That One Piece of Paper: Step 3

 

Look, my one piece of paper is filling out! Step 3 is entitled, “What working conditions do you like best, because they enable you to do your best work?”

Just an observation before we get into the nitty-gritty. Most of my concerns about the working environment have to do with relationships — both between managers and employees, and also between coworkers. I think this has a lot to do with my work history. But a few physical considerations did appear, like needing to eat whenever I need to, and also ergonomics generally.

The book suggests a chart with four columns. In the first column, you list all the jobs you’ve ever had. In the second column, you list all the distasteful working conditions in those jobs. Here is my list:

 

I decided to eliminate the things I couldn’t control (like rude customers), and tried to come up with broad themes for others (like the idea of a distrusting and disrespectful boss instead of each smaller idea), and listed ten broad distasteful working conditions to prioritize. What Color is Your Parachute has a great way to help you prioritize those ten items, but it very clearly says “copyrighted” on it, so I’m going to skip showing you that step.

After prioritizing, I now have this list:

The last step to identifying the working conditions that allow you to do your best work is to come up with opposites for the distasteful list. Mine looked like this:

Which I further simplified on my “That One Piece of Paper” flower:

I’m actually really excited about this list, because it is going to help me with part of interviewing that I always struggled with. I never know what questions to ask about the company/organization, but now I have some idea. I’m going to ask, “Tell me about the opportunities that your employees have to enrich themselves,” and “What kind of time do your supervisors invest in management and leadership?” Or, “How accessible is your supervisor in this organization?” It also gives me some idea of what to ask during informational interviews at companies or organizations I’m interested in working at. “Please be as honest as you can, I won’t repeat this. Can you trust your coworkers?”

Yay! I am becoming an expert in my own best work, which was one of my goals for the summer.

(Reward time! Uh. Maybe a work blouse? I need to get shopping! Even better, I have PERMISSION to shop for things. :D)

 

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That One Piece of Paper: The Goal

 

So, you might be aware that I am about half way through my Masters in Public Policy. At the end of these two years of school, I’d like to get a job. To get a job, I will have to prepare. I know from finding my internship this past winter that it will take work to know myself well enough to sell myself well enough to land a job that will fit with me, and allow me to do the work that I want to do in the world.

Early this summer, I pulled a severe brown-nose move and contacted the Career Development Office at the Gerald R. Ford School of the University of Michigan and asked them what might be good reading to prepare for the job hunt ahead. I told them I was tempted by What Color is Your Parachute? 2012 by Richard N. Bolles, and they confirmed that it’s been a best seller since 1972 for a reason.

Most of the book read as common sense, but it did clarify some things. People in the Career office kept talking about “informational interviews” and I had no idea why someone would to want to talk to someone cold turkey about their job. Apparently, it’s something that smart job hunters do to track down the job that is perfect for them.

Chapter 13 of the book is all about the self-inventory that will help you find your dream job. There are several steps.

Step 0: Who are you?
Step 1: Favorite Special Knowledges
Step 2: Preferred People-Environments
Step 3: Preferred Working Conditions
Step 4: Desired Responsibility (and Salary)
Step 5: Preferred Geographical factors
Step 6: With these Goals and Purposes (and Values) in mind
Step 7: Your favorite transferable skills, in order of their priority for you

Richard N. Bolles calls this exercise That One Piece of Paper — because you take all this information and put it in one place, in an organized way, that allows you to see a bigger picture. I’m looking forward to what it says.

Looking at SMARTER goal setting:

Specific Goal: I want my “That One Piece of Paper”

Measurable:  This is an easy goal to make measurable — the steps are already defined for me, with each exercise its own defined mini goal!

Anticipate Success: What are the benefits of achieving this goal? The benefit of having my One Piece of Paper is, potentially, “hope, direction, and a lens to satisfaction,” to quote a text box in the book. The benefit will be in knowing what I’m looking for in a job, instead of reading every job description that I come across and going, “Eh, I COULD do this, but do I want to do this?” It will give me something to network around, because I’ll able to tell my network what kind of work I’m looking for. It will give me something to bring into interviews and ask questions of my interviewers, so that I’ll get to learn more about their company and if it’s a good fit for ME, as they find out if I’m a good fit for their company. Knowing, systematically, what I’m looking for in a job is really important to the process, and this seems like a great starting point for that.

Record your ideas and challenges: I’m going to do these exercises with as much room as possible. The Kindle Edition of the book provides links to download PDFs, but so far those PDFs seem to be small and cramped and hard to write in. I think I’m going to do all of this on printer paper, so it’s easy to lay everything out (I could do it in my moleskine, but then I wouldn’t have the flexibility of seeing everything at once). It’s going to be difficult to find the time — my work day stretches from 8 am until 6:15pm, and  I have a half hour break for lunch. But, I do also take about a half hour break to pump, and that time is my own. I can use that. When I get home, I usually end up putting the baby to sleep and not getting much time to myself before I sleep — but I’ll make this a priority. It’s important that it gets done to reduce stress later.

Track your progress: The official start date for the goal (though parts of the project are started and scattered) is today, July 19, 2012. I’d like to get this done before school starts on September 4, 2012. That’s about 6 weeks, and 47 days. Forty-seven days divided by 8 tasks is almost 6 days per task. So, about once a week I will need to have completed the next step. So, the next due date is July 25 — I’ll need to be done with step 0. Which should be easy because step 0 is almost complete.

Explain your goal to others: I realized recently that my blog is the perfect thing to keep my accountable. Sarah at Feeding the Soil talks about her goals with her community on her blog, and I am always so inspired by it. I’m looking forward to doing the same with you, my Empathizers. I will blog about my progress on this project. I want you guys to see me do this soul-searching work. (You are not alone in not knowing what you want out of life!)

Reward yourself along the way: I’m not sure what my big reward at the end of the project will be, but I think that my little rewards for completing each step will be buying a piece of clothing for my wardrobe. I usually deny myself that, and this will give me permission. Perhaps I’ll finally buy server space to host Practicing Empathy as a stand alone website?

The too long; don’t read version of the above is this: I’m going to do the self-reflection activities in What Color is Your Parachute to prepare for my job search this year. I want to be done by Labor Day, and I’m going to be blogging about my progress. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with you, and all the rewards along the way (including telling you about how this helps me in my job search later).

How have you figured out what you want to do with your life?