Category Archives: Career

Begin Again – 100 mph

I originally planned to write another career post, but it’s been a while since I gave an update on my latest journey. Buckle your seat belt. It’s a wild one.

https://giphy.com/embed/Cj2Y5NnFqLiec

via GIPHY

Regular visitors to The Next Hundred Miles are familiar with my long distance journey to the MFA.  My last post announced my decision to pursue a second masters, this time an MBA, at the University of North Texas in Denton. Fellow graduate school survivors who may still be in rehabilitation after their thesis defense understand the insanity of this notion. Before I get too far ahead on this journey, I should explain why I decided to return to school in the first place. Furthermore, if I must return to school and amass an avalanche of student debt, why a second masters instead of a doctorate?

After graduation, I began searching for the job of my dreams and life has been moving about a hundred miles per hour. I spent a year in Garland, Texas (don’t move there), adjusted to the loss of an important family member, gained experience in some career fields I liked less than others, received a lifetime ban from a certain rental car provider (why would anyone steal a Yaris), and moved to Fort Worth.

In addition to becoming a new homeowner, the biggest source of stress during this time was my job. I’m sure we all have horrible job stories. In fact, I’d love to hear some of yours in the comments below, but everyone has the right to be sane in their place of employment.

Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself; you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined.”

– Johnny Carson

You may have heard this before, but money does not guarantee happiness. No matter how much you make or what material things it affords, money will never provide enough joy to suppress a toxic workplace.

I had a job in writing, a great salary, leadership opportunities, and a headache all day, every day. You’re right, no job is expected to be perfect, but there are many things I wish I’d heard during my graduate student commencement to better prepare me for the unexpected, but some of the best lessons are learned through firsthand experience:

  1. Your first job may not be your last job. It may be a stepping stone to provide experience for the positions you really want.
  2. Not everyone in management is qualified to manage or lead others.
  3. You’re not a failure if it doesn’t work out. It’s okay to change your mind.
  4. Some people at toxic companies have no desire to change.
  5. If the job you choose is a poor fit, find one that matches your size.

I always seem to find employment in places with poor company culture and terrible management. There have been times when I have been tasked with repairing it. Other times, it is simply DOA. I’ve learned so much in the past three years about the importance of company culture and the casualties of poor management. It’s not something taught in college unless you study Business Management or Human Resources, so I decided to return to college and acquire the skills necessary to help employers rehabilitate company culture and choose managers that are best suited to fit within that culture.

A second masters was the most logical choice for my career path. PhD candidates are in school to master their field of expertise so they can teach others, write educational materials, or do something Nobel prize worthy like curing cancer, discovering new ways to sustain the planet, or saving us all from a rabid, childish, hateful government intent on reversal and destruction, making the world a happier place.

I posted career advice in hopes of reaching someone who may share a similar experience, but I have missed sharing my journey with you and promise to bring you with me on this next ride. Don’t worry, I just completed my first semester and have plenty to share. I’ve missed you.

Until next time.

 

 

Advertisements

Déjà vu – Defining Your Career Path to Make Good Art

I’m about to test the limits of my sanity by returning to graduate school in January for another masters degree.

e1189207765442523d1a5d3595a8950a4bf8c9be0810ac3e06d7e8fb8c09d437

Before you ask, no I was not drunk or under duress when I made this decision. I was thinking of the future and trying to determine what would be most beneficial to advance my career.

Since moving to Forth Worth two years ago it seems as if I’m still assembling puzzle pieces in this game of life. Some pieces are still elusive and others extremely difficult to acquire, but the ultimate goal is to settle into a career that excites me. Can a career be a source of happiness? Absolutely!

I often write about career happiness and the importance of making sure a job is the right fit, because we generally spend 8-10 hours a day (or more) working. Doing something you enjoy has a positive effect on the mind, body, and spirit. Doing tasks you do not enjoy for extended periods of time produces a negative effect and can be damaging to the mind, body, and spirit.

I finally watched Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech and felt encouraged upon its conclusion. He talked about the importance of doing work that pleases you and not forcing yourself into conformity. Jobs said:

The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. You’ll know when you find it.

His words reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” commencement speech. I found Gaiman’s words to be encouraging while I pursued an MFA. He states:

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.

So why do we waste our talents in lackluster positions instead of pursuing something more pleasing and making good art? It’s not about having the courage to follow your dreams. Many of us are already doing that. It’s just easier to make good art when you have a reliable source of income.

Jobs asked, “If today were the last day of my life would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

His response:

If the answer is no for too many days in a row [you] need to change something. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

I’m glad I earned an MFA. It provided me with tools I needed to get on the path of becoming an author, helped me develop relationships with other writers, and opened doors to career opportunities in writing that previously did not exist.

