Finding the Company that Lets You Be You

This is the fifth installment in the multi-site series “5 Ways to Live the Life You Were Meant To”:

  1. Get Motivated by Joel Runyon
  2. Be Your Own Boss by Eric Pratum
  3. Living the Dream by Mark Lawrence
  4. How to Build Your Community by David Crandall

Last week I wrote about how I ended up with the greatest job in the world, so when I was invited to participate in this series I was a bit challenged to explain how somebody else could replicate what I’ve done. I have a particularly unique situation since I don’t work full time and my side projects have a ton of overlap with my day job, so nothing I ever do really feels like work. It’s a great place to be.

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Finding the company that lets you be you, largely comes down to showcasing your personality in a way that a company can get insight into who you are that goes beyond bullets on a page and your job description. Fortunately, technology has given us a way to do exactly that.  I started this blog in April 2009 mainly in the hopes that it would help me to land a job. Once that goal was accomplished the purpose of the blog really changed. But looking back I realize that starting this blog was what gave my boss a very in-depth view into who I was as a person, something I think would have been impossible with just a resume.  I’m not going to go on an about blogging and its benefits because I think everybody reading this really gets that part of it. But that’s only one part of this formula. The second part is actually the one that is going to set you up to live on your own terms, even while you’re working at a day job.

4 Rules for Finding a Job/Company that Lets You Be You

First I’m going to be upfront and say that none of these things are easy to do.  I’m in the fortunate position to be able to take a risk here or there because I don’t have a family or kids. That being said what this really comes down to is understanding your own values. Often there’s a big disconnect between how we choose jobs and our values and hopefully this will give you some insight into making career choices that lead you where you want to go.

  • Don’t Choose Based on Money: I’ve mentioned before that part of the deal with going to Flightster is that I wouldn’t get paid as much as I would if I had tried to hold out for a typical MBA job.  Even if I was working full time, I still would get paid less than I would elsewhere.  But what I recognized in the opportunity were a few things. First, I’d have an opportunity to lead and drive a project.  Second, I’d get to see a direct impact of everything that I was working on. Finally, I realized that my boss was a really good guy. I didn’t realize just how good until a few months in. He’s a guy who really understands the difference between motivation by fear and motivation by freedom. Consider this. You’re interviewing your  future employer, just as much as they’re interviewing you.
  • Be Honest About Your Lifestyle: Another surfer once told me “don’t tell potential employers that you’re a surfer. It probably won’t do much to get you a job.” That was a fair comment. The stereotype of surfers isn’t exactly type-A ultra-motivated individuals.  But I wasn’t willing to compromise on this, so I told my boss during my interview that I was an avid surfer. All he said is “well, our office is not close to the beach, but I understand. I’m  an avid runner. I run 6 miles a day so I get it.” That’s all I really needed is somebody who understood it. The one thing that this did convey is that I lead a very healthy and fairly athletic lifestyle. The byproduct of this is of course a happy worker who does good work.  So, I’d encourage you to take a gamble and be upfront about your passions and lifestyle.
  • Choose Work that is Personally Fulfilling: I kind of touched on this above, but it’s worth mentioning. I don’t know how often I hear people tell me how mindless the work they do is.  But they are so caught up in the ego driven pursuit of a life that looks good on paper that they continue down their present path. When you find the work you do fulfilling it will stop feeling like work. Last week I was sick and I couldn’t get to the office. I was actually annoyed that I couldn’t be in the office because I had all these new ideas I wanted to talk to my team about.  In that moment I realized I had a great situation.
  • Be Willing to Walk Away: This is probably the toughest one to swallow. As I said before, I don’t have a family, kids or much else that ties me down or makes it difficult to take big risks. So I respect those of you guys who do and I’m not saying quit your job. But for those of you who are on the hunt for a job, young enough to take risks, or in search of what’s next, don’t be afraid to walk away. Leaving a job I hated in 2 weeks after a 6 month search was my defining moment. It was scary as hell. If I had tried to ride it out, all I’d be doing is prolonging the inevitable (something I see far too many people do).

Finding the company that lets you be you is no easy feat. It’s taken me quite a  bit of failure, two degrees that I wonder if I’ll ever use, and about 10 years. So I can’t say that there’s a formula. But what I can say is that understanding your values and choosing based on that will make a huge difference.