How I Found The Perfect Day Job
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
I had been working as an executive assistant to the President of a very big fashion label. I emphasize very big. Devil Wears Prada big.
It was a “dream job” of sorts. I got discounts on amazing clothes. I even got free shoes. My office was huge with windows over Madison Ave. My co-workers were cool. I got to check auditions in my free time. Did I mention I got free shoes?
I hated it.
I hated it so much I cried in the bathroom. I would sit in Central Park on my lunch break and wish I were the gardener instead of the executive assistant.
I hated it.
But it was cushy--with all the perks and health insurance and free shoes. (I like shoes, in case that didn't come through.)
I stayed for years.
One day I quit.
I went out for pizza in Brooklyn with my girlfriends that night and cried, “What have I done?!”
I truly didn’t know what to do with myself: how to get another job, where to look for one. I didn't even have a vague notion of what I wanted to do.
By some miracle, I heard about the Career Center: Actors Work Fund, a free service to help artists find sideline jobs. (Sideline jobs are careers that artists build in addition to their artistic careers.) I don't remember how I found the center, but I did. In desperation, I signed up for classes and seminars immediately.
In one class, we had to list what was most important to us in a job. We had flash cards that said things like: “salary,”“paid vacation,”“creative work” etc. We had to put them in order based on what was most important to us in a job. I chose “work-life balance,” “being your own boss,” and “creative work,” which shocked me: I didn’t even know that was what I most valued!
The counselor assigned to me administered the the Meyers-Briggs personality test. I got ENTJ. Nicknamed “the chief or CEO,” it's one of the least common personality types found in women. Other ENTJs include Steve Jobs, Napoleon Bonaparte and Margaret Thatcher.
The counselor read the results, looked at me and said, “You will never be happy as an assistant. No wonder you were miserable.”
I cried tears of relief. “You mean there's nothing wrong with me? It was a personality thing!?”
“Yes. You don’t have the personality to be an assistant. You have the personality to be the CEO.”
But then, I knew! A light bulb went off and everything started to change.
My counselor helped me make a list of job traits that were most important to me based on my personality and life-style:
Clearly, none of my previous job--nanny, assistant, waitress--matched these traits. But now what?
I went to a temp agency. With my flashy fashion resume, they were eager to put me in similar jobs. I refused. I turned them all down.
Finally one day, the temp manager called me, exasperated, “We have this part-time job open. Working for a magazine, but we don't have clear hours or job description. Are you interested?”
YES, I was.
I have been at that magazine for seven years. I set my own hours. I manage a budget, hire a team, work from home, or a cruise ship, or on vacation. I draw on my creative skills daily. The job meets all my criteria. Of course, I have a boss--almost everyone does--but I am free to make decisions as I see fit. It's my dream job.
For over a decade, I struggled and suffered through jobs because I didn’t know any better. I thought this how it was supposed to be. I felt I should be thankful to have a job and live in New York City at all.
I had been programmed to believe that "work is called work for a reason." I was not only miserable; I felt like a loser. And the the worst part: I felt I deserved to be miserable because I was an artist and artists are meant to suffer.
When I figured out why those jobs made me miserable and what job traits would make me happy, things started falling into place.
As artists, why do we feel we have to settle? Why do we feel we have to struggle? I truly believed it was part of my job as an artist to struggle, and that suffering meant I had grit and integrity.
Supporting yourself, especially in big cities, is really, really hard. At times it seems downright impossible.
But we are not without options. Even when it seems we are.
Does something like the Actors Work Fund exist where you live? Is there a school counselor you can work with? Can you take a personality test online?
Write down your top 4 ideal day-job traits.
Seek jobs that might offer those. If you like working alone, don't apply for babysitting jobs.
You get my drift.
I believe in you.