I can still remember sitting across from my boss after submitting my two-week’s notice. This was my first job out of college—and I’d only been working at the newspaper for two months. My boss, on the other hand, had been with the paper for more than forty years.
I’ll never forget the confused look on her tired face as she said: “Do you just not want to work, Christy? I mean, I don’t understand. A job is a job.”
I knew the company and the job weren’t right for me. But I was young and inexperienced, and I didn’t have a good answer in the moment. Even at the age of twenty-two, though, I knew that “a job is a job” wasn’t going to be my story.
I wanted something more. I wanted something that gave me purpose, something that breathed life into me, something that used my strengths and fed my soul. I knew that “something” could still be called work.
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And now fast forward, and I’ve spent the last ten years working in different jobs that I love and that do all of those things. I don’t mean that I am just thankful that my job is not terrible. I mean I LOVE it. I look forward to Mondays; I am so proud of my work, my company and my coworkers; and I even genuinely missed all of it while I was out on maternity leave.
I realize that this is not normal. (I can already see some people gasping at that last part. “She hates her child!” No, I love my child and my job.)
It’s not normal because many people don’t love their job. Unfortunately, many people go through life just like my old boss. They show up every day to do a J-O-B, collect a paycheck, and go home.
Maybe they just need the money and they don’t have the energy to look for something else. Maybe they’ve never had a job they love, so they assume that this is just as good as it gets.
If that’s you, regardless of how or why you got there, I want to encourage you to find a job that you do love. You spend too much of your life at work to be giving up those precious hours to something you dread.
Here are three tips to keep in mind as you start your search for something more:
1. Pay your dues.
Your first job (or maybe even second or third) might not be your forever job, but it may give you experience and open doors to your dream job. Be willing to pay your dues and do some grunt work—especially if you’re just starting out on the job search.
When I started my career at the YMCA, I worked as an Aquatic Director managing teenagers and developing programs for youth. It was an incredible experience that I loved and that qualified me to develop products for youth and teens here at Ramsey Solutions three years later. And that position led to the one I am in now.
The YMCA job was also a really difficult one, though. I worked seven days a week, holidays and 5 a.m. shifts regularly as well as cleaned swimming pools and dealt with emergency situations. But none of what I am doing now would have been possible had I not been willing to do that hard work and gain that experience. Be willing to pay your dues in a tough job to get experience, but don’t feel like you have to stay there forever either.
2. Look for the right company first, not the right position.
When I quit the terrible newspaper job, I didn’t search for open positions I liked. I searched for awesome companies I believed in which is how I ended up at the YMCA. Because you can have the best title, but if you don’t love the company, the culture, your coworkers or the mission, you won’t be satisfied with the part you play.
I searched for companies I loved and then decided to do (almost) anything for them to get my foot in the door, knowing that if I proved myself, I could move around later.
And that strategy has worked amazingly. I have spent the last 10 years working for two incredible companies that I believe in with my whole heart and had the opportunity to move around and up within each organization.
Good companies want good people, so find the company first. As you prove yourself over time, they will help you get to the right seat on the bus.
3. Remember who you are.
I was once recruited for an assistant position at a local company here that I absolutely love. The team is amazing and I love what they do.
But I know myself, and I would make a terrible assistant. I am the worst with details, I’m incredibly forgetful, and I’m not very organized. Even though I loved the company, that position wasn’t a good fit for me.
Remember who you are—your strengths and weaknesses—and keep that in mind when you consider the position. Even when you’re paying your dues and getting your foot in the door at a company you love, it still needs to be somewhat in your strengths or you will get frustrated very quickly.
Every career move you make should be more and more in your skill set and strengths as you progress. People are not only more successful when they work in their strengths, they love what they do more too.
If you aren’t in a job that you love, keep searching until you find one. Maybe it’s at an incredible company you’ve never thought of, or maybe it’s waiting to be created as you start your own thing and pursue your dreams on the side. Regardless of which path you choose, search for it, work for it, fight for it and don’t give up until you find it. Because I promise you, if I have learned anything in my career journey over the last decade, a job is not just a job.