The one factor that makes it harder to find jobs today than was the case 40 years ago is the unwillingness on the part of an individual job-hunter to rethink how to go looking for a job in 2011. The title of a recent book ---- "What got you here won't get you there" ---- is key. Stubborn job-hunters ("but this is the way I've always done it, and I'm gonna keep on doing it this way, even if it isn't working") have a harder time than thinking job-hunters ("okay, I'm gonna read up on this and find out what the best methods are for today").
You freely admit that looking for a job is a challenge. But, rather than looking for and settling for any old job that will pay the bills, you claim that we can set our caps for our dream job and have a good chance to nab it. What an intriguing, unsettling, perhaps counter-intuitive idea! Can you expand on that a bit, Dick?
I am not an inventor of ideas. I am essentially a collector of evidence. I work with job-hunters, I listen to job-hunters, I counsel with job-hunters, and mull over what I see happen to them.
With the job-hunt in America often taking as long as two years, I have observed that what an unemployed person needs most of all is persistence. Keeping at it. Stick-to-it-iveness. And such Persistence requires energy. And energy comes from how desperately you want, what it is you're looking for.
I learned, early on, that looking for "any old job that will pay the bills" isn't inspiring enough, doesn't generate enough energy, for the unemployed to stay persistent in the lengthy job-hunt. They give up. Studies show that 51 out of every one hundred, in fact, give up by the second month.
They need something stronger beckoning them on. A better target. A better goal. That's why, as it turns out, defining their own vision of what a "dream job" would be, then setting out to find at least a part of that "dream job", gives them a target they hunger for, and, consequently, energy, and out of that, persistence.
Here are some recent pieces of evidence that even when finding a job becomes especially challenging, the dream job is not only worth defining, but is actually achievable. I've been getting letters like this for forty years:
"I graduated college in 2008, wallowed hopelessly in career frustration and later received the best career advice of my life...which was to read your book What Color Is Your Parachute? Today, I am happily employed in job that is the envy of my peers. I'm living proof of the power of your book and I recommend it to everyone I meet."
"I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am to you and your book, What Color is your Parachute . I graduated from a 4 year university in May, and I had no clue what I wanted to do, or how to look for a job. Like any kid, I thought I knew the best way to do things and that I didn't need anyone's advice, but after a few months of unemployment I realized that this wasn't true. My dad had given me a copy of your book, but after a few months of nothing, not even an interview, I really read it, did the exercises, and trusted in what you were saying. I didn't believe that I would find MY job, the perfect job for me. But I did, at a nonprofit that does cleft lip and palate surgery missions to China and Africa. This job has literally every single attribute that I listed, and I wouldn't have known what attributes I needed in a job unless I had done your exercises. I'm sure you get probably hundreds of emails a week saying the same thing, so I'll keep it short--I just wanted to say that I owe my happiness in my job to you and my dad. I recommend your book to EVERYONE, including strangers. THANK YOU!"Or again:
"I am back on the job market and returned to you and your book again. You never fail to inspire me, and make me feel enthusiastic about creating a new job, new future, and about refocusing myself going forward. I am between jobs and returned back to your website and books for help. As in the past, they are immensely helpful. In the media and on the internet, there is so much negativity, pessimism, and people promoting the idea that life is so gloomy and bad. What a gift you give your millions of readers! You give hope, inspiration, knowledge, compassion. You help us like ourselves more - priceless!"
Those are terrific letters, to be sure. Let me play the devil's advocate for a moment. Last weekend, I mentioned the Dream Job concept to a friend who, in response, told me the following story. A colleague of his worked in the corporate world for many years. Some years back, this fellow left everything to pursue his dream, which was nature photography. He was very happy during this time. He self-published several books. But he also ran through all his savings, and is now broke and back in the job market but no longer "fresh" and attractive in a difficult job market. This proved for my friend the folly of following your dreams. Based on this incomplete sketch for which I have no more details, how would you respond?
This dream job was taking pictures and writing books. The average book sells 1500 copies in its entire lifetime. With royalties running around 10 percent or slightly higher, of sales, this means authors will make maybe a buck or two, per copy. You do the math. It's not enough to live on.
Therefore, anyone who defines his or her dream job as "writing books" always needs to come up with a plan that has three parts to it, not just one. Three part time jobs, if you will. The first job should provide you with enough money to live on. The second one is something you do for the fun of it. And the third one should help extend your brand or influence.
The mistake most writers (or writer-photographers) make is in thinking that writing books will be the first kind of job. It rarely ever is. It belongs to the second genre, almost always. You do it for fun.
But a dream job isn't all fun. It has to be reproducible over a longer stretch of time, and that means you can't depend on just your savings. You will still need to figure out what you're going to do by way of the first kind of part-time job. ( And eventually the third.)