All posts in Career

  • What I Learned From Landing—& Promptly Leaving—My Dream Job

    dream job
    image by atsuke

    About a year ago, I left a manager and team I adored for what I thought was my dream job. I was wrong; it was very much not my dream job (let’s call it my “nightmare job”). Now, I genuinely don’t want this post to be a bash fest, but the 6-month period in which I struggled through this role was a slap in the face I must write about. Because I always, for whatever reason, feel compelled to be authentic. Having this experience—and feeling like I took away lessons from it—and not sharing it feels inauthentic to me. Like I haven’t told the world the whole truth.

    So here’s what I learned.

    I Learned That Nothing Zaps Me of Energy & Motivation Faster Than Micromanagement

    Prior to taking the nightmare job, I would have told you I disliked micromanagement (doesn’t everybody?). But this job taught me it’s an absolute deal-breaker for me. I was working in an environment of rules, “suggestions,” and worst of all, mistrust. I was given instructions on how to manage my projects (uh, didn’t you hire me to handle this?), questioned when I didn’t constantly communicate what I was doing (instead of just doing it), and even told how to respond to certain emails (oh! oh! and how to manage my motherfucking inbox. Seriously!). Ugh. Kill me.

    I think my brain just started to shut off at some point. I was a puppet; that’s what it seemed they wanted from me. Just follow the rules, do what you’re told, don’t think for yourself, don’t color outside the lines… I despised it.

    I Learned That the “Right” Industry Doesn’t Necessarily Lead to Job Satisfaction

    The only reason I was even open to leaving the job I had before the nightmare job was that the former was in the IT software industry. I just felt like I’d never do great work in that space—not fine, not good, but great. It’s not a subject I naturally grasp. But lifestyle-y stuff? Hell yeah. Let me focus on health & wellness or career strategies or personal development or something along these lines, and I’ll knock your socks off. I’ll be the most effective, most inspired employee you’ve ever had.

    Well, LOL at that. The nightmare job was in health & wellness. But the role itself was wrong for me, as was the culture and even the brand (see bonus learning below).

    There was a time when I thought the industry of a job mattered most to me, and that my actual responsibilities, my manager, my team, the culture, and everything else were minor details. I thought as long as the industry was a match, I could make almost any job work. Wrong-o, Cass.

    Fast forward to today, and I have the best manager in the world; work with crazy-smart, super-chill people; get to focus on my strengths; am afforded generous amounts of autonomy, flexibility, and creative freedom…and I’m in the tech industry. Haha! Tech?! Is tech a “Cassie” industry? Oh god no. Am I happy? Yep. Am I good at my job? Yep. Who’da thunk?

    Industry ain’t everything, kids.

    I Learned That This Whole Thing Was Actually All My Fault

    I’m an idealist. This is, uh, not a good thing sometimes. It certainly wasn’t in this case. When I was approached about the nightmare job, here’s what I heard: health & wellness brand! work from home! social media & editorial role! What I didn’t hear: health & wellness personal brand; work only from your home office, no coffee shops or anything; social media analyst & editorial (not writer) role. (Not that these things are inherently negative, they just are for me.) I didn’t hear these things because I didn’t want to; I wanted to focus on the good, exciting, in-alignment stuff.

    I also just assumed the culture would be Cassie-friendly. I never saw the micromanagement coming. Oh, and the near-constant collaboration, omigod. Didn’t see that either. Again, it’s not that these things are universally bad, they’re just bad for me. And my rose-colored glasses prevented me from seeing them. I didn’t ask enough questions, and I didn’t give the negatives the weight they warranted.

    It’s hard for me to recognize and appreciate faults in something I’ve romanticized. And it’s hard for me to not romanticize things when I get excited about them. I’m hoping this particular rude awakening has taught me a lasting lesson, though.

    Bonus: I Learned That a Super-Sweet & Flowery Writing Style Just Doesn’t Come Naturally to Me

    And it never will. And I never want it to.

    🙂

    image credit: The Dream by atsuke via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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  • Why Conventional Career Advice Puts You on the Wrong Track

    train tracks
    image by Lawrence Whittemore

    Note from Cassie: This is a guest post by Cody Wheeler at Academy Success. Interested in guest posting for Alternative Badassery? Contact me.

    If you follow the advice of most “career experts” out there, you’re basically going to be digging a deeper and deeper hole every day.

    You may not get out of this hole until you’re in your 60s. Or worse, this hole may end up killing you before you retire.

    See, there’s a pretty big problem with career experts. Most of them have never changed careers… so how are they qualified to tell you what to do?

    Confused? Let Me Explain.

    What do you hear most career pundits telling you?

