Today Women On Business has a guest post from author Danielle Weinstock who includes an excerpt from her new book, Can an Elephant Curtsy on Cue? Life Lessons Learned on a Film Set for Women in Business. This is a great book to help women in business be inspired about their jobs or find the right job that inspires them. Without further ado, following is Danielle Weinstock’s guest post…
What is the perfect job? If you could create the ultimate position for yourself, what would it be? Whether you have to work, or choose to work, time at the office will represent a considerable portion of your time on earth. Indeed, the average person will spend a whopping 110,000 hours – over six and half million minutes – making a living! Minutes that cannot be recovered. But, please, not as a lawyer or hairdresser.
Unfortunately, we all too often allow circumstances to determine our lives. We graduate from high school or college and take the first position offered. We labor for years in a career that does not utilize our skills or challenge us. We rationalize where we are and what we are doing. We justify our situation by saying we are content. After all, the money is good. Why change now? What if nothing better is out there?
From time to time, I am asked to mentor young people starting out in the film business. Too often, they rely on external factors to help them choose a career. They look only at jobs that are currently available or that will net the most financial gain or that have been easily navigated by others. They fail to look inward and ascertain what is right for them.
Indeed, the same is true for seasoned professionals: A career that was once fulfilling is now empty; an industry downsizes and people are cut adrift; new career passions start to surface.
I learned this lesson on my own a few years into my first career. I was a certified public accountant and business manager but realized over time it was not for me. At first, the more disillusioned I became, the more I fought to keep it. I kept telling myself that my chosen career had many advantages. I was utilizing my education. I was on a fast track to becoming a partner. There was tremendous job security. I could practice anywhere in the country. The work provided the lifestyle I wanted. I even tried convincing myself that I had it better than most. But regardless of the dialogue in my head, the suspicion grew that this path was not right for me. I was dispassionate. I felt a constant drain on my energy. I was unwilling to extend myself or strive toward goals necessary for success. I finally had to make a change but what should it be and where should I look?
I joined a business management firm. The more promotions I received, the more depressed I became. I was disappointed rather than thrilled at the offer of a junior partnership. Ennui followed languor, which begat inquietude. I was ready, again, for something new and began to explore my options.
First, I looked into career placement counseling. I was advised to become either a hairdresser or a lawyer. Hmmm! Second, I tried using a headhunter. I interviewed for many jobs consistent with my level of experience but nothing inspired or excited me. Third, I tried reading want ads. (Monster.com had not yet been invented.) Lastly, I considered going back to school.
As time went by, I became more and more discouraged by my poor prospects and lack of direction. Then, I decided to change my perspective. Instead of looking at what was out there, I decided to look inside. And I began asking the hard questions.
Did I want a career that was analytical or creative? I decided both. My education and experience were business related, but I felt I had a lot to offer creatively. Did I want the security of being employed by another company or did I want something more entrepreneurial? I decided I would not be happy with a nine to five and two weeks vacation a year and preferred something less structured. Did I want to work for others or start my own business? I decided freelance work would be best. Did I want to provide a service or a product? I knew that I was a people person and decided service offered a more rewarding path. Did I want to manage others be on my own? I knew I derived a great deal of satisfaction from working with others and felt management was one of my greatest strengths. I also knew that I needed a great deal of challenge and variety to keep me interested and engaged. I decided management was for me.
By asking those and many other questions, I was able to construct a template in my mind of the manner in which I wanted to work. But how to turn this into a specific job? I decided to start talking to some of my friends and clients to see if they had any worthwhile advice. I wish I could say they were all supportive and willing to help. Ssadly, that was not always true. But overall, it helped.
The first person I contacted was a very high-powered studio executive whose personal accounting I had done for years. We had a good relationship, and I was certain she would be happy to provide me with sound advice based on her own career path. Much to my surprise, she was annoyed that I was leaving the firm and that she would have to work with a new accountant. Not only was she unwilling to help, she “encouraged” me further by assuring me I could not do better. Damned by faint praise, I decided to disregard her hurtful advice.
The next executive I contacted was far more helpful. He spent a great deal of time talking with me about my strengths, my interests, and my weaknesses. He told me that producing films and television might be the perfect job for me. I knew we were onto something because I immediately became excited about my future. Here was an opportunity to work in an industry that combined both business and art. It allowed me to work project to project. I could travel, meet new people, experience new challenges. How great would that be!? Only one problem. How would I succeed in such a competitive business? Thousands of people want to work in the entertainment industry but never succeed. What made me think I could?
Then, I received the definitive advice from another client. He assured me I would not fail. When asked how that could be, he simply said, “The easiest way to succeed, is don’t give up until you do!”
Ahhh! That was how I would do it. I would not give up: end of story. (And in eighteen years in film, I have not.) Many of those years have been hard. I have had to struggle with personal failure, financial insecurity, fear, and self-doubt. But I have created the job that suits me best. A job that meets my personal criteria, utilizes my skills, relies on my education, and continues to challenge me. And I am happier for it.
I wish I could assure you that I have never wavered in my conviction. The truth is, like many of you, I have. I have questioned it and considered changing it. But in the end, I come back to it because it serves a purpose, my purpose. I enjoy the work each and every day, and if I have to spend 110,000 hours doing it, what the hell – in for a penny, in for a pound.
Starting out on a new career path can be scary. There is so much to consider, so much from which to choose. Take the time you need to know yourself. Determine what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your passion is, and how you want to spend your working hours. Look inward for the answers so that you will pick the job that is right for you. See it, smell it, taste it. Then you will know you are headed in the right direction.
To find the perfect job, you must first look inside yourself.
By understanding who you are and what you want, you will be able
to visualize what is right for you, then gain perspective by talking to
those you respect, then be indomitable in pursuit.
About the Author
Danielle Weinstock is the author of Can This Elephant Curtsy on Cue? Life Lessons Learned on a Film Set for Women in Business (Smith & Kraus, 2008). A former CPA, she is a television/film producer with nearly two decades of experience in the entertainment industry on hit shows such as Weeds and 24.