For all intensive purposes I have a job for which I’m thankful, but when I asked myself Jobs’ question the answer was a resounding no. I’m a trapezoid that doesn’t wan’t to fit into someone else’s idea of the perfect box. An MBA in Marketing will enhance my current skillset, complement my other degrees, and hopefully make me more marketable to the type of companies for which I’m better suited.

In the meantime, while I’m looking for escape routes from my current box I’ll be preparing for a new journey to an MBA. I hope you will come along with me for the trip. If it’s anything like the MFA you can expect an exciting journey.

Trust your intuition. Find your career path. Make good art.

How to Write About Something That Doesn’t Interest You and Still Get Paid

Not all topics are exciting or interesting to write about, but as writers we are occasionally tasked with the impossible – to make that which induces boredom and encourages narcolepsy sound interesting.

Sometimes this requires superhuman writing powers: a monthly energy conservation newsletter no one reads, a review of a a hotel with a history of thefts and drive-by-shootings, or a travel destination piece on a location tourists should never visit, let alone consider as a vacation spot, unless torture, captivity, and imminent death are on their list of must-see attractions.

There are misconceptions about the life of a writer. Some have great magazine or script writing jobs, but they normally don’t come overnight or without a lot of networking. Many work 8 – 5 at jobs they hate that may have nothing to do with writing, but provide health insurance and the rent paid while they search the job ads for something more fulfilling. Others work mundane jobs that barely pay the bills, but give them time to write. The idea that we sit by the beach or lake all day churning out magnificent pages for our next novel is a fantasy.

But the opportunity to write – in any capacity- is priceless, which means sometimes working on something you hate.

Usually the promise of a paycheck, the anticipation of a byline, or fear of your reputation being eternally ruined so that you never get published is enough to keep you writing. In case none of this works here are some things to get you through it:

  • Give yourself a deadline or a strict punishment if you miss it.
  • Imagine winning a Pulitzer for your research and all those who told you to get a real job were forced to sit in the audience and clap.
  • Have a glass of wine when you finish. You probably already drank the entire bottle.
  • Compare “my job is worse” stories with a writer friend who is also procrastinating.
  • Have a mini-dance party with loud music and angry lyrics.
  • Imagine what life will be like when you’re living in a box with no electricity.
  • Write the piece the way you would if you could say all the things you really wanted to say and not get fired. Then write it the way you’re supposed to.

If none of these suggestions work, swap out the wine for a few shots of vodka and put your fingers to work on the best piece of drivel they’ve ever read. Once it’s published and you become the author you’ve always dreamed of becoming share it with a writer who is new to the game as encouragement that things can always go up from here.

 

 

 

 

Why Hire a Freelance Writer Instead of Doing It Yourself?

 

a-paint-job-can-look-horrible

Remember the time you decided to paint the living room yourself and an hour later it looked like a group of three-year-olds helped you play hide the baseboards? It’s the same concept when it comes to hiring a freelancing service to complete a creative project. You are capable of doing it yourself, but a professional has certain skills that would provide a more professional output.

Hiring a freelancer does not mean you lack creative skills. It could have nothing to do with creativity at all. It could be you have so many projects you don’t have time. Or it requires work in an area you are familiar with, but not an expert. Hiring a freelancer means you care enough about your creative project to want it done right.

How do you find a freelancer?

computer search image

Luckily, it’s a social media world, so the best place to find what you’re looking for is online.  Sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Indeed, and even a Google search will provide good options. Many freelancers have business pages advertising their services or are working within a group of freelancers.

How do you know which freelancer to hire?

A good freelancer should have a portfolio of completed work. If it is not available on their website, ask to see it. It’s a good sign if you like what you see. If there is not an example of the type of project you want, but you like the rest of their work, ask to see a sample draft. Make sure to ask if there is a charge for the draft. Imagine taking your vehicle to a mechanic and asking for a repair estimate. You will most likely be charged a small fee for the work that was done regardless of whether you decide to hire the mechanic. Freelancers provide the same service and deserve to be paid for their work – even estimates.

How much should I expect to pay once I hire a freelancer?

Depending upon the project, a freelancer may charge by the hour, by the word, or a flat rate. Be specific in defining your needs and ask for a quote. Don’t be dismayed if the quote is a range between X dollars and X dollars. Sometimes more is involved in providing the desired output and a specific rate cannot be arrived at until they get deeper in. As long as you are okay with the range it is okay to hire them. Just make sure to sign a rate agreement before work begins.

