Sunday, 24 August 2008

Dream job or compromise?

It's easy to talk (as I often do) about the importance of understanding yourself, identifying your dream job, and pursuing that dream. But most of the people I meet who are in a predicament over career choice need a job and need a job now. How should they balance the pressing, material need for money with the fact that these sort of jobs often do not obviously lead to their dream?

It's difficult, and easy to sound impractical, even unrealistic. So I was encouraged to read te ever-practical and sensible Jeremy Bullmore's advice in Saturday's Guardian, to a reader who wants a creative job, but is being offered only a PA role.

Here it is in full:

I'm a woman in my mid-20s, and am already facing a bit of a career change, having realised that the subject I studied throughout uni, and have worked in for the past two years, is not for me after all. I wish to go into a related, but ultimately very different field, where I know I could really shine and make a lot of difference.

So among the usual networking, I have got back in contact with a recruitment agency that I temped with throughout uni, and who specialise in media, specifically the area I want to be in. However, the agency keeps telling me that I have to be "flexible", ie, I have to be prepared to accept a job that is not in the field I wish to go into. Moreover, rather than the creative-focused roles I wish to break into, they want to continue putting me up for PA roles, which I have gained a huge amount from and put a lot of effort into but have learned, frankly, that it is no career choice for me.

Am I right to hold out for a job I really want and make the agency work harder to make those opportunities for me? Or should I just settle for another PA job in another industry I don't want to be in? I am at a loss as to what to do; this is the only agency that has responded to me, and I do not wish to close off a valuable avenue by getting a reputation for being awkward about what jobs I will and won't consider.

I can't help feeling that the fact that you once temped for this agency is both good news and bad news. Good, because you know each other; and bad because they still remember you as a temp. That could be partially why they're putting you up for PA roles: they haven't been able to readjust to the fact that you're now a graduate with a couple of years' experience behind you.

Whatever their reasons, you simply mustn't take the easy way out. Resist the lure of "flexibility". Don't settle for anything. Your letter shows a splendid confidence and certainty. After a couple of years in the wrong field, you're now absolutely clear about where you want to go. Don't be persuaded to lose that determination.

I suspect you sense that this is a defining moment in your working life. If you don't get it right this time, there may not be another. So please don't worry about earning a reputation for being awkward. Determined people, driven by real conviction, often seem awkward. And it's not your job to make life easy for this recruitment agency.

If agencies aren't helpful, try the direct approach. Research the firms you most admire. Communicate your passion to them. Don't be afraid to follow up. You say the roles you're after are "creative-focused" - so show some creativity in the way you apply.

I realise that making a bit of a nuisance of yourself doesn't come easily to you; but at this crucial moment in your life you may need to adopt a slightly thicker skin. With any luck, it will only be temporary.

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