how to obtain an extraordinary job

Q: Did you always dream of drawing and writing, or were you about to happily settle for a so-called normal job? Was it the misery of “humiliating and low-paying jobs,” or the joy of drawing and writing, that pushed you this way?
A: I pursued a normal job so I wouldn’t starve to death while figuring out how to have an extraordinary job. I just didn’t know how it would play out. —Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert (link)

How can you find an extraordinary job? What’s the secret to a fulfilling career?

The perfect job. Who doesn’t dream of finding that perfect job? Flexible hours, massive responsibility (or lack thereof), great pay, interesting work, convivial colleagues, travel with perks, and a corner office overlooking the city. Chances are that it’s just that – a dream. Most of us who work for a living – as opposed to entrepreneurs – are stuck working at something less than our dream. The need to pay the rent, the mortgage, the medical bills and so on simply makes the necessity of a paycheck too much to disregard. There are some positives about having that not-so-perfect job, though. Here are 9 things to remember about your current less-than-perfect job:

1. You don’t have to go out feet first. I pose this question to people at work often: do you plan to die at your desk after decades of working for this company? The answer is always no, so I say “then you plan to quit – it’s simply a question of timing.” Remember that your job is not forever. The drama and politics that seem so real now will be gone in 10 years – probably even less – from your memory.

2. You are not your job. Albert Einstein was a patent clerk. Nobody remembers Einstein for his year-end patent clerking evaluation, or the patent clerk staff meetings he skipped. He was not defined by his job, but by his work. If you love to paint, don’t let the fact that you work in retail sales discourage you from painting.

3. Take pride in your paycheck. It may seem like a small thing, often dismissed as “not following your dreams,” but there is some value to simply bringing home a paycheck. If you have a family, be proud that you can provide for them. If you are single, be proud that you stand on your own feet without help from your parents. Even if your job is not perfect, take some pride in the fact that through this job you can support yourself (and your family).

4. Never stop learning. Even the worst possible job presents opportunities for learning – even if they are lessons like “I never want to do this again.” Try and find opportunities in your job to learn new skills. Those skills might come in handy at your NEXT job.

5. Your colleagues may change. If you suffer with a particular colleague, remember that they may leave any day. You don’t necessarily HAVE to be the one to blink and quit! Sometimes you can outlast people that irritate you.
6. The next job may not be that great, either. Everyone has experienced the sinking feeling of quitting one job, moving to a new one and discovering it may be even worse than the one before. If you set an expectation that your life will be a never-ending series of triumphant improvements, you may have some too-high expectations to overcome. Even a near-perfect job will have its off days.

7. Working on the side is only possible if you have “a side.” Writing the next great American screenplay is a terrific idea (although you’ll be crossing the picket lines if you do). However, nobody has ever said that you have to do that and nothing else. There is no shame keeping your day job to support yourself and working on side projects meanwhile. Scott Adams kept working at the phone company in a cubicle even after Dilbert became a syndicated comic strip. Keep at it. Success will come.

8. Don’t discount the social aspect of a bad job. Sometimes the job duties may be bad but the people you work with are great. If you have a bad job but you like your co-workers, keep in mind that a rewarding job doesn’t always guarantee like-minded, friendly colleagues.

9. Motivation isn’t always positive! Sometimes keeping that not-so-perfect job is what spurs people on to avoid “jobs” altogether. Maybe the employee lifestyle just isn’t for you – use that frustration with your current job to inspire you to discover your real passion and break away!

(photo by Ol.v!er [H2vPk])

21 Replies to “how to obtain an extraordinary job”

  1. I was just discussing this with a friend, who I met while we worked together at jobs we hated at a company we hated. While #4 definitely applied there (particularly the “I’ll never do this again” part), so also did #8…

  2. While I like my current job, I know that I need to do something else with my life…it makes me feel better thinking that I’m not defined by my job (which is super boring)…

  3. Mike

    This is a terrific post, and the first time I have commented on your site after discovering it a few weeks ago. I particularly like (3) be proud of the paycheck and (7) its ok to seek out new things on the side.

    There are way too many blogs and movements out there about escaping the corporate behemoth to go build a low maintenance blog or web based marketing business. Whilst that stuff is admirable lets not forget that the whole world cannot just quit corporate and go work on their own.

    So many really successful folks also had to work new things on the side before making a ‘step’ into the unknown rather than a leap. If you have family and responsibilities the ‘leap’ forward may not be practical . Again the media seems to be all about 20 somethings that can ditch the corporate world and go make it big in a startup. Well I’m not 20 and I need to make some changes over time, I can’t walk out tomorrow.

    Thanks for the inspiration.



  4. Sorry – I mean Steve, thanks for the motivation! I got names confused there.


  5. JimB – no problem, Mike’s got a great blog, too ( so I wouldn’t be in the least bit upset with being confused with him! I’m so glad you liked the post enough to comment – that’s what it’s all about as a blogger, after all, getting people to participate in the conversation! I agree with your points completely – not everyone can escape at age 20. Sometimes you have to put in a few years (and by few, I mean 20)!

  6. Steve, this post could not have come at a better time. My husband recently, as in 2 days ago, decided not to pursue a job oppty that was pursuing him, despite not being very happy at work. Tonight I read him your 9 points and he said they were excellent points and helped validate his decision. Thanks! Great post!

  7. This is a great post.

    We must always try to see the good in everything. I have gotten through a lot of “miserable” times, with a conviction that this bad has happened because of a reason and being sure that some good will come out of it.

    Same with miserable careers. I am gratified by Deepali’s positive outlook.

  8. “Hey, that’s the idea! Maybe I should’ve run this post on Monday morning…?”

    Maybe you should link to it again as a way to inspire yourself. Or better yet, I’ll link to it. 🙂

    I once did one on being unhappy at work on a Monday. So apt! It got lots of responses.

  9. @Mrs. Micah – I read that post, and to be honest, probably somewhere in the back of my head it percolated around to writing something like this 🙂

    @fathersez: You’re right – seeing the good in everything will get you a lot further in this life than seeing the bad.

  10. Great, great post!!! I linked from Four Pillars and am I glad he mentioned this post…it made my day!

    One of my really good friends is an ex-coworker. She reminds me every time I see her that I should NEVER quit my job, because as she reminds me, “you have it made”.

    Sure my job is boring (with a capital B) most days but my coworkers are some of the best you could ask for (including my boss!) and hey, my pay cheque ain’t so bad either. 🙂

    So thanks for reminder of how good things really are. It’s always nice to head into the Christmas break with a positive attitude instead of the usual ‘I can’t wait to be out of this hell hole for the next 10 days!’

    Now excuse me while I go buy my boss a nice Christmas gift. 🙂

  11. Well, thanks, Telly! I’m in a similar situation – I’m doing contract consulting and I’ve been in the same (very boring) position for almost a year now, with no end in site. However, the people are nice, the atmosphere is relaxed and I try to remind myself, like your friend says, that “have it made.”

  12. nice post mate. i would sure like to get me one of these jobs. and you are definitely right about the last part which is the motivational factor.

  13. nice post mate. i would sure like to get me one of these jobs. and you are definitely right about the last part which is the motivational factor.

  14. nice post mate. i would sure like to get me one of these jobs. and you are definitely right about the last part which is the motivational factor.

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