“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
~ Marcel Proust
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies . . . Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die . . . It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”
~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Here you are, job seekers, job creators, social entrepreneurs, all of you looking to contribute and earn a living…I hope this chapter of my “Job Search series” helps you in your path ahead…
What is your purpose in life? What makes you strong and happy (not happy as in “I got a new phone”, but happy as in feeling warm and tender and moved to tears of joy, like being finally “home” even if for a minute…)
When looking for a “job” , it is important to ask ourselves what we expect from it, why do we need a job in the first place? What do we want from a job? It may be money to pay the bills, socializing with others to experience community, being fulfilled by accomplishing something that helps others or yourself; some seek jobs because they miss the “structure” of “having something to do”, some because they have no idea of what to do with their free time, some because they want status or stuff and so on…
Whatever your reasons are (and they may be a combination of all of the above and even more), when you are looking for a job, it is important to understand what is going on around you, what is happening, what the needs and wants are…otherwise you may knock at the wrong door and will end up with no response or…the wrong response!
Jobs don’t exist isolated: no long ago, the concept of “job” was a bit different from what we use today. Some people never worked in their lives (usually the rich and powerful ones, sounds familiar? But these days some of them do work, just not like you and me…), but the majority of people was divided in two groups: ones were other people’s servants (or slaves) and worked for the right to a piece of land, protection from other “landlords” or shelter and food, and others were somewhat “free” and worked their own land (sometimes attached to a more permissive landlord or king), which produced the food they needed and may had a surplus which they would exchange for other food or goods they couldn’t produce. Others were craftsmen (or artisans, such as tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, etc.)…in these two last examples, “work” was usually passed from parents to sons (and in some cases, also daughters) and the “craft” or skill was used to create or produce something they would exchange for the services and goods they needed…sometimes money (or gold, or spices or other stuff)were used to give some value to the exchange, but in most cases these peoples were more or less self-reliant and trusted in a system where others, usually from the same community, would provide for their needs.
The concept of going out of your house and work for others for a fixed period of time started, more or less, with the industrial revolution and has continued nowadays. While some people still live self-reliant lifestyles where they produce most of what they need and exchange or sell the surplus, most of the world population “works” for somebody else…
The relationships of power in the past were not perfect nor desirable: there was a lot of exploitation, corruption and abuse in the system and people who owned the land and had access to the main sources of power would make decisions which affected all the rest: from wars to get more land or access to resources and more power, to taking the best daughters as “lovers” and the best sons as soldiers, the rich were always more powerful than the average person.
But the relationships we have created since the industrial revolution are not much better: some may argue that the middle class today lives a life that, compared to the peasants of the past or the workers of the first industrial revolution decades, is much more comfortable: we have stuff, access to sewer systems, food and clean water, roads and comfortable transportation, heating and cooling, human rights, access to healthcare, etc.
But take the jobs out of the equation and you’ll see what you have access to.
While our ancestors had the chance to escape to serve a new landlord or find a place where to start a community or try living off the land, we have lost that option as all around us belongs to somebody and/or has legislation over it that regulates how and by who can be used.
The options we were left with are: creating our own jobs, starting our own business ( better if it is a social entrepreneurship ), accept jobs we like or take any job available, even if we hate it…
For us to “find” a job or “figure out” whether we may be able to become more independent and start our own business (and sell our products and services instead of our time and skills), we need to understand what is commonly known as “the market”.
All the jobs/ businesses opportunities today respond to:
- A need: somebody, somewhere, needs the services or the products/goods you or the organization you work for provides or creates
- A want: somebody, somewhere, wants the services or the products/goods you or the organization you work for provides or creates
So, when you are “looking for a job” or “looking for a business opportunity”, even if you decide you want to try the sharing and/or the gift economies instead of the “regular” one, you need to start by exploring and understanding what do people, ecosystems and businesses in your community need and want.
One of the main mistakes job seekers make is to think they will “get a job” just because they studied a certain career or trade, or because they have the experience in this or that…
But the exchange, both in ancient times as in today times, occurs only if others out there need (or want) what you have to offer.
Imagine a baker who loves his profession and bakes with passion the best of breads. But, the community he lives on doesn’t eat bread or is saturated with so many bakers that none of them can sell enough of their own…he has only two options: either make a lot of noise about his bread (and make sure his bread is really worth the switch), a move which will make some other baker lose their business/job; or he may try looking at his community needs/wants and figure out that what they need is something else! (the next step for our baker friend would be looking to see whether he has the skills to produce what they need/want, retrain himself of move to another community where his baking skills are well received, which will be, in fact, his third option, provided there is a community like that and that he wants to move)
These are the only ways I know of exploring what is out there:
- Be out there (it is unlikely you’ll see any opportunity if you stay indoors)
- Talk to people, observe what people do
- Follow trends, read both mainstream and “alternative” sources, such as blogs, groups, etc
- Observe what others (similar to you in skills, experience, education or interests) do to earn a living
- Listen to people and businesses: note their needs and wants, what is already working, what is not
- Involve yourself in different community projects: when you do this, opportunities will sprout…some paid, some unpaid, but the rewards and the changes for you will be worth the try
- Invest time and energy: things won’t come to you unless you put some effort
- Be open and curious and think outside the box: opportunities have strange ways to show up…many knock at our doors weekly, we just need to have the eyes open enough to see them
- Give a try to all crazy things: you never know how life will change you…unless you take the risk, you’ll never win anything worth it
Some people have a gift to “know” since they are very little, what they want to do or what they want from life. This passion and vision, if they have the means, may get them far…until recently, middle class people who “knew what they wanted” and had access to university degrees would end up with good jobs and a “successful career”. This was not available for most of the population in the world, who had to start working in anything available as soon as they had the age or as soon as their families couldn’t support them anymore.
This world is rapidly changing: even those who have the luxury of accessing university degrees and beyond are struggling to find commensurate jobs. The reasons? They are complex and subject for another blog-post, but include saturation of the market, an economy that doesn’t grow anymore, mismatch of priorities and skills, overpopulation, outsourcing of jobs, late retirement and so on…
Again: no matter how you love what you studied, or how good you are at your trade, you are like our baker friend above: you only have three options (fight hard, change or leave) and the third option may be harder as the situation is similar or worse in most countries and economies…
But if you did the exercises suggested in the first posts (about knowing yourself and taking responsibility) you may now know that what you are may have other applications and that somewhere out there you’ll find an unfulfilled need (or want) you may be able to service with your other skills, passions, education and experience…
Sometimes it takes more than just exploration: sometimes finding the “right” opportunity out there means to deeply analyze your dreams, your expectations and definitions about concepts such as “life purpose”, “career”, “success” and “accomplishment”…
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
~ Mother Teresa
- What is my definition of success?
- What are my expectations from life?
- What means “status” for me?
- What type of person do I want to be?
- What type of contribution I want to leave behind when I leave this world?
- What is, for me, an accomplishment?
- What do I admire in others?
- What makes me happy? (as warm and tender and bring you to tears of joy, even if it lasts for a few minutes)
- What gifts do I have to offer…and who out there is in need of them, even if that need presents itself in unorthodox ways?
- What does this community need?
- What does this world need?
- How can I show my values and compassion to them?
- What moves, paradigm shifts or inner changes may I need to go through myself to be able to create the change I expect to happen in the world around me?
Finally, don’t feel bad if you think you are “lost”. It takes years (sometimes decades) to completely figure out who you are and what your purpose in life is…the best approach is to relax and enjoy the ride…
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson