite my degree. My goal is to find an admin or entry-level position in an organization which will allow me to use my analytical/writing skills. These seem to be the two biggest assets I have to offer an organization, and are also the parts of my current work which I find the most interesting.

With the entry-level job in hand, I'll begin to learn more about the internal structure of the organization, determine where my skill set could be most useful (and where I need to fill in the gaps in my education), and prepare myself for an eventual move up or a lateral move out.

Which means, at this point, that I'm not focusing on getting a job in a particular industry (e.g. "I want a career at a publishing house"). I'm looking at a variety of possibilities and am hoping to find an opportunity.

That's still the kind of job I hope to find. The interesting question, of course, is "what happens if I don't find it?"

I've already written a little about the idea of "fit" and how I can already tell whether or not I would fit well into a particular company. Here's the kicker: about a week ago I learned that one of my staffing agencies had submitted my resume for an entry-level editing position at a law firm. When I learned that I might be interviewing for that job (and that the interview would include an editing test), my heart quite literally leapt.

I also started "pre-working" for the job; taking editing tests online, getting books about proofreaders' marks, learning how legal documents were different from other kinds of documents, etc. All of this "work" was way-super-fun-awesome.

The law firm, unfortunately, told the staffing agency that they would only interview candidates with previous legal editing experience, so I didn't get my chance to meet them or take the editing test. Still, it was an example of a job description that felt right; that used my strengths and abilities to their best effort and that, for me, was less work than play.

So, Mr. Bronson and Mr. Mishra, there you have it. I know where I fit! I know what I want!

Now someone just help me figure out a way to get there!


D. Jain said...

Oh boy, do I feel your pain. I got a bachelor's and master's in English literature because I love it, and I thought I wanted to be a professor. Grad school/teaching made me realize that I wasn't really so interested in academia, so suddenly I had to figure out what the heck I was going to do. I applied everywhere and basically fell into software marketing--I answer requests for proposal, write advertising, plan my company's exhibit booth, etc.

You might be surprised what kind of jobs you can find...and the DC area has so many jobs that you're bound to find something. Have you looked at any government jobs yet?

The Director said...

Hey Blue,

Check this link out:

The tricky part for us drama majors is to get that interview, because once we get the interview, we're golden! Unfortunately, most companies are like your law firm and won't respond to resumes that don't fit their narrow idea of what a good candidate will be.

So the trick is, if at all possible, to sell yourself to the recruiter and prove that you fit those qualifications, even though you don't have that 5 years experience or whatever -- your drama training will make up for that lack.

Gori Girl said...

Yeah, I was right there with you a few weeks ago on the job search. It's tough! I think your strategy is very sound - getting your foot in the door via an entry-level position will give you far more options in a few more years.

I'm a little bit skeptical of Mr. Bonson's claims. I *do* think it's more possible now than ever before to have a job you love, if only because there are more creative jobs out there. Work is still work though - it takes time to move up to the more interesting positions, and it's not always going to be fun. But it can be - my husband (mid-twenties) mostly loves his job as a product manager - and I quite enjoyed my first day at work today.

Good luck as your search continues, and remember that DC has a lot of entry jobs that suck, but lead to great future possibilities.