    They say things like:

    • Pick a skill and stick to it.
    • Specialize. Don’t generalize.
    • Put in your hours and become an expert.

    But let’s take a moment to think about what happens to your career choices when you focus on a single skill.

    More Money, Right?

    The typical argument here is that when you become a specialist, you start to rise up the corporate ladder. You know your particular field better than almost anyone else.

    You get promotion after promotion, and you one day end up at the top, leading your company from a cushy office raking in 7 figures and lighting your cigars with 100s.

    Sounds pretty awesome right? And that’s the picture most career advisers paint for you.†If only it were true…

    Think for a moment what it takes to get to that level.

    It’s not one deep skill at all. It’s a multitude of skills. To be at the top of the business world or a highly successful entrepreneur, you can’t just know how to do market research, or write code really well. You need an extremely wide array of competencies, and you must be quite developed within each of them.

    • Marketing
    • Management
    • Operations
    • Finance
    • Technology
    • Personal Relations
    • Human Resources
    • And more..

    If you’re only focusing on a single skill set, you’re going to get boxed into a corner real quick.

    While you might climb your way up the ladder initially and make a good amount of money through normal promotions, company loyalty perks, etc, if you don’t branch out and develop the other areas of your business acumen, you’re going to start digging that hole I talked about in the beginning.

    It’s a Trap

    As you progress in your career, that specialization you’ve chosen will reach a point of diminishing returns. There won’t be anything left to learn, and all you’ll be doing is treading water, trying to stay afloat and not get passed up by young and eager up-and-comers.

    If you’re in corporate America, you’re probably surrounded by people in this exact position. They have good jobs and make good money, but they’re absolutely trapped.

    They neglected to improve their skill sets beyond what initially made them successful, and because of it, they couldn’t even dream of finding another position that paid them equally for their singular focus.

    I bet you can picture faces right now who are in this exact position.

    So what’s the real way to succeed with your career?

    Cast Your Net Wider

    Don’t get me wrong here. There’s nothing wrong with becoming an expert. In fact, it’s necessary to be successful.

    But what you must do to get ahead, and to make sure you’re not trapped in a job you don’t love in your 30s and beyond, is become an expert in several functional areas of business and life.

    Once you’ve reached the point of mastery and there is little else to learn, branch out and start to learn new marketable skills.

    • Read books and blogs
    • Take online courses
    • Ask your company for specific training
    • Go to conferences
    • Challenge yourself with projects which interest you that require learning new skills
    • Educate yourself in any way you can

    The Freedom of Options

    When you do this, something amazing starts to happen.

    You have a high level of expertise in the field you chose when you became a professional, and you also have a solid understanding of many other highly marketable skills. You become a master of many trades, and you possess all of the skills it takes to be a successful business person, not just one.

    This level of education and understanding about your skills and your career is what separates those who are trapped and unsatisfied with their jobs, from those who are able to create the positions they desire, build businesses on the side, and ultimately have a highly elevated level of career options at any given time.

    You will have, as I like to call it, freedom of options.

    Your Call to Action

    I put this at the end of nearly every one of my posts. It’s meant for you to take the lessons you’ve learned, and put them into action.

    What I want you to do is take an inventory of your current skills, and how they’re developing into the career you desire. If you see gaps, think about how you’re going to learn the skills you need to fill those gaps. Then start bettering yourself with that plan.

    If you can do that, you’re already well ahead of anyone who has a singular skill focus, and well on your way to a highly successful career.

    cody wheeler academy successCody Wheeler is the founder of Academy Success. He built a $300,000 business in his 20s, has authored two books, and holds an MBA from Indiana University. Cody created the The LifeHacker’s Manifesto for those looking for a better way. He believes everyone can be special and we shouldn’t ever hold ourselves back from doing the things we dream of doing.

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  • Recommended Resources for Career, Lifestyle, Quarterlife Crises, Blogging, & Freelance Writing

    books
    image by azrasta

    I’ve been flying through books and online resources like it’s my job. That’s what happens when a lover of reading and learning takes on such projects as launching a new blog, trying out freelance writing, and figuring out what to do with one’s life (NBD).

    The value of many of the items I’ve used is incredible. I’ve been blown away, really. I feel indebted to their creators–they’ve helped me so much! I’d feel like an asshole not trying to spread the word about their work.

