My world is inhabited by long-term corporate people and freelancers. There are non-profit visionaries and seminarians without a clue about what’s next. Writers, copywriters, hackers, malcontents and even a few anarchists—all with a sense of work in common. In a recent conversation with two friends facing work transition, we discussed the difficulty of getting in front of the right people, and the seeming serendipity involved: one needs to be in the right place at the right time for the right work to result. From our conversation, these are the steps involved with finding the right work:
- Know you need work. This is not exactly self-evident, especially when you are way too busy with an overflowing plate of stuff to do. Independent workers know this well: work can vanish into thin air in the space of an hour (and appear again just as fast, frankly), so looking for work is always on the independent worker’s radar. But knowing you need work is no less important for one’s corporate life. Even seeming secure positions in seeming secure industries have a way of vanishing quickly. The quick vanishing trick points to the illusory nature of much of our work. Industries can change. Bosses get up grumpy and fire you. Whether an independent worker or a corporate cog, we must always have the sense of what our work is, how we do it, and why it is important. What we know becomes our best insurance against the whims of leadership.
- Know your way to serve. There is something unique to each of us, something only I can do. It’s the rare boss who helps you find what this is. Most have a notion of the work they want accomplished. Your purpose, as an employee, is to fit that preconceived mold. But if equipped with your own understanding of the productive work you can uniquely offer, then you also have a sense of what work you really should refuse. Of course, that takes courage. It’s not easy to let go of a paycheck. On the other hand, sometimes the cost of a paycheck is in the atrophying of your skills and loss of vision.
- Knock on doors. And don’t stop because those doors remain closed or even open. While contacting people remember that you have something valuable to, provide them. My own sense is that the God of the Universe is also the God who opens (and closes) doors according to some much larger plan.
- Remain thankful. Here’s where a bit of theology enters: it is the God of the universe who supplies sunlight and rain, opportunity and billable hours. Where we go and what we do ends up being who we are.