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How Much Do You Really Have to Like Your Job?

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or The Ongoing Saga of Finding My Place in the World

You know those people who just love what they do? The ones who can’t stop talking about it? I want to be one of those. I wrote in a blog post this past July about how I was going to pull up my roots and make a big move, and try to start a career in publishing to be closer to one of the things I love: books.

But the more I learned about publishing, meeting with literary agents and copywriters and those in the know, the more I realized that a career in publishing wouldn’t get me closer to part I loved; if anything, it would turn reading into a chore with deadlines and make me cynical about the process. Seth Godin, a marketer and great thinker I quote often, summed it up nicely in a recent blog post entitled, “Maybe You Can’t Make Money Doing What You Love.” He describes a friend who made a move similar to one I was considering, with predictably unsatisfying results. So I scratched that one off my list. Working my way up the publishing food chain wasn’t the answer.

And because time was of the essence, and because I also love technology and communication, I took a job directing the marketing efforts at a great small software company that does truly valuable things and does them very well. A job I can be proud of. A job I can succeed at, that uses the skills I’ve so finely honed in the last decade in the field. A job that, I can already tell, will leave me unsatisfied and restless in about a year.

What’s a girl to do?

Fast forward to last night. I spent a lovely evening among colleagues of my architect boyfriend, all of whom LOVE what they do. It’s Saturday night, we’re celebrating a birthday, beers in hand, and they are all talking about architecture. Not their current projects, not work, or last week’s meeting, but creating memorable spaces, defining experiences, and creating buildings that seamlessly function to add value to those who use them.

These people have passion. The one I get to take home frequently waxes poetically on his field of choice. On the side he teaches students to take the same passion into their work, and holds their drawings and models to a dauntingly high standard – their work must be poetry. He loves what he does, with every breath.

So I’m standing at the party a bit jealous. I really don’t want to talk about my new job at all. Distracted, I notice an adorable kid wrestling with his Dad’s attempt to balance beverage and plate. And his sister is trying desperately to suction herself to Mom’s side. I take adorable baby from Dad and start a peek-a-boo game with shy sister. And I look up three hours later and realized I’ve barely talked to a grown-up since. We’ve named the fish in the coi pond, determined which parts of the deck are made of wood or metal, and explored the cool floating staircase. Shy sister is out of her shell and I just had the best evening. In case you can’t tell, connecting with kids wrestles with my love of words for the top spot on my favorites list.

So overnight something gelled in the mysterious land of dreams, something that I suppose I’d been trying to put my finger on for a while now and kept missing. I want to spend my career connecting with kids and teaching them to love to read. I want to find a way to make a living doing that. And I don’t think that means going back to school to teach kindergarten, necessarily.

My current purple cow idea is to get publishers of books for children to pay me to do focus groups with elementary schoolers, disguised as classroom reading hour, (free to the school, a break for the teachers), and do one-one-one reading tutoring on the side. Oh, and volunteer for Room to Read or Reading is Fundamental, maybe someday help lead one of those great organizations, or help found one of my own.

Stay tuned. I think this could go somewhere interesting.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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3 responses »

  1. Jenny you are an amazement. The trouble is that you can be wonderful at many professions and its so hard to channel yourself into just one. And I am glad to see the term “fast forward” emerge unsolicited.

    You’re right, publishing, at least at the entry level, may not connect you to that energy charger (reading/interaction/writing) your seeking. )(See “The E-Myth Revisted”)

    Your new idea is innovative, interesting. creative…and potentially quite complicated to pull off – all very Jenny.

    I’m going to be old fashioned and contrarian – in other words very Todd :) — and wonder aloud if maybe there is another career option you might actively consider that would enable you to connect one-one-one with children, teach them to learn to read, tutor them, and conduct daily focus groups with them. But its one which doesn’t need to be created out of thin air — being a mom. I think you’d be quite good at it. Have that architect convert some of that poetry into a proposal – I hear their good at that :)

    T

  2. I meant of course “it’s” and “you’re” :)

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