Tag Archives: jobs

How Did You Get Over The Hump In Your First Job?

When I started my first full-time job after college, I was really tired. I wasn’t used to waking up at 6:30am, I wasn’t used to sitting in hour-long meetings about sales reports that didn’t affect me, and I wasn’t used to sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day just staring at a computer screen.

Physically and mentally, it look a lot of getting used to.

A college friend of mine started at the same company a few months after, and we had a running joke. Every day, he’d come in and I’d count down the days until retirement. We were 22 years old, so we assumed 40 years of working 250 days a year. That comes out to 10,000 days of work. I think I got to about 9,990 before it got too depressing to think about each day. We were going to be working for 10,000 days and it wasn’t getting any easier.

10,000 days of work is a LOT of time. It’s hard to think about going into an office that many times in a row, and when you think that the every day will be the same, it does not seem worth it. Some of us have jobs that present new challenges with each day, and I think that’s a really important part of a good job, possibly more important than some other perks, including salary.

On the other hand, I wasn’t so excited about working when I first started, which actually let me to create this site in my spare time. I was bored and not given much to do for the first 6 months, but I wanted something to do that would stimulate me.

I wanted something I created myself and I think I had some daydreams about this becoming something real and viable, so much so that I’d be able to be my own boss full time. I had no idea what I was talking about back then, but dreaming is always fun.

You can do a lot with 6 months. And I did, I start writing, I wrote posts during meetings that I had to attend but wasn’t actively participating in, and by the time I was given real work that took up a larger portion of my day, my site was set to run with much less active monitoring.

Physically, it took me about 3 months to get used to waking up and sitting in meetings regularly. I tried taking short walks every few hours to get my blood moving and I modified my diet to give me more energy through out the day.

Mentally, I got my mind away from thinking about how miserable working for 40 years would be by starting a passion project on the side. If you’ve ever had an idea that you couldn’t wait to get started on, you know what I’m talking about.

As it turns out, I’m much happier at my current position because of the responsibilities I have and the type of work I do. Combine that with my side projects that I’m passionate about, and the next 37 years don’t look so daunting anymore.

Making a Mid-Life Career Change

The average American will change jobs nine times before reaching their 33rd birthday. Some estimates suggest Americans experience a career change (changing not just jobs, but fields) a total of seven times, although the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track this information. And with Americans spending an average of just 4.4 years at an employer before moving on – a figure that is far less than the average throughout the rest of the industrialized world – chances are, you’ll change jobs sooner rather than later.

I have had 7 jobs so far (5 of which were during high school and college), but since graduating college, I’ve only switch jobs once, when I moved across the country to be with my now-wife. This change was a career change as well, from working with databases and programming to, after a brief stint of self-employment, online advertising.

The thing is, whether you’re looking for a new job or your first job, the process of choosing a career that’ll be a good fit for you – not just today but tomorrow, next month, next year, next decade – is much the same.

Finding Your Passion

Have you ever met one of those people who is quick to say they’ve never worked a day in their life, as they love what they do with such a passion that their job doesn’t feel like work? I have, and I’ve found myself being jealous of those folks. Finding your passion is the key to longevity in a particular career field. After all, there’s a reason for that old adage, “Do what you love, love what you do.”

But just how do you go about finding something that suits you? Taking a personal skills assessment can help you narrow down your strengths and weaknesses, the things that excite you and those that bore you. However, if you’ve  ever taken one of these, only to be told that your personality is ideal for working as a tax collector or prison guard – definitely not your dream jobs – then you may want to try a different method.

Instead, take a good look at the things you already do in your life that give you pleasure. Do you love working with children? Maybe education is right for you. Do you love learning about personal finance (that’s why you’re here, right?)? Working in the business world could suit you. Don’t rush this step; it’s all about taking the time to evaluate what makes you tick.

Test Drive A Career

There’s a community college in my area that has billboards up that read “Test Drive Your New Career.” I think this is a crucial element of any new job, whether you’re just starting out or well into your career. Talk to people who are already in the profession; ask them what they like and what they dislike, what they’d change if they could. If possible, shadow someone in the industry to which you’d like to make a career change or go even further, taking on an internship (often unpaid – a hindrance if you’re making a mid-life career change).

I know plenty of people who went to college with a certain career in mind, despite the fact that they had no idea how that particular field operated. After graduation, they spent a year or two in the career before realizing it wasn’t for them. Had they taken the time to “test drive” it beforehand, they could have made a far more educated decision.

Do Your Research

For some people, money is no object. I have friends who would be as happy earning a million dollars as they would $20,000, so long as they were doing something they loved. But this mindset isn’t for everyone; for some people, money does buy happiness, at least to a certain extent.

Visit a website like the Bureau of Labor Statistics to compare the salaries for various careers. Of course, salaries vary from company to company and even location to location, but getting a general idea of how much you’ll make on your chosen career path could ease financial anxieties down the road.

It’s important to understand what qualifications, specialized training, or degrees you’ll need to break into your new job. Make use of online resources that outline your options in detail.

Start Small

Making a career change – particularly if you’ve already invested years of education or on-the-job experience – is a monumental task. Simply launching the exploratory process can feel overwhelming, like you’re turning your back on your past.

That’s why it’s crucial to start small. Once you’ve decided to change jobs and have narrowed your choices down to one or two, sample them by taking on freelance work, volunteer work, or even a part- time job. Getting your feet wet slowly, instead of jumping all in, can help you avoid hasty decisions. On top of that, it can also help you avoid the financial pitfalls of job jumping.

