After getting fired from an office management job at a company that wasn’t quite the right fit, at age 31, Marie Hernandez decided to approach her job search a little differently. Instead of just applying to a bunch of jobs to quickly find something to do, Marie decided to spend some time exploring what really interested her, and, voilà, The 50 Jobs Project was born. Marie sets out her goals, 15 jobs at a time, and looks for opportunities to give these jobs a test drive. So far she’s worked as a booth babe at a trade show, podcast producer, faux-tographer, and more. She shares some of the lessons she’s learned so far in today’s post.
There are instances when a job is a job and you just need work to pay the bills. There is no shame in taking a position just to get by, but if you are lucky enough to have time on your side to make an investment in your future, I highly recommend job shadowing. For the first time ever, I lost my job and found myself applying for work again, but not feeling like I fit neatly into any position I came across. I took a giant step back to reflect on what was important to me and decided to entertain the possibility of a career transition.
To facilitate this, I launched a blog called The 50 Jobs Project. I explore my interests, learn about new industries, and talk to the lucky people who have managed to find and hold their dream jobs. To date, I have completed 11 jobs with a whopping 39 to go. Thus far I have three takeaway lessons I would share with anyone who is entering the job market for the first time.
1. Work Experience Is Capital Investment
I spent most of my twenties chasing a job that would make for an interesting story later in life. I tried everything from being a horse wrangler at a summer camp to a barista in an international airport. While all of those experiences shaped who I am today, many of them did not prepare me for a professional career. Don’t get me wrong; I firmly believe that everyone should hold a crappy job at some point in his or her life (the type of job where you are expected to mop floors for minimum wage). These humbling experiences create more compassionate people. However, if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t think of each job I applied to as a “just for now” job. I would look for work where I would gain a new skill, leave with a glowing reference, and build toward a job I really want. In my employment history, most of my jobs informed me more of what I didn’t want to do than what I did.
2. Just Ask
I discovered that people who love what they do are usually willing to share their stories and how they got to where they are now. If you have an interest in a particular field or person, you don’t have to know what you are asking for to engage them in conversation, but you do have to make the first contact. Search for the person who has the job you would want to hold in five or ten years’ time and begin with a leading statement. Most professionals will take the reins and offer more information than you bargained for.
“I am fascinated with your work. How did you manage to get such a cool job?”
“I would love to learn more about what training is involved to do what you do, and what your day-to-day operations are like. Would you have time for a cup of coffee?”
3. Inspiration Takes Many Forms
The 50 Jobs Project has taught me that inspiration comes from some surprising places. It is rare that people follow a linear path to their ideal job. Instead, they find it through a series of mistakes and discoveries. Don’t be afraid to abandon your Plan A, because you may stumble into your true calling while in pursuit of something else. A good example of this is detailed in Job #9. While working as a bike messenger I met Christian Stembel, owner of Farmgirl Flowers. She had an aha moment on the job while planning an alumni event for Stanford University. With no prior experience, she quit her job to start her own business in flowers and has never looked back.
As for myself, The 50 Jobs Project has one ultimate goal. I am looking for work I feel compelled to do, where I am contributing in a meaningful way. I am in search of the perfect intersection between interests, passion, and upward career mobility. While I am aware there is no such thing as a perfect job, I do believe there is something that I am ideally suited for. If I find that balance at Job #14, #29, or #52, then JACKPOT! I, too, will be one of the lucky ones who has the privilege to do what I love. That may mean that The 50 Jobs Project is not a year in review, but instead my lifetime achievement.
Marie Hernandez graduated from California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in Photography and Digital Media.
She began the 50 Jobs Project with a goal of investigating all her interests and passions in addition to meeting people who have amazing jobs and learning how they got them. After completing eleven jobs, she already feels she’s a lot closer to finding a job she loves; now she just has to figure out how to get it.