Education, family, the workplace, the Internet - there's a lot of information out there about how to be a good employee, but did anyone ever teach you how to be unemployed? This is the third installment of an ongoing series of advice from people who have been there. This post was written by Mary Turner, member of LA Fellows Cohort 7 and currently the Program Assistant for LA Fellows.
When I came to LA Fellows, I knew I was in transition career-wise: I didn't want to go back to what I had been doing, but I wasn't sure where I wanted to go. I was randomly applying to jobs that seemed to use some of my skills, without really looking at the bigger picture of what the companies did or where they might lead my career, and I got zero response to the resumes I was sending out. I had no direction.
Two questions, designed to help people find their passion, that really changed my ideas about the focus of my job search were posed to to me in LA Fellows. The first was:
"Where are you the happiest?" Picture the scene. This could be anywhere, theoretical or practical, whether sitting on the beach listening to the surf on an unnamed tropical island, or tinkering with a short-wave radio kit with your kids. It's usually the first thing that comes to your mind when the question is asked. From there it's a matter of drilling down to what it is about that scenario that is the real source of joy. Being outdoors? Working with kids? Figuring out something technical? Can you transfer a kernel of whatever that is to your professional role?
The other question was:
"What makes you angry?" Anger is another form of passion. That thing that really gets us worked up could be a reason to look forward to going to work, if we can find a way to harness that passion in a productive way. Especially in the nonprofit sector, a lot of people find satisfaction in being part of the fight to solve an important problem. What gets you worked up, and is there a way to use that?
Once I was able to tap into my passion and connect it to a goal, the enthusiasm I was able to show in my job search increased exponentially. I started to formulate a vision not just of my next job, but of my career. With the guidance of the wonderful instructors of the LA Fellows program, I was able to formulate a marketing plan for product "Me." I was clearer on what skills to cultivate for future success, what knowledge to pursue, and how to build a network that supports both my long-term and my short-term goals.
Then one day it all clicked. Literally. In one twenty-four hour period I was offered not one, but two paid positions, and asked to take on an important volunteer project for a nonprofit that means a lot to me. After months of not getting anything, I had offers. I had a decision to make. I ultimately chose the job with the LA Fellows program because it aligned more closely with my goals and afforded me the chance to take that volunteer opportunity and continue volunteering on a regular basis. By having clarity and understanding what makes me happy, and why, I've been empowered to make informed, strategic decisions in my career, not just for this job, but for any that may come after it.