Thursday, October 20, 2005

Dream jobs? Keep dreaming!

Warning/Promise: today's entry is probably more cynical than the tame stuff you're used to from me. But sometimes, you just have to let it all out. And sometimes, you get the perfect fodder for which to do it.

I should also mention that in no way am I putting down these people or even the thrust of the article. But I am ridiculing their uses as examples for the lesson of this article. You'll see what I mean...

Dream Jobs Do Come True: Learn How to Land Your Own

Koch began his career in business consulting at a Boston-based firm. After six years, he felt he had reached his potential on that track, and decided to test his career taste buds by brewing beer for a living.

He repeatedly says, "I have a great job." You hear similar sentiments from Deborah Lotz, gold and platinum record designer, and Laurie Weltz, owner of the upscale and celebrity-frequented Cerulean Villa resort in the Caribbean.

Koch, Lotz, and Weltz are beacons of hope in the working world--successful professionals who have found the way to their dream jobs. And you might think, "Well, if my career was as glamorous as theirs, I'd be happy in mine, too." But their success isn't the reason for their happiness--it's the other way around. These three excel because they love what they do.

So how can you grasp the holy grail of the working world? For Koch, Lotz, and Weltz, it was a combination of trial and error and formal education coupled with some valuable life lessons. Read their stories and follow their lead--but only if you want to experience fantastic success doing something you love.

Now keep all of this in mind, because it encapsulates the point of this article: that anyone can land their ultimate dream job with a little pluck and ambition. And no matter what you love, the perfect job awaits you with open arms if you're willing to look for it. Isn't America great? Let's read on!

After graduating from Harvard...

Whoa, wait a minute! After graduating from Harvard?!! Excuse me, but you have already lost me. I thought this was an article about how average people such myself can land my perfect job. Isn't the point supposed to be that I don't need a Harvard degree to land the job of my dreams?

But I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that a prestigious college degree bears little impact when it comes to following your vocational aspirations. Surely other, more common factors come into play. Let's press further into what it takes:

So how can you land a job like Koch's? "To get a job this good, you have to start the company," he says.

Sure, okay. Nothing discouraging about that.

But even if being your own boss isn't in your plans, you can still blend success and happiness, according to Koch. "Pursue something that's going to make you happy, even if it won't make you rich," he says. "Given the choice, I think most people would choose happiness over riches."

While what he's saying may be true, keep in mind that this guy is super rich, and he isn't exactly encouraging others with everything else he's said up to this point. But I'm not bitter. I've seriously never intended on being rich, because having wealth does not appeal to me. On the other hand, I never thought people could be as poor as they are, either. It should never be a penalty to do what you love.

Your Dream Job Plan: There is no set path to securing your dream job. Koch has a pretty diverse resume: Three degrees from Harvard (including the school's rigorous J.D.M.B.A.); a three-year break working with Outward Bound, a nonprofit educational program; and his six years as a business consultant all eventually led him to his destiny as a brewer.

This is not helping.

Deborah Lotz felt she had outgrown her position at ABC doing production work on entertainment programs. The New Jersey native originally moved to Los Angeles to be a jeweler. In her second round of career changes, she took the plunge and emerged with one of the more unique careers in the world of popular music.

Aw, poor baby. I feel sorry for her already. Can you imagine rising from--uh--producer at ABC to do something really cool? I guess she had to pay her dues in those early years.

Lotz, who's been designing gold and platinum records for the last ten years, has produced awards for the Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Eminem, Kelly Clarkson--and even the Beatles. "It makes me really proud to know that I'm one of the few people who've designed records for them," she says. "If I find a record I love, I call up [the record company] and ask if I can design the award."

I have to admit, this is exactly the kind of niche job I love in a person. But why are they presenting Lotz as an average Jane? She clearly is not. That's what's wrong with this whole article.

But it wasn't so easy for Lotz to get her artwork hanging in Paul McCartney's mansion and on the walls of other superstars. It took her five years to get approved by the RIAA, a feat she attributes to persistence. "We are our only obstacles," says the 47-year-old. "If you have a vision and you work hard, I feel you can do anything."

You know what would have lent gravitas to her quote? If it didn't come from someone whose artwork hung in Paul McCartney's mansion. Hell, even McCartney himself would have sounded more genuine saying it; at least he grew up from nothing and then became a major superstar. None of this well-connected, "I-used-to-work-for-ABC" business.

If you want to find yourself as happy in your career as Lotz, take note: "It's the same advice I give my teenager," says the single mom. "Find something you're good at and do it. You have to be hard-working, passionate, and honest. I know that sounds corny, but it's the truth. I've always followed my dreams, and I've wound up right where I should be."

I'd like to pair this quote with what my dad once told me about the Hollywood acting scene: "For every actor you see who made it, there's 100 who will never even come close." Then again, he can be pretty cynical.