    Originally, I developed a “Resources” page (no longer available) to house reviews and links (yes, affiliate links, whenever possible/applicable. I was really banking on making enough money for one coffee a month, ya know?) associated with all the books and products I found exceptional…but it started to get ridiculous. As in, I was reading so much good shit so fast that I was adding awesome things for people to check out all the time, and the page grew into a section of pages, which was becoming annoying to manage…

    Here’s what I’m saying: I want you to know about these resources–I want to sing their praises–but I no longer want the hassle of keeping the pages updated, nor do I want the content taking up precious real estate on my site anymore, K? Homegirl likes a clean website, and I was cluttering things up like an elderly woman does with plastic flamingos and lawn gnomes. No likey. (Besides, I need room in the site navigation for a few new pages coming soon… THE DRAMA! THE SUSPENSE! ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT NEW PAGES?! I KNOW YOU ARE! I KNOW YOU CARE ABOUT NEW UPCOMING PAGES ON MY BLOG!!!!!!)

    I’ve chosen two near-and-dear-to-my-heart items (also the two I have true/non-Amazon affiliate relationships with) to promote indefinitely (to your right, in the sidebar under “Recommended”), but outside of those, I think I’ll just shoot an email to my newsletter subscribers or write a review post or something for all other noteworthy books, products, exercises, and whatever else I come across.

    This is a boring post so far, I’m sorry. I think this is all stuff I’m not supposed to tell you, too. Like, if I let John read this before I publish it, he’ll tell me no one cares about the administrative details of my site, and that I shouldn’t even mention any of this. But I feel like I’m pulling a fast one on you guys by not always being transparent, so I hope you appreciate all this stuff you don’t care about. Or something like that. Let’s move on.

    Here are some truly remarkable resources I think you’ll find helpful. As mentioned, some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I’ll get about four cents of any sale made through this page (though it doesn’t change your price at all).

    Jung Typology Test

    Discovering my personality type by taking the Jung Typology Test was an enormous breakthrough for me as I flailed about in a quarterlife crisis. I learned what my natural strengths and preferences are, how I experience the world, and how I make decisions–in short, I finally felt like I understood myself. This brought a lot of clarity and relief, and the knowledge propelled me forward in my quest to identify my ideal career.

    Take the test

    Do What You Are

    This book will also help you determine your personality type (through a couple of different methods), but focuses on what it means for your work. What’s better is that it goes beyond simply offering information to include actual action items (hooray!) and relevant exercises to help you determine the best career for you. I didn’t finish the book knowing exactly what to do, but I had certainly narrowed my options down and had a good sense of the direction I should go.

    Read more

    Strengths Finder 2.0

    After coming across the third mention of this book, I knew I had to get it. The main idea here is that we should each figure out the talents we naturally possess, and focus on developing those into strengths (as opposed to spending–wasting–time trying to improve our weaknesses). The thought is that we can be professional powerhouses by finding ways to use our strengths more instead of attempting to get better at the things we’re crappy at, resulting in an average ability level at best. While the book and assessment seem to be more intended to help you make the most of a role you’re already in, knowing your talents can really help you identify an overall good career fit, too. My results revealed a lot about the jobs I would and would not be successful in.

    Read more

    The Art of Non-Conformity

    As I read through this book, I kept noticing this “Oh, thank God!” feeling. Chris Guillebeau puts into words what I’d somewhat subconsciously suspected for a long time: there are other ways to live than the one way you’ve been exposed to. Our eyes are closed to other roads, other possibilities, other ways of seeing the world and our work…and Chris opens them. This book will forever alter your worldview–for the much, much better.

    Read more

    The $100 Startup

    Interested in entrepreneurship? Here’s your guide. Also written by Chris Guillebeau, and also a source of that “Oh, thank God!” feeling–this time when it comes to strategies for launching, operating, and growing (if desired) a business. You don’t need a lot of money to get your brainchild out into the world, nor do you need to screw people over or trick them into buying to be successful. You do need to put some careful thought into how you can provide real value and truly help people, as well as what makes sense for you to offer, how best to offer it, and whom to offer it to, though–you’ll learn how to go about all this, and more, in this book.

    Read more

    279 Days to Overnight Success

    Another slam-dunk (free!) resource by Chris Guillebeau, this guide lays out the process of–and key concepts involved in–building a successful online platform. If you blog just for fun/creative release/whatever, this probably won’t interest you. But if you’re ready to take things to the next level, spread your message, get some traffic, and maybe even sell some stuff through your site, you need this info.

    Read more

    Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success

    When I first started seriously thinking about freelance writing, I did a ton of research on what I’d need to do to be “legit,” and ended up completely overwhelmed. I came across a recommendation for Kelly’s book, and purchased it right away…and found that pretty much all my questions were answered. You can have zero knowledge of the publishing industry or what pitching story ideas or working with editors is like, and come out feeling like you have a decent grasp on it all after reading this book. You’ll also have a template for each of the common emails and letters you can expect to be sending as a freelance writer. Another book worth way more than it costs!

    Read more

    ***

    Discuss

    Have you used any of these resources? If so, what was your experience like? Any related items you’d add to the list?

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