Get Qualified

While you may be able to make a career change from journalism to media relations without batting an eye, changing jobs from unrelated fields – say, from education to medicine – takes far more time and preparation. It’s important to understand what qualifications, specialized training, or degrees you’ll need to break into your new job. Set a timeline for earning those qualifications, deciding on a financial plan and educational course of action to get you from point A to point B. With more involved career changes, be prepared to deal with the financial implications such as having to take out student loans or even cost of living loans to cover the gaps in your income while you make the switch.

Reader, have you ever made a career change? What motivated you?

The First Three Things You Need To Do If You Lose Your Job

It’s something none of us want to think about: losing our job. But for 12.7 million Americans, life without work is a day to day reality. And it’s a reality for which, like it or not, we all have to plan.

Like most of you, I’m guilty of pushing the idea of job loss out of my mind. But sometimes, I hear a story or read something in the news that brings me back to the real world, one where our nation’s unemployment rate has remained above 8.0% for 40 straight months – and counting. The latest example of my real-world wake-up call happened a few weeks ago, when I was watching, of all things, Dateline NBC. The episode featured three Colorado families, all of which were struggling with job loss. These families were doing whatever they could to get back on their feet, but for most of them, it still wasn’t enough. It got me thinking – what should you do if you lose your job? What do your financial and professional priorities need to be?

#1: Cut Your Budget

If you’re a glass half-full person and you’ve just lost your job, you probably are optimistic about the situation. You probably feel like your job loss is only temporary, and that you’ll find new work right away. For some people, this is true – I have a friend, Megan, who lose her job on a Monday, only to find a new job (one that paid better than the one she’d lost) by the following Friday. She never even had the chance to file for unemployment.

But Megan’s good luck doesn’t happen to everyone. Nearly 43% of our nation’s unemployed workers have been without a job for 27 weeks or more. That’s a long time to survive without a source of income, especially if you’ve been living beyond your means in the first place.

If you lose your job, you’ll need to make drastic changes to your household budget – not at some indiscriminate point in the future, but right away. You need to ask yourself questions like:

  • Can I live without cable television? A gym membership? Dinners out? (the answer to all these should be yes)
  • Can I reduce other necessary costs, like my cell phone bill or my Internet service? (don’t cut these services – you’ll need them in order to research new jobs and get connected with potential employers)
  • Can I trade in my current vehicle for one with a lower monthly payment, one that costs less to fill the gas tank, or one with lower insurance premiums? (you know you’ll need to get around town, but you don’t need to do it in an Escalade)

You may be tempted to hold off on making these changes until you need to – but if you wait that long, it may be too late. Every month you go with an inflated budget is one month closer to financial peril. Don’t take that gamble; make your money stretch as far as possible on day one after you lose your job.

#2: Bring In Extra Cash

Just as you need to figure out ways to trim your budget as soon as you lose your job, you also need to immediately start to figure out how to bridge the gap caused by your lost income. This can happen in a variety of ways:

  • Apply for unemployment. Not everyone will qualify for unemployment insurance, but if you do, apply for it immediately. If you’re unsure whether you can receive these funds – or how much you could receive – contact your state’s department of labor.
  • Look for part-time work. Ever heard that old adage that it’s easier to find a job if you have a job? It’s often repeated for a reason – it’s true. Even part-time work will look better to a potential employer than a big fat gap in your resume. You can even pick up a good paying tutoring job to cover the bills.
  • Sell, sell, sell! Whether it’s furniture you don’t need or old clothes you no longer wear, figure out what objects in your house you can do without. Try selling gently used items on Craigslist, or holding a yard sale to bring in some extra cash.
  • If you have a working spouse, have him or her adjust their tax withholding by re-filling out their W-4 form. Doing so can add more money to their paychecks.

Bringing in extra cash also means knowing when to ask for help. A lot of recently laid off individuals hide their heads in the sand after a job loss. Why? They’re embarrassed or ashamed of their situation. This is not the time to get pride get in the way. The sooner you admit to others – and to yourself – that you’ve lost your job, the sooner you can get the help you’ll need to keep your household financially solvent. Applying for various programs through state or local agencies can help you do everything from reducing your housing expenses through rent or mortgage subsidies to gaining access to food banks. And at this point, the less money coming out of your pocket, the better.

#3: Mobilize Your Network

This is tied in to the idea I mentioned in step #2 – don’t bury your head in the sand. Instead, mobilize your network to work for you.

What do I mean by that? Think of that old Hollywood game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” It seems the old “Footloose” star has worked with just about everyone in the entertainment industry. What about you? What connections do you have that may be able to help you land your next job? Maybe you have a former colleague who’s moved on to greener pastures at a new company that’s willing to give you an interview. Maybe you have a former employer who has struck out on her own and is looking to hire people she knows are reliable. Or, maybe one of your contacts has another contact who is looking for new employees or simply knows of a job opening somewhere.

If you’re ashamed about your job loss and keep it quiet, you won’t be able to take advantage of the fabulous resources of your social and professional network. So don’t be afraid to post that you’re looking for work on Facebook or your LinkedIn profile; don’t be afraid to tell people, especially those who work or have worked in your industry. You never know from where your next job offer will come.

Reader, what would be your first move if you lost your job?