“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Confucious
(Photo: Marsmett Tallahassee)
During the summer vacation my junior year in high school I decide that I needed to get my first job. I applied for one at the local plant nursery. Being awkward, anti social and shy I figured that I was better suited to be around plants and shrubbery than people. I got the job, although in hindsight, it was most likely due to being the only applicant and not due to any amazing interview skills.
The first day on the job the boss asked me to bring the groceries into his house after shopping, which I was happy to do. That happiness quickly faded when I was attacked and bitten multiple times by his undersized, annoying and hyper dog. I am not sure what was worse; the pain from the bites or the fact that the boss thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. I was one hour into the first day job of my life and it already sucked worse than I could have imagined.
Over the next week things did not get much better. Besides being yelled at and belittled for every minor infraction by a bitter alcoholic ogre of a boss, I was also being paid $3.60 an hour, way under minimum wage at the time.
A few weeks into the job my boss, (let’s call him “Drunky”) decided to send me to the local hardware store on my bicycle to pick up some paint. At that point I was happy to do anything which did not involve interacting with Drunky. I saw a sign at the hardware store that said that they were hiring and found out the pay was $4 an hour. That was over a 10% increase from the crap job I was in.
As I was riding back with the bag full of paint cans dangerously hanging from my handlebars, I decided that I either needed to get a raise or get a new job. So after delivering the paint cans, I told Drunky that the hardware store was hiring and they were offering $4.00 an hour which was a lot more than the $3.60 he was paying me. For some reason this caught Drunky off guard, I am not sure if this was actually due to my statement or to some sort of alcohol withdrawal symptom that he all of sudden experienced. But after asking me to repeat what I said and thinking about it for a few seconds he said…”Ok kid, I will raise your pay to $3.80”.
That was the last day I saw Drunky as I started my new career at the hardware store making $4.00 an hour. The job involved a lot of stocking shelves, doing inventory, scrubbing floors and loading lime and fertilizer bags into the trunks of stranger’s cars. The job also sucked but just not as much. I made enough money that summer to buy a new BMX bike and some Rush albums.
I have often said that it is very difficult to become rich working for someone else but I have known a bunch of rich self made business owners who are miserable. The big question is what is it all for? Why do you want to be wealthy? For me, it was never about having fancy things, but more because I wanted freedom. I wanted the freedom to do what I desired each day and not have to put up with Drunky or loading fertilizer bags in people’s cars.
I decided that working for a risky startup or starting my own business, even if it failed, was better than a steady paycheck doing something I hated. My outlook could have been completely different if I actually enjoyed the first few jobs I had or felt appreciated and challenged.
Starting your own business is not for everyone, and the path to happiness does not necessarily mean passing through Millionaire’s Row. If you wake up each morning happy to go to a job you love then you already have it better than 99% of the people on the planet. More money is not going to bring you any more joy. Working for someone else may never make you a multimillionaire but you have already won in the game of life so who cares.
What do you do if you don’t have a desire to start your own business but merely want to work for a great company with great people and a great culture? Here is how to land your dream job in easy 5 steps. (This is exactly how I would do it if I had to do it all over again and had no desire to start my own business.)
Step 1. Find your breaking point?
If you are at a job you dislike and you are not sure about leaving ask yourself this question: How much less would you have to be making at your current job in order for you to not think twice about leaving? Remember this number.
Step 2. Go towards the light.
Find a company that you absolutely would love to work for and whose values you respect. If you can’t think of any go to “Fortune’s List of Best Companies to Work For”. This is a list of companies who treat their employees with great respect, have a great culture and opportunities for growth
Select your state and see if the companies are located anywhere near you. Even if you don’t see anything near you, don’t feel discouraged. Go through all the companies on the list, many might have branches near you.
Step 3. Throw your hat into the ring.
Find the companies you like and go to their web sites to see if there are any job openings. I recommend starting with the ones with fewest employees and work backwards from there. The smaller companies generally have less red tape in the hiring process. Now apply for any job which you think you might be good at, even if it’s not directly related to the field you are in and pays al least the same amount as the answer you gave in Step 1. Wait to hear back, if you get the job you are set, if not go on to step 4.
Step 4. Go directly to the top.
If the company you wish to work for is not hiring or you did not get selected after applying, find out who the founder, CEO or members of the board are. Look up any interviews they have given in print or on YouTube. Find something interesting about what they said that deeply resonated with you. Find the address of the company and write a letter directly to that person.
Step 5. The Letter.
This is it. This is how you would separate yourself from everyone else. You are not looking for a handout, you truly want to give your all and fully commit to a job with the opportunity to advance where you feel appreciated and respected.
If I was at a dead end job I despised I would probably love to get a job at Zappos. Not only is it one of the best companies to work for but Tony Hsieh is an amazing CEO and leader.
Here is the exact letter I would write if I wanted to work at Zappos (or any company) and they were not hiring.
Dear: Mr. Hsieh,
I recently watched the talk you gave at Stanford University on the culture you built at Zappos. It was truly one of the most moving and insightful talks I have ever seen. Based on hearing your speech, I decided to become a Zappos customer.
It amazes me the great lengths that the people in your company go to in order to bring joy to so many customers. Zappos is not just a company I plan on doing business with again and again but I wish I had the kind of people that work for your company in my life.
I know you are not currently looking to hire anyone but I believe I can make an amazing addition to your team. I would like to prove to you that I have what it takes, not only fit in, but to add a great deal to your company.
Here is what I propose:
Thank you again for your time and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the amazing company and culture you have created.
I look forward to your reply and looking forward to being a part of the Zappos team.
A few notes:
The check does not have to be $200. It can be $100 or $500. Pick any number that feels comfortable to you. The odds of your check actually being cashed is small.
Make sure the check is made out to the company NOT the person you are writing the letter to. You are not bribing anyone, you simply want to make sure that the company is fairly compensated for taking a chance on you.
The smaller the company the more likely this method will work.
That’s it. 5 simple steps to change your life.
Do something different, take chances. We all have limited time on this earth and there are no rewards for living in mediocrity. Shake up your life, time is short.