Your Dream Job Plan: Lotz had no formal degree for her stint at ABC or her current design career, because, as she says, she "took every elective there was and left." Still, she acknowledges that times have changed. "Education is much more vital in pursuing your dreams," she says. "I don't think you could do [what I did] now." A quick way to discover your dream job is to take a few classes to find what makes you happy.

Oh, great. More stuff I already know to be wrong. Fantastic.

It's not always what you know …


To some, Laurie Weltz's job is a vacation in and of itself. As owner of Cerulean Villa, a posh ($60,000 per week) and celebrity-frequented (she declines to say who) resort in the Caribbean, Weltz's duties include quality-checking the spa treatments, planning the decor of the lush accommodations, and sampling the room service.

There is, however, one downside. Weltz's staff members jokingly refer to her as "Leona," after the hotel mogul Leona Helmsley, who was dubbed "The Queen of Mean" for her insidiously perfectionist ways. The ribbing doesn't bother Weltz, who knows that in order to be successful, you have to relate to your clients and use that knowledge to stay creative.

And we all know what a great role model Leona Helmsley is.

Weltz has no formal training in hotel management, but believes that in some ways the lack of experience works to her advantage. In her opinion, blind ambition is the best asset you can have in pursuing your dream job. "What you don't know helps you," says the 45-year-old. "People who don't know are more enthusiastic. Sometimes people who know how things work say, 'No, that won't work,' before they even try."

This might explain why so many college graduates can't find jobs. Is college actually an elaborate practical joke? I'm beginning to think it is.

Your Dream Job Plan: Try something new, take on a new project, think outside the proverbial box, or look to your hobbies for inspiration in finding your dream job. Weltz's first love is filmmaking, but architecture and design are close behind. Taking time for some self-reflection can make your current position take an exciting turn.

Too bad I'm into blogging. I've already been told (in writing) by one major employer that "having a blog in no way makes you special." I guess what Weltz means is to find a hobby that can be turned into money--say one of your hobbies is hostile takeovers, for example; then maybe you can be the CEO of MegaCorp.

You've probably noticed another thing Koch, Lotz, and Weltz have in common: optimism.

And wealth. And fame...

If you find yourself skeptical about their "You can do it!" mentality, it may be because you have yet to find your dream job.

Oh, thanks for the head-up! Was this article written by the Skull and Bones at Yale? Or perhaps by the Harvard Condescension Society?

Remember, as these three so perfectly illustrate, with happiness comes success--not the other way around.

Well, I'm glad at least someone is happy. So, Jennifer Merritt, I suppose you are going to follow this article up with one on how the average unemployed person can find happiness in the cesspool of reality that they face? Perhaps, an article on how struggling 20-somethings can make the best of what's around? We aren't all Ivy-League graduates with multiple degrees who have thousands of dollars to fund our wildest dreams. That would actually be easy. What can the rest of us do to be as happy as these people? We don't fault them; we just want our part of the American dream as well. What do the rest of us have to do?


Phillip said...

ian why can't you just win the lottery like everyone else? it's not THAT hard.

they expect everyone to pick themselves up by their bootstraps without dropping the silver spoon from their ass. wealthy is as wealthy does.

Nick said...

"I never thought people could live as poor as they do either." Now granted, Lafayette isn't exactly a great examply of a city w/ ghettos and projects, but I have seen houses in Lafayette's worst neighborhoods with at least one car and kids who had Playstations. The poor in this country are a hell of alot better these days than they were 40 years ago.

Murph said...

Well, the "production position" at ABC does not mean she was a "producer". Shame on the article for not clarifying, because "production position" can mean anything from producer to director to camera to fetching coffee on a set. Of course, since the other titles I mentioned sound much more alluring, I'd say she was somewhere closer to fetching coffee at ABC, because if she was a producer, she'd say so. Of course, it does sound like she had some other breaks, so you can still go off on her.

If you do decide to put advertising on your blog, I promise to click on it and get you money rather than calling you a sell-out.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, you're right that Lafayette doesn't follow the pattern of inner-city-slash-suburbs. That's an unexpected benefit of Lafayette being the sprawling unplanned mess that it has been for 150 years and continues to be. I spent my first 19 years living in the almost dead-middle of town, which wasn't the worst place but neither was it the best. In any case, it is indeed true that Lafayette has some poor neighborhoods. If a poor person has a PlayStation, that's probably all they have. I wouldn't say that's an indicator of how far we've come.

Hard times are everywhere: I live in a nice neighborhood at the moment, where my family of four has one working vehicle (three of us have licenses and one has a permit). Come to think of it, our numbers of cars over the past 15 years seems to have had everything to do with whose economic policies are in effect at the time. But that's a whole other discussion.

Murph, thanks for the clarification. I've heard as much in the past, and figured that if she wasn't happy then she probably did need to do something better. But I know from my own experience that working for a major network or media outlet is a foot in the door, and that it isn't easy to come by. It's just a letdown to assume an article is about people who made it when their story begins at a major national network. I can't relate to that, and I suspect most people can't either. On the other hand, I'd be more than interested in reading about her road to ABC. The article took the wrong angles, that's my point.