I love my project. How do I reward my freelancer?

Word-of-mouth and repeat business are the best ways to thank your freelancer for their services (besides paying them in a timely manner).

Unfinished Business

quality-ferris-wheel-for-sale-in-China

Life after graduation feels a lot like being on a Ferris wheel at the carnival. The ride begins slowly. When it picks up the pace it sometimes takes you places you realize you don’t want to go, but you must stay seated until the ride comes to a complete stop. At times, it seems as if the ride will never end, but eventually it does, and you get to try something else.

I received my masters degree two-and-a-half years ago, but it feels more like a year. In that time, I’ve settled in Fort Worth, dismantled my thesis in an attempt to create a well-written novel, started a collection of short stories, and set out on a quest to find the job of my dreams.

The novel and short stories currently riding the Ferris wheel are works in progress. Like me, they anxiously await the moment I get THE JOB OFFER OF A LIFETIME so that my quest can end.

Is it really that important to find the right job? Absolutely!

What interests you? Where do your strengths lie? What do you do exceptionally well? These are the important questions to ask yourself when choosing a career path, or considering a job offer. It’s not about what you majored in, but what makes you happy. We can all agree it’s best to find a job you love, but if you’re stuck in one you hate then everything else in your universe will be thrown off balance until the ride ends.

Professional career coach, Christie Mims, describes job dissatisfaction in her Muse article, “2 Big Signs You Don’t Just Need a New Job, You Need a Whole Career.”

She writes:

  • You’re currently slumped over your desk.

  • The very thought of work makes your stomach curdle.

  • When you try and muster excitement about that next PowerPoint or team meeting, you suddenly start to daydream about chucking it all and opening a bar on the beach.

The image Mims depicts summarizes a typical workday for someone stuck in the wrong career. So how do you get off the Ferris wheel of a job from hell?  First figure out where you went wrong in choosing your current position. What aspects of the job make you the most miserable? If the problem is with a co-worker or manager ask yourself if the job would be fine without their presence. If so, it’s not the job.

If you truly don’t enjoy the day-to-day tasks in your position, feel uninspired, bored, and stifled it’s time to start looking at other career paths.  In “Finally! A Simple Formula for Finding Your Passion,” Mims writes:

Some of the things you are passionate about are probably going to be hobbies, like chocolate is for me. But some of them will be new career options.

There is a correlation between the things you are passionate about and your career pursuits. Why not work doing something you enjoy? It will make you a much better employee and happier person.

Once you figure out what you want to do, how do you go about finding a dream job? It is important to determine what factors meet dream job criteria.

Do you need an exercise membership as one of the company’s benefits? What are your salary expectations? Are flexible hours important? Would you like to travel? What about company culture? Do you prefer a small company where you rarely interact with your co-workers or a larger environment with numerous opportunities for group outings and recognition? Before you begin to search for a new position, figure out what you want.

When you’re ready to search, start within your own network. Contact friends, colleagues, and mentors to see if you can connect with their network. The best way to get hired is by referral.

If you have a small network or are just beginning to establish a network try the job boards. I’m not a big fan of the creative job recruiting agencies, but it doesn’t hurt if you find one you enjoy working with.

Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are top-notch, and avoid posting anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see on social media. Thinking of hiding your profiles? Don’t. It makes it appear as if you have no social media presence at all. This can hurt your chances of securing your dream job.

While you’re waiting, stay up-to-date on the latest interviewing techniques, media trends, and technology. Subscribe to several career blogs and read their recommendations about how to create a personal brand. The Muse regularly posts career articles and some job leads as well.

If writing is your thing, check out job listings from some of the writing magazines or offer freelance services to build your portfolio while you wait. I strongly recommend practicing the AP Stylebook Quizzes to stay on top of your skills.

Best of luck in your endeavor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Right Fit

e555c06ea75285ac376e355da43fe547

Finding the right career is a lot like trying on shoes. It’s difficult to find the perfect fit and looks can be deceiving. Sometimes what you try on in the store feels different later because it’s the wrong size. Often, it’s just the wrong shoe.

After graduation the hope is to immediately settle into a career. Some students have positions lined up before graduation and already know where life will take them next. For others, it’s a struggle.

The first 6 months after graduation you’re optimistic and determined to find the perfect job doing something close to what you majored in, if only the right company will give you a chance. You flood the market with recent graduate resumes and stalk your own email.

Six months later, after no responses, you’ll take anything that pays enough to make your student loan payments. But it’s the anything’s that make for bad fits. The hasty “it’s not what I really want but it will have to do because they don’t have my size and I’m tired of looking” fit. In the end, these fits are uncomfortable and only leave you shopping for a new shoe.

