First things first: Not all jobs suck. There’s a ton of inspirational Instagram and Facebook posts out there telling you to quit your job. Quit working for the man, they say! Or “Look at me, traveling the world with my laptop” set against a sunset on the beach. Listen, I’m not saying that going out on your own isn’t amazing, but I also want to say something that gets missed in all of these motivational videos, blogs, and exotic photos on Instagram and Facebook:
Not all jobs suck.
Yeah, I said it. Not everyone is meant to work for themselves and have their own business. Being an entrepreneur can suck just as much as having a job if you don’t have the personality and drive for it. There’s a lack of security and stability, along with the constant need to be thinking of ways to improve and bring in money. For some people, that’s amazing and they love the creativity needed to thrive as they start their business. For others, the anxiety that would come with not knowing whether they could pay their rent would be too much to handle.
And that’s okay.
Starting your own business has recently been romanticized by pop culture (not that there’s anything wrong with it – I’ve started my own coaching business, so I get it!). But some people just want a good job. You know, a job that doesn’t suck. A job with benefits. A job with people who care about you and where you get to do good things in the world that aligns with who you are. And I want to tell you:
Those jobs DO exist.
I know what you’re thinking: “Are you sure, Stacie?” Jobs that don’t suck seem a bit like unicorn jobs – you hear about them but no one REALLY has one. But people do. And here’s how you find them.
But first, a small warning:
Don’t change your career path — yet.
Not all jobs are the same. Even jobs with the exact same title are not the same. The organization you work for, and the people that make up that organization, can drastically change the way you feel about your job and career path.
For example, I’ve been a career coach (sometimes called a career advisor or career counselor) at three colleges/universities (full disclosure: I was a career counseling intern at one of them!), and every one of those jobs was very different than the other. In one job, I was developing and teaching career development courses and did very little one-on-one coaching. In another, I was developing new content, training and mentoring student advisors, and mostly coaching first year and senior students. They both felt VERY different from each other, but the qualifications and career path is essentially the same.
All this to say, you may be on the right career path for you; it’s just that the JOB itself (the company, its mission, the hierarchy, the culture) isn’t a good fit. Before any of my clients make a big change, we take a good look at their values and whether they align with the organization that they work for. It may mean they just need a new job, not a new career path altogether. As the old saying goes, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”
Talk to your friends and family (in other words, network!).
I’m not sure why this isn’t happening, but most of us don’t talk to each other about our dream careers. Instead, we sit in desperation in jobs we don’t really like, slogging through our day-to-day lives without questioning that we can find something better.
Why do we do this? There are a variety of reasons, but mostly I think we are afraid of what other people will think of our dreams. But what I’ve found is that the more open and vulnerable you are about your goals and your dreams, the more people will come out of the woodwork to help you reach them.
Why go to your own network first? Because they are more likely to tell you the truth about their own jobs, about the craziness happening where their friends work, what they love and hate about their companies, and the ins-and-outs of applying to a company they have inside knowledge of.
After talking to your friends and family, I recommend using LinkedIn to reach out to individuals for informational interviews. You can search by job titles and companies, and there’s no reason not to reach out to several people to have a few phone or video conversations (but please write tailored messages!). There are so many different ways to do this, but first you should research what companies match your own values and goals, which takes me to….
Research what’s out there and review companies carefully before you apply.
We are incredibly lucky to have so many resources that help us research companies before we ever apply to a job. The best place to start is on the organization’s website. Pay close attention to their mission or vision statement, who works there, and what’s on their HR page. What kind of benefits do they offer? Do they focus on flexibility? Can you work from home? Think about what is most important to you and whether the organization fits what you’re looking for.
There are several websites now that allow you to read reviews from current and previous employees and learn more about their benefits and the overall culture. I recommend Glassdoor, Indeed, The Muse, and CareerBliss. And don’t discount using good old Google and checking out the company’s social media pages. But remember that dissatisfied people are more likely to post about their bad experiences. Most people don’t think to post about how great their organizations are, so don’t take anything you read online as the final word.
Pro tip: In my last job search, I created a spreadsheet with organizations I wanted to work for. It included the commute time (because I will never live more than 30 minutes away from work), the ability to work from home (because I like to work in my PJs occasionally, and I am more productive at home too), and how much vacation time they offer (because traveling is a huge passion of mine). All of my organizations were in the field of education, so I knew they met my other requirements (mission and my overall purpose). Consider creating a similar spreadsheet that compares potential employers to your most important values and wants. Note that while you may not be able to find everything out or find an organization that meets every single requirement, this will at least get you started.
And one more tip: Use LinkedIn to research turnover rates at the organizations you’re most interested in. Search for the company and check out how long employees typically stay. While it’s not always a sign of a bad work culture, if you see a pattern where several employees left at the same time or are leaving after 1-2 years, you may want to rethink your application (or consider reaching out to a former employee for an informational interview).
Interview like you’re on a date.
When you’re dating, you want to put your best foot forward. You wear your cutest outfit, spend extra time grooming yourself, and act on your best behavior. But when you’re dating, you don’t act desperate (at least, I hope you don’t!). You don’t allow your date to treat you badly, and if they do, you decide right away that you don’t want to pursue a relationship.
The issue with most job searchers is that they tend to act desperate. They want a job so badly that they overlook huge red flags and take jobs at dysfunctional organizations. And that’s why this is important:
You should be interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you.
When I was interviewing for jobs to move back to the US from the UAE, I had one high-level interviewer tell me that she didn’t care if I “only had one outfit” when I said I wouldn’t be able to start work as early as she wanted me to. The early start date was impossible due to the timing of my move back and my furniture/belongings being shipped back (which takes a very long time!). I walked away from that potential job after that interview. There were other red flags (several staff members looking distracted during my video interview) and a sense of overall disorganization, so I decided that it wasn’t a culture I wanted to join. The moral of that story is:
If they treat you like that on a date, what will they treat you like when you’re married?
The organizations you interview with should be working to impress you as much as you work to impress them. Don’t settle for less, and don’t overlook red flags. There’s nothing worse than accepting a job and having to search for a new one within weeks. Don’t forget: it’s easier to say no from the get-go than to get out of something you’re already committed to. ‘
And remember again: not all jobs suck. You can find the good ones with the right mindset and research. Really!