How to find a job you love and still pay the bills
Feb. 9, 2017
Every person has the potential to find a job they love—I believe that with my whole heart and my whole mind. It’s the premise Work.0 was founded on.
To find a job you love, you have to:
This article will help you do it. If you’re smart about your job search and your career development, you can find a way to love your work and pay the damn bills, all at the same time. Read on for four lessons to show you how to get started doing exactly that.
Lesson #1: Follow the money
If you find yourself thinking like this: “I don’t make much, but it’s OK because I love the work I do," then I want you to do the following...
First, figure out how much money you need to pay your expenses. That includes necessities, like rent, food, and insurance; luxuries, like going to the movies, travel, and tampons (screw you, government); and savings, like your rainy day fund and your retirement account.
Second, create a salary range. The number you pulled together of what you’re paying now, at minimum, is your bargain- basement salary. This is the lowest salary number you will work for. For the upper end of your salary range, play with those numbers and figure out what your ideal budget would be. Be practical, not “well, if I won the lottery this week, I’d spend $X on doughnuts.” Once you’ve crunched out a respectable range, write all those numbers down.
Third, do some reconnaissance. Look at job listings, salary sites, industry surveys, and national reports, and if you can, ask a few friends who do what you do or who work in HR at other companies. Here’s what you want to find out: For the work you want to do, what are the factors that help you earn more? What are the factors that make you earn less?
Your investigation into salary information will provide you with a thorough knowledgebase about how much your skills and experience are worth depending on the type of job you’re looking at, the industry it’s in, the location, and a host of other moving pieces.
As you look for a job, keep these factors in mind as you apply, interview, and negotiate offers. Knowing what your bargain-basement salary is will prevent you from scrambling when numbers are mentioned and allow you to politely and professionally counter when necessary.
Remember, when you accept a job that provides you with the bottom of your salary range, you should be compromising on money and winning on love, but not the point where you’re in a pinch to pay your bills.
Conversely, when you accept a job that meets the high end of your salary range, understand that you’re probably compromising on love and scoring more money, but not to the point where you hate every aspect of your work.
Lesson #2: Upgrade your skills strategically
The random accumulation of skills is called hobby development. Your career isn’t about hobbies—and if your hobby becomes your career, trust me when I say you will love it less than you did when it was just a pastime. Your career is about doing satisfying work that allows you to live the life you want. To support that career, you need to continually develop skills that will help you move up the proverbial ladder.
There are a bunch of ways you can do that. You could ask a coworker to teach you something, or ask your manager to be part of a certain project. You could propose a new initiative or take advantage of a company-wide education, development, or mentorship program. You could take a course outside of work, or seek a certification required for a promotion. You could start a side hustle. And yes, you could comingle your work and your hobbies.
The idea here is to earmark time and take the action necessary for you to learn things and tackle projects that will get you more money and help you advance in the future.
Does everything you do have to be for the sake of progress? Hell, no! I knit sometimes just to keep my fingers busy while I’m rewatching Alias. But it’s good for your brain (and your resume) if you continue to take on new challenges either at work or in the name of work.
How do you figure out which skills to work on acquiring? Try these three methods:
What types of work do you want to do in the next year or two that you can’t undertake without possessing certain skills or experiences?
Examine job ads
Job listings are filled with very specific requirements. If you have your eye on a certain type of job, take a peek at what they’re looking for now and create a plan to meet those requirements.
Ask your boss
Frame it like this: “I’m interested in taking on a leadership role (or a promotion, or whatever). What skills, education, or experiences would I need to demonstrate to make that possible?”
Lesson #2: Don't be precious about your job search
One of my journalism professors was the ultimate bubble-popper. My favorite of his many sayings is this: “Everybody wants to work in New York. Nobody wants to work in North Dakota. Learn to want to work in North Dakota.”
Yes, there are people who get everything they think they want, but statistically, that person won’t be you.
Throw out that laundry list of dream job requirements and make a new one. I recommend focusing your must-haves—and there should only be a few—on the actual work you would be doing, any necessities you require for mental, physical, and emotional health, and on items that would impact your career long-term. Everything else on your list should be “nice to have it, but not a deal-breaker” or of the “if I can’t have X, then I need Y to make up for it” variety.
Start brainstorm your job search list of must-haves and not-necessaries with these questions:
Do you want to manage a staff of your own? Do you want to lead projects, or would you rather work independently? What types of projects do you want to own? What skills do you want to develop? Do you want to be customer-facing? Do you want to be a mentor (or be mentored)? Do you want a path for advancement?
What sort of health care and retirement match benefits do you need? How valuable is tuition reimbursement and career development to you? Do you want travel to be part of your job? What about in-house childcare? Paid parental leave? Paid time off? A flexible work schedule? A telecommute policy? A company car?
Do you need to be based in a certain area? Do you want to be within driving distance of family? Can you get a visa to work in a certain country? Are you willing to relocate? Do you have a significant other who needs to find work in the same area?
What type of environment do you work best in? Do you want to work for a small company or a multi-national organization? Would you consider a non-profit? What industries are deal breakers? What values would you like to share with your next employer?
Lesson #4: Invest time in developing a deep network
Go ahead and flip me a bird if you want to, but when your finger starts getting sore, take note of this: Every single job I’ve gotten and every single job a close friend has gotten ever has come from networking.
When I say “networking,” I don’t mean schmoozing or sending LinkedIn invites to everyone you’ve ever met. “Networking” from here on out means building relationships with people you know professionally. It’s getting to know them and letting them get to know you, over and over again until you become a face and a name they recognize and vice versa.
What does that get you? A cool job, for starters. An old boss at an internship passed along an unposted listing from a woman she knew, and that’s how I got my magazine gig. An alumna at my college met my roommate for lunch, and when a job opened up at a national museum, she helped my roommate get it.
Networking helps you...
It’s easier to go to a person you know and explain your situation and lightbulb moment than it is to go in cold and hope a stranger will take a chance on you.
Successfully negotiate for more money
A “hey, you should hire this person, she’s amazing” from a trusted employee at a company you want to work for could turn a negotiation in your favor.
Get real time feedback on the job market
Even if you don’t want to work at a contact’s company, you can still go him and say, “I’m thinking about looking for something new. Are there any skills or certifications your industry is looking for in new hires right now?”
Hear this: networking works. Networking helps you advance your career. Networking opens doors you never knew about. Networking gets you interviews, references, and insider information. There is nothing else out there, no other strategy, that replaces it. Networking is the single best way to get a job for just about everyone in just about every industry at just about every level of work.
If you’re going to be not-precious about one lesson on my list, make it this one (OK, and the one about not being precious, period). If The Job is your ultimate goal, you’re gonna need an army of cheerleaders, reference-writers, and door-openers to make it happen. Start stretching that networking muscle, friend. It’s time to bulk up.
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Loving your work AND paying the bills doesn't have to be a pipe dream. Do it!
To find a job you love, you need to do 2 things first. Find out what they are here.