So how do you find the perfect fit?

If helps to have a great network and a marketable brand that people are interested in. I’ve joked that finding a job is like prostitution for work, but reality is you have to sell your skills to get noticed. Everyone wants a job. Many want the job you’re interested in and employers are looking for the best fit. It is more than just being qualified. The competition may be just as qualified, if not more. To land the job, you must be the purple cow – you must stand out.

It starts with a spectacular resume that showcases your skills. No matter what field you are entering a poorly organized resume or one with errors (even one) can cost you an opportunity. So think outside the box and find a unique way to showcase yourself. Second, prepare to be frustrated with the application process. Imagine spending an hour filling out a job application only for a computer program to sift through it in search of key words to determine if you’re a good fit.

I hate uploading a resume I’ve spent weeks revising only to have to parse it into little boxes that make it look ugly. Whose brilliant idea was that? Sometimes I wonder if it’s a test of patience. If you survive cutting and pasting your beautiful resume into an undesirable format you’ve passed the first test. To save your sanity, prepare a simple version of your resume as well and save it in rich text format (.rtf) for easier parsing.

Reality is we must work to survive. Sometimes in order to do that we must wear shoes that some days feel cramped and confining until we can get a better pair. But don’t stop trying on shoes. The right fit is everything.

Think about how much time you spend at work and the people you spend most of your time with. Are you happy? Do you like your coworkers? Do you feel satisfied in what you do? If not, you should. Happiness, not a paycheck, should be your ultimate goal, because you spend more time at work than any other place. What good does it do to drive a chariot if you have to meditate in the parking lot each day before you go into the building and avoid your coworkers?

Steve Jobs said it nicely,

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.
So keep looking until you find it.
Don’t settle.”

It may take some time to find the right fit. There may be some imposters along the way. Just be more selective in the brands you try and get to know your preferred style. They should be attractive and comfortable, with just the right amount of space. Nothing beats slipping into a pair of shoes that feel good, but still leave you room to grow.

Best of luck in finding the right fit.

Bucket Lists

Do you have a bucket list? How realistic is it? Did you set a time frame for the goals to be attained or just have a “Someday I’d Like To” list?

The older I get the more I realize the importance of setting attainable goals. Not just career goals or writing goals, but life goals. You know, the things you can’t put monetary value on that make you smile. I used to be one of those “Someday I’d Like To” people until I realized the importance of not just living life but making a conscious effort to enjoy life as well.

Happiness isn’t about how many degrees you earn, what model car you drive, how much salary you make, the size of your house, who you marry, or how many children you have. These statuses say nothing about the person you are inside and sadly, some people put all of their effort into obtaining them.

The moment you realize there is more to life than your job title is when you really start to live. So why not start with an attainable bucket list? I recommend creating more than one list, i.e. 1-year, 3-year and 5-year and setting realistic goals for each.

The 1-year list should include realistic things you would like to accomplish within a 1-year time frame. You should have a plan to achieve the goals.

For example: Pay off Credit card debt

If you have a plan to set aside a certain amount of money each month to pay off credit card debt and are diligent then this is a realistic goal. If you do not have a plan to set aside funds and hope to win the lottery to pay off your credit cards or are still waiting for the government to discover oil in your back yard this is not a realistic goal.

Do the same for the 3-year and 5-year bucket lists. A 3-year realistic goal may be to become fluent in a foreign language. A 5-year goal may be obtaining a degree or purchasing a house.

The key word is plan. Bucket list items fail because people are half-heartedly waiting for something to happen instead of believing it can happen and planning for it to come to fruition. Take writing for example. If your dream is to one day become a novelist and you expect a book deal to fall out of the sky without dedicating yourself to the process by writing daily and submitting work how will it ever happen? Words cannot write themselves and dreams cannot be fulfilled without a plan. So what is your plan?

In May, I embarked on a road trip of all road trips. Memorial Day was coming up which meant if I took just two days off from work I could have a 5-day vacation. My normal road trip companion was turning twenty-three and I wanted her to have a birthday she would not forget. This wasn’t just a vacation, but a celebration so the destination was centered around items on her bucket list.

Some of these items included:

  • Ride on a plane
  • Visit Las Vegas
  • Go to California
  • Find Johnny Depp’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Meet Johnny Depp
  • Visit Roswell
  • Get a tattoo

For her, these were all “Someday I’d Like To” items because there was always one reason or another why they weren’t possible. There are times when the impossible is possible if you are willing and flexible enough to make adjustments. If you truly want something in life you have to be willing to jump. So she did, starting with the tattoo. After that, I began searching for destinations.

