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Six tips for finding satisfying work from the faux career expert

Three of my oh-so-worth-it distractions.

My three worthy distractions.

When we last met, I’d mentioned I’d share a few tips on achieving success that have worked for me. But what exactly did I mean by success? Wealth? Power? A gym membership? Heck, no. Well, maybe yes on that gym membership.

I meant career-related satisfaction. And by that, I mean something other than feigning interest in boring, er, scintillating Power Power presentations, a skill I developed in my 20-plus years as a cubicle dweller.

Since I figured I was just as entitled to “live my best life” as the next Oprah-aficionado, I began to dabble in writing while I was still employed. Was it a calling? I don’t know.  I only know that I needed to try something different. Writing seemed to fit. So I bought books on writing. I joined writing groups. Eventually, I even got published in a few local magazines and newspapers.

After a corporate downsizing five years ago, I tried to focus on writing full-time, but I let distractions – kids, Target, laundry, Special K granola bars – get the better of me. At least the kids were worthy of distraction. Not sure about the laundry.

Even so, I kept at it in dribs and drabs. And I have gotten to a place that surprises even me. Not that I’m this huge success. But I do get some very nice writing assignments for which I get paid. No “giving-away-the-milk-for-free” here.

Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about the “getting there” that I suspect can be applied at any point in one’s career. Or in one’s pursuit of finding work that satisfies.

So if you’re still with me, here goes.

These better be good, Pam.

1. You can’t duplicate someone else’s success. Thanks to Mother Nature, no two people are exactly alike. (Think fingerprints.) That means we each have different levels of extroversion, organizational skill, salesmanship, creativity, insecurity, anxiety, blah blah blah. That also means, some people make success look easy. The times I tried to imitate them never worked even after repeated attempts. Maybe I didn’t have their charisma or ability to make fast decisions or insert-innate-talent-here. I had no choice then but to step back and ask, what is it that I do well? So…

2. …I had to figure out what my strengths were. It sounds simple, but it’s not, especially when it seems there’s all sorts of advice out there that you need to do this, that and the other to be successful. But what works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else. I often find that strengths can be behaviors and that sometimes what seems like weakness can actually be strength and vice-versa. So for instance I can hang in there for the long haul. Even when things get all tense and yucky. Maybe because I’m not high maintenance and don’t need other people to feed my ego…but on the other hand, it sure would be nice if other people fed my ego every once in a while. You gets whats I’mze sayin’?

3. When everyone runs in one direction, I usually do better when I go off in the other. Many bloggers extol the virtues of social media, especially for writers who want to get hired or promote their work. So of course, trying to be the good student I like to think I am, I try and follow this new, conventional wisdom – and spend a lot of (unproductive) time on social media to…what? I’m never sure. Following conventional wisdom doesn’t work for me. So I just gotta do my own thing. And it’s usually different from what everyone else is doing. It helps to engage in a bit of trial and error, a kind of an unheralded approach these days, to figure out alternative paths that WILL work.

4. I try to get along with people. When I was employed in my corporate job, I had to make up for the fact that I was one untalented engineer. Even though, for the last eight or so years there, I was technically classified as a manufacturing engineer. That meant I had to get by on my wily charms. Some may dispute that I indeed had any charm but I found it necessary to cultivate this skill. Sometimes I needed people to get things done before I could do my own job. If people like you, the probability that they will get their sh*t done (so that you can get your sh!t done) goes up exponentially.

5. I met people who shared my interests even if it meant joining groups and organizations. This is a tricky one, especially if you are shy or aren’t much of a joiner. But I found that when I met with other writers, it was  a huge common interest. We frequently fought the same battles. I think you absolutely need the support and camaraderie that meeting with like-minded people can bring. But again, I don’t think friendships/relationships develop instantly either. You have to nurture them. Down the line, there are huge benefits to THAT.

6. Everything took longer than I thought. Progress often seems so slow. But even when I proceeded in the aforementioned dribs and drabs, I still moved myself along.

So that’s it. Those are all my secrets. Follow them and you are sure to SOAR like bird! Rocket-ship to the top! Beat all your friends at poker!

What would you add?

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January 30, 2014 - 5:14 pm

Julie Chenell DeNeen - It was such a fantastic post!

January 31, 2014 - 5:15 pm

Debbie - What, I’m not supposed to copy people? I’ve so been banking on a semi-stalking strategy for success. Oh, well. But thank you for sharing your insights. It’s been nice to get some face-time this year with other writers, but it also reminds me of how many talented, hard-working writers are out there, which reminds me that the nuts-and-bolts of good writing will always matter. Now I’m thinking of Dory in “Finding Nemo”: keep on swimmin’, keep on swimmin’. I guess I’m saying I also take advice from animated fish with short-term memory issues.

January 31, 2014 - 5:30 pm

pamhoughton - You are right, there are many talented,hard-working writers out there. But there are also writers who aren’t trying to develop their craft, either. Sometimes the latter does well because they are good at marketing themselves. Anyway…I don’t really have a point here! Thanks for comment. And, yeah, it is okay to copy people…as long as it works! Even if it only sort of works.

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