When I started georginaswan.com in early 2011, I was working part-time as a publishing assistant. Although I loved the flexibile hours, the relaxed atmosphere and the generous pay, the job itself was not at all fulfilling. My contract came to an end in December 2011, and for the first few months of this year, I was registered as unemployed. By that time, I had well and truly decided that what I really wanted was to do was work for myself. But although unemployment gave me the luxury of time to work on creative projects, in reality, I felt uninspired, listless, and anxious. I had ambitious dreams, but wasn’t in the right frame of mind to take action on any of them. Having a job, I very quickly realised, is important – not just for keeping a roof over your head and food on your plate, but to interact with others, get out of the house, and be in a different environment. A long commute can fuel inspiration, praise from the boss boosts self-esteem, and chatting to workmates at lunchtime easily leads to new friendships. And, if you’re doing the “right” kind of work, something that aligns with your values and beliefs, a job can contribute to your sense of purpose; the bigger picture of your life.
Even if you, as I did, hate the idea of working for “the man,” you can find a job to suit you. Work doesn’t have to mean spreadsheets and pencil skirts if that’s not what you want. But if you’re creative, unconventional, or just downright stubborn, how can you become open to the idea of a traditional, salaried job? (Shudder!)
One afternoon in April, I sat down and scribbled out exactly what I wanted from work. If I’m going to have a job, I decided, it will be on my terms! This exercise proved to be extremely valuable in turning those unhelpful, childlike thoughts (“But I don’t wanna!”) into some sensible, applicable questions (“How far am I willing to travel for work? What skills do I want to bring to a job? What kind of colleagues do I want to have?”).
So, what do you want your life to look like? Maybe your vision doesn’t include a traditional, salaried job – it’s not the only way to make money, after all. (If you think you’d like to be an entrepreneur, give it a go – take a week off work, but rather than going on holiday, stay at home and work on whatever it is that you think you could monetise.) But if you’re in the same position I was and you’ve decided that a job is necessary, ask yourself: what would that job look like? How many hours would you be comfortable working? What would the workplace be like – small and cosy, or modern and sleek? Would you interact with a wide range of people, or be part of a small, intimate team? What would your job title be, and what would your day-to-day activities include? Are you willing to relocate for the right position? Do you want to travel overseas? Answering these questions can help you piece together the profile of your dream job.
Tip: If you simply don’t know what your ideal role looks like, ask yourself: what kind of job don’t I want? Whether it’s co-ordinating others, doing sums or having a daily commute, for everything that appears on your “don’t want” list, determine the opposite statement, and build a list from there. Remember that it’s important to phrase things positively! Instead of “I don’t want a job that I have to take home with me,” write, “I want a job that I can leave in the office at the end of every day.”
If you’re curious, here’s my own list, written in April 2012:
3 days per week – flexible, but usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday
8 hours per day, including lunch – also flexible – 8 til 4, 10 til 6, etc…
Within walking distance from home
Working on a computer – preferably a Mac!
Have my own office or else sit in a quiet area
Can wear own clothes, including jeans and trainers
Can listen to music or the radio
My role is clearly defined, easy to do, and gets me into a state of flow
Workplace is new, modern, clean, well designed, quiet and relaxed
Near to cafes and coffee shops
Colleagues are fun, friendly, supportive and respectful
I’m pleased to say that, only three months on, I bagged a job which ticks many, if not all, of these boxes, and I am now working full-time as a graphic designer! Writing things down in this way can be so powerful – it transfers all of those cluttered, chaotic thoughts into clearly defined points. Some of these points might be flexible, some might be absolutely essential – but each one will help you determine your bottom line, and from there, you can look at any job description and know almost immediately whether or not it’s a job you want. If it isn’t, you can pass it by, but if it is, then you can send off an application and set about making it a reality!
I’m really happy in my new job. Sometimes I still dream of becoming self-employed and having the freedom to work on whatever takes my fancy (don’t we all?), but right now, being in this position gives me the routine and structure that I need – not to mention a heap of other benefits – and I’m so glad to have finally found a role that ticks all the boxes. I hope you too can define and secure your dream job – good luck!