Originally, the plan was to go to Las Vegas. It is an extremely affordable trip if you’re not big on gambling and are interested in the shows. Las Vegas is nice, but for me the choice was like choosing whether to see a movie in the theater or waiting for it to arrive at Redbox. Las Vegas was my Redbox. Thankfully, she found something she was more interested in that I would also enjoy – Roswell. From there I built our trip based on driving times and activities.

Fort Worth to California (by way of New Mexico) is a little over 1,500 miles, so I rented a car because I did not want to put that many miles on my own vehicle. A 5-day road trip with activities is perhaps a test of sanity, but I was up for the challenge.

I think the thing to do is to enjoy the ride while you’re on it.

— Johnny Depp

Roswell, New Mexico is a nice little city with great history. It is almost a 7-hour drive from Fort Worth, so we relied heavily on traveling music. There is more to Roswell than alien conspiracies, but the famous 1947 UFO incident overshadows the rest so make sure to schedule a UFO tour if you plan to be in town. Dennis Balthaser, resident UFO Researcher,  conducts the Roswell UFO tours and he is legitimate. For $100 a party of 4 can ride with Dennis as he chronicles the history of Roswell and shares what his research has revealed about what happened that night in 1947.

It was truly a pleasure to meet Dennis. He makes no attempt to convert non-believers to believers. He is an extremely intelligent, kind-hearted man who enjoys sharing what he has learned with others. He is also an engineer and has worked on many other amazing projects throughout the world. If you’re a researcher at heart and love history you will not want to miss this tour. Even if you’re a skeptic, driving around the city of Roswell and listening to Dennis talk will provide great insight. We learned so much and have a greater appreciation for the city of Roswell (and science). See for yourself by scheduling  your own UFO tour with Dennis Balthaser.

The next stop on the tour was Albuquerque, NM. It was about a 3-hour drive from Roswell, so after stocking up on alien souvenirs we headed for the hotel in Albuquerque. The sky over this part of New Mexico was too splendid to be real. I was surrounded by intense blues, reds and greens and filled with the urge to stop the car and create something just as beautiful with prose, but the idea that snakes might find the view pleasing as well and decide to venture out for a visit kept my creative soul in the car until we reached the hotel.

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.
— William Faulkner

The next morning, we had tickets to ride the Sandia Peak Tramway. Remember what I said about being flexible and willing to jump? We’re both a bit squeamish when it comes to heights, but this was my idea. The Sandia Peak observation deck is a located in the Cibola National Forest. In the summer hikers brave the altitude and in the winter skiers test their skill. I bought a shirt from the gift store that says “Got Oxygen?” on the front. They weren’t exaggerating. At times we were over 10,000 feet in the air and my lungs felt the exertion of a 400-lb man sitting atop my shoulders.

Once the tram arrives at the top visitors can explore, hike back to the bottom or wait for the next tram. We explored the narrow and sometimes steep mountainside until sanity kicked in and “death by fall” seemed a real possibility. Then we headed back to catch the next tram down. I’m so glad we did this and would definitely recommend it for vacation, but considering we’d faced our fears and were both happier on the ground, once was enough.

“We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.”
–Marilyn Monroe

After Sandia, we drove 6.5 hours to a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona to rest. There was nothing remarkable to either of us in Phoenix so we ordered take-out and got a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we drove 5.5 hours from Arizona to Hollywood, California. The scenery was beautiful, but the drive through the mountains – treacherous. Even in a Jeep, terror is an understatement. High altitude, sudden curves, steep hills, narrow roadways, falling rocks – a race car driver’s dream! For me, a nightmare.

After arriving in California we spent the remaining two days as tourists. We saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame and found Johnny Depp’s star, visited Universal Theme Park and toured Universal Studios, participated in an outdoor dance party (complete with Jumbotron) in front of Hard Rock Café Hollywood after a great dinner, entered the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and got sorted for wands, and met Johnny Depp – actually several versions of him at Madame Tussauds.

After an exciting vacation, we returned to Texas by airplane and collapsed from exhaustion. If I had to do it again I would recommend at least a 7-day stay instead because there is so much to see in California, but what an amazing adventure!

Bucket List Tally

  • Ride on a plane
  • Visit Las Vegas
  • Go to California
  • Find Johnny Depp’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Meet Johnny Depp
  • Visit Roswell
  • Get a tattoo

 

The tally proves almost anything is possible with a decent plan. So what are you waiting for? I’d love to hear what’s on your bucket list.