Jobs Are Like Buses
Today an inspirational tale for jobseekers, interns and career changers out there, and proof that when you least expect it, expect it. It also has a similarly cliched moral, but that’s at the end.
It may not have escaped you that my most recent internship experience wasn’t exactly shrouded in the surreal golden haze of my first. Some of you may also know that I embarked on just one last internship with a very impressive mentor in the wonderful company where I did my first internship, which may (maybe just maybe) have led to a job. Sadly my aversion to being a database bitch led me to bolt after one day. You have to listen to your gut and my gut was saying that this was one carrot that this donkey isn’t going to chase. I may have burned a bridge, but I was always going to be an unexperienced intern in their eyes, with corresponding remuneration.
It was time to go out on my own. A million internships aren’t worth much next to some real-world experience. So as soon as I turn my back on internships I get approached about two more. Wow, I must be developing some hot intern skills.
Truth be told, being thought of as a damn fine intern, worthy of minimum wage, is quite disparaging. So I retreated to the dark shadows of freelance teaching, with the help of Ramit Sethi’s blog for some fine advice on marketing and pitching, which allowed me to crank up my rates and target clients in order to avoid starvation. Seriously, you need to read his blog.
And without the need to work 60-hour weeks, I had time to get back to my great unfinished business, London Chinese Radio, a great charity really in need of a hand. Taking on board what I’d learned from some great community managers and from some stuff by Ramit Sethi on the invisible scripts that hold us back (can’t find the link), I’ve been mentoring and dealing with productivity issues on a potentially great project they’re running. So far it’s gone really well and, dare I say it, it’s hell of a rewarding to see how much impact mentoring can have. Next step there - help with community building and sort out the social media.
Then I made the classic mistake agreeing to a couple of weeks of work teaching kids, which served well to remind me why the TEFL industry in the UK should be avoided like the plague, and why people who work with, and raise, kids should be commended. I salute you.
And just when I was looking forward to vast swathes of free time, I get offered TWO projects, and both of them totally kick 屁股. One at a very promising young company involving global social media, possible including China. Ohh the strange world of Weibo beckons… And the other involving some matters very close to my heart, a joint project between a company I’ve had my beady eye on, and a big name with so much clout (with a ‘c’) that they’re keeping the project under wraps. I took the latter, but hopefully haven’t had all the doors closed at the other.
Now, practical information. Both the offers came from companies I already had a connection with. Opportunities rarely come from nowhere - one company I’d previously interviewed for, and the other is one a friend works at. The lesson is - trying to get jobs cold is a battle, and opportunities usually come from people who know you and know what you’re good at.
But that’s not the moral. The moral is that you’ve always got to be yourself, be true to yourself, and listen to your gut. When you work your arse off trying to play by someone else’s rules doing something that feels wrong and gets nowhere, you just burn out. When you’re doing what you feel is right, you can at least live without feeling like a cockroach, and not feel too brow-beaten to spend time on the things that you love, the things that enable you to develop skills in the areas you care about. Even if you have to take on some interim McJob to make ends meet now and then, that’s ok because it’s just a means to an end, not something to define yourself by. Then when your luck finally changes - and lets not pretend that luck isn’t involved in career success - you didn’t sell your soul to get there.