Back on the Wagon.


Hi Folks!  Welcome to the New Year.  Have you found your dream job yet?  What, that wasn’t your 2007 New Year’s resolution?  Is it 2008’s?  What are you doing to ramp up your search besides the same old search on everyday? Or better yet, what are you doing to make your current job better and more challenging? To make the experience and skills you gain there more useful to your career overall, and therefore more indicative of where your career is going and how you intend to get there?  Are you truly out in front of your career and where you want it to go, or are you just sitting back and complaining that the world is against you, keeping you from moving up the ladder?

Get real.  Get serious about your job.  The one you have, the one you want, and how to make them one and the same.  Here’s how to get started in the right direction. (And note I said get started…these are not hard and fast rules here.)

1. Get organized. Clean off your desk.  If you didn’t do this before the holiday break, do it now.  Come in on a Saturday if you have to, when no one else is around and the phone isn’t ringing.  Raid the supply closet for files, labels, sharpies.  Dump out the file drawer which still contains files from the person who had the desk before you, put it in a box, label it, and take it to the storage closet.  Enter all those random scraps of paper with phone numbers and new passwords into the computer, or if you don’t have time for that, dump them into a file called “Notes/Misc.” Get a rag and dust off your desk, your monitor, the tops of the speakers, the pictures on the wall.  How many Burger King toys sit on your desk?  Do they really reflect your personality? Do what I do with my kids – chose one or two favorites, get rid of the rest.  Take a tape roller to your chair and be amazed at the lint and hair you’ve been sitting on, which probably gets on your clothes every day and makes you look rumpled and dirty.

You will be amazed at how good you feel sitting down to a desk that is clean and organized. Less chaos makes you work harder, it energizes you, whether to create more chaos or to actually create work without having to dig through piles for that password you can’t remember or the phone number to that new production house.  You might even find that missing expense check or that cocktail napkin with the great idea sketched on it.

2. Polish up your resume and your book.  Whether you are looking or not, you should have it clean and ready to go.  You shouldn’t have to completely re-do a resume when you need to start a new job search or when a great opportunity comes up.  Great jobs move fast in today’s world, be ready or miss your chance.  If you keep it updated and ready to go, you’ll have it if you need it, and you’ll feel better about your own skills and contributions, too.

For creatives, get your book cleaned up, printed out, burned to a DVD and online.  Many Creative Directors, being the visceral people that they are, still like to feel a book between their fingers and analyze how its organized and what it says about you in a way that can’t be communicated online.  But guess what?  The creative recruiter who works for that CD doesn’t have time for that, and doesn’t look at those hard books unless they come with a recommendation from a recruiter or a known friend of the agency. Have both, start with the online link, have a mini-book of additional samples on disk, and finally bring a hard copy with you to the interview.

3. Take stock in the current scenario.  Yes, this part is a lot harder than spraying an air can into your keyboard. Take a sheet of paper or make a spreadsheet of pros and cons of your current job.  Cover the basic questions: Job satisfaction, Salary, Location/Commute.  Then get more specific: Under job satisfaction, how is it meeting your goals? Do you even have goals for this job?  No? Then make some, right there on the spot, and measure if the are being met.  Are you being challenged to learn more, earning and receiving more responsibility? Are you being given the chance to mentor junior people?  And do you like mentoring junior people, or can you admit that you don’t have that teacher personality and don’t want that responsibility, and maybe should be searching for a job which doesn’t force you to take that on or be measured against it.  Can the company you work for even meet your goals, or is there a fundamental cultural or political block standing in the way?

Be honest with yourself, and with your answers.  After all, this is just for your own benefit anyway.  How bad is the commute, really? Do you find yourself scrambling every single morning, trying to negotiate traffic, put on makeup or run your rechargeable shaver across your chin?  Then the commute is probably too much for you, because admit it, at this stage in your life you’re probably not going to start getting up earlier to give yourself more time to get ready. (Not that you want to mention in an interview that you are looking for a new job so you can sleep later…)

And what about the money?  While its not a good idea to start querying officemates about their paycheck, you can do a little research online and get a feel for whether you are under or over the market.  Or better yet, check in with your recruiter.  They’ll know what the market will bear, and a good recruiter will be honest with you if your salary is right on target and you’d be best to stay put, or if you are at the bottom of the range for commiserate experience.  But let’s push that even further.  How important is that bottom-line figure on the paycheck anyway?  The difference between $90,000 and $100,000 is only $115 per two-week payperiod after taxes, or $230 a month.  Is it that important of a difference in your life, or are you really just concerned about the personal ego stroke you get from being able to say you make a six figure salary?  Because the reality is, if you are making that much money and $230 dollars a month means significant change in your checkbook, then you are probably spending and living above your means, and that’s a whole different issue that your job can’t address.

Are you considering benefits, like health insurance and 401k matching or profit sharing?  Because many companies do some, but not all of these things, and they matter.  And when you break it down at the end of the year, how important is it to you and your family (if you have one) to have a health insurance plan with great coverage and little cash out of pocket , compared to an extra four grand in salary, 28-30% of which goes to taxes anyway?

And let’s just ask yourself this little ditty of a hard question: Do you really do the job required to the extent that you deserve more money?  Or do you just do what is needed to get by?  How often do you find yourself using your work computer to surf for a new job, or read up on Brittney’s latest meltdown, instead of muddling through that stack of media invoices sitting on the corner of your desk?  What exactly do you bring to the table for your employer?  Why can’t they live without you?  And what could you do better? Start doing more now, instead of waiting for someone to ask.  The time to get positive attention from your boss is not the week before reviews begin.

These are the answers you need to evaluate your career.  And the start of a fresh new year is a good time to do it.  You may find, after you dust everything off, recycle the paper trash and evaluate where your career stands, that you might just be in the right place, after all.  At least, for now.


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