I’ve had many dream jobs. They change as time goes by and I achieve Level 1, unlocking the next stage. I upgrade and tweak my dreams, so to speak. Before I get into the how’s, let me separate my actions into two parts: sustained actions which I’ve done over a long period of time and continue to do so, and tactical actions which specifically target a goal—in this case, a specific job.
When I was 14 years old, I created a ‘dream book’ where I wrote down my dreams in vivid detail, supported by magazine cutouts of people I aspired to be, places I wanted to go, visions of the life I wanted to create for myself. I hadn’t read any self-help books, it just seemed natural and was common sense to me to put all my positive feelings and big goals into this blank purple notebook.
Perhaps it was also at this time that I subconsciously started practicing the sustained actions that some might call ‘life strategies’, but for me at the time, were just actions rooted in values of respect, determination, hard work and an innate belief that every human being is equally entitled to living a life where anything was possible. Perhaps it was naïveté, but at that age, I didn’t see obstacles created by social injustice.
Just to give a short background, I’ve had media jobs for the last 15 years. I worked in newspapers, luxury magazines and television news. In 2014, I decided to freelance to be able to explore other opportunities and have the freedom to choose the projects I truly wanted to do. Then two months ago, after thinking that the stressful, on-call job of being in 24-hour TV news full time was no longer for me, I landed a dream job—putting me right back in the world of 24-hour news. What’s different about this one is that I didn’t really expect the opportunity because the project hadn’t even existed until early 2017.
Looking back at my career, these are my takeaways:
1. Respect everyone and treat people equally, from the cleaner to the founder.
2. Keep improving your skills, keep learning. Take courses, learn from mentors, ask for advice, correct your mistakes. Practice, practice, practice.
3. Don’t be selfish with opportunities or in helping others. There’s enough good fortune to go around. Be genuine in cheering your peers on. Find joy in helping your juniors. Build and foster relationships.
4. Always be open to opportunities and new ideas. Make your default reaction a positive one. Some people’s first thoughts always go to why it can’t work. Train your mind to instinctively think about how you can make it work.
5. Be patient. When a job you like doesn’t seem to materialise or doors seem to keep closing, don’t panic or get frustrated. There’s a possibility that the perfect opportunity hasn’t even been created yet. You are operating on incomplete information. You don’t know what new opportunities have yet to make themselves available and accessible to you. This happened to me recently—twice—and boy, am I thankful I waited for the right job to come along.
1. Write to the decision makers, you won’t lose anything. Do your research and find out who’s directly calling the shots for the post you’re eyeing. Be strategic about this. Read up on the person before reaching out. Use LinkedIn. Ask other employees or contacts if any. You’d be surprised by how willing people are to help or give information. The worst that can happen is that you receive a No or they ignore you. No big deal. At least your name has crossed their emails and may one day ring a bell for them.
2. Always offer something without expecting anything in return. Be helpful, be proactive. Offer your expertise, ideas or solutions to existing problems and give this information regardless of whether they offer you a job or not. It’s also a way of building relationships.
3. Get rid of the impostor syndrome, you ARE good enough. Sometimes, the more you achieve, the more you doubt yourself. Cut that train of thought right now. You deserve to be where you are. You are good at what you do. You are not a fraud.
4. In writing to your prospective employer, be specific about why you are the right person, the right fit. I prefer not to be too conceptual. Match your skills and experience to what they need. If you’re moving to a different industry, remind them that skills are transferable. Explain why you’re the best person for the job in a rational, logical manner.
5. Highlight the values and vision you share with the company. Trust me, you need to work for people who share your values and your vision. You will work harder for people you respect and with whom you share something so fundamental.
6. Give it time before following up. Don’t badger them. But do follow up. If you can offer something (i.e. knowledge, a contact, an idea) each time you email them, do it. Be positive. Be the kind of person you’d like to work with.
Here’s to sharing the positive vibes! May your 2018 start off beautifully!