WSJ Column: How to find the career of your dreams
Greetings from Beijing! It’s been so much fun to have my darling husband and sweet little girls here. A highlight of our trip thus far is the afternoon we spent with Tim Le taping his CCTV show 首席夜话 (photos at right). We danced, we acted, we laughed, and we chatted for hours with the studio audience about how we all can be successful in both career and love. I’ll let you when that airs via my Weibo.
In case you missed my last email, the English/Chinese bilingual edition of my best-selling book Do Not Marry Before Age 30 is now available exclusively in the Kindle store, which means you can read it or on your computer, smartphone or tablet via the free Kindle app. To download the book in China, click here, or in the USA or elsewhere click here.
Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal China, below is my latest column:
How to find the career of your dreams
‘If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment… all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.’ — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The fate described by Dostoyevsky is a nightmare we all hope to escape. But we’re surrounded by naysayers who deride that hope as unrealistic.
‘You hate your job?’they ask. ‘Everyone hates their job!’
No. Not everyone hates their job. If you have the spirit to dream about your career, then you have the spirit to make your dream come true.
How one woman created her dream career. Three times.
My dear friend Maureen Kindel once was a full-time wife and mother. Like many people, she was bored with her job. Unlike many, she took charge of her life and did something about it.
She started involving herself in volunteer projects around the community. Through her volunteer work, Maureen over the years developed her leadership skills, and started impressing the powerful people in Los Angeles with her ability to inspire and organize people.
When she was 42, Los Angeles elected a new mayor, and he appointed Maureen to a high-ranking position in city government. People jealously wondered how a mere housewife could have been appointed to such an important position.
But Maureen excelled in her role, and after a decade of accomplishment, she left government to form a consulting firm. She led that firm until at age 67, she sold it to a global company, and formed a new firm.
Then at age 68, Maureen decided to fulfill her longtime passion for education, and went back to school for a master and then a doctorate degree in education.
Last year at age 74, Maureen became Dr. Maureen. She now plans to devote her remaining professional years to improving America’s education system.
Maureen naturally attracts new friends and opportunities
I have to tell you a story which gives you a sense of Maureen’s life force.
It was at Maureen’s 70th birthday dinner, and her closest friends were gathered around a table set for 10. The room was lit by candles. Maureen looked like an angel, her blonde hair forming a halo around her head. We called for a speech.
‘Well!’ She began. ‘After all these years, the only thing that surprises me…’
We all leaned forward to catch a pearl of wisdom.
‘… is that I am still SUCH a FOX!’
Maureen was still such a fox. As she still is today. Maureen is one of those women who fascinate men. She’s at an age where there truly are few available men, and yet those available all flock around her.
Women also want to be near her. Everyone wants to be friends with and work for and with Maureen. She’s never applied for a job. For decades she simply has exerted a centripetal pull in the universe, sucking toward her the most interesting people and opportunities.
You find your dream career by creating it
Now is the perfect time to create the career of YOUR dreams.
Find a way to use your skills in service of something more important than you. You don’t need your employer’s permission to do this. If your day job doesn’t offer the opportunity you need, and if like most of us you need to support yourself financially, start your dream career as a side project.
What useful endeavor would you pursue even if you didn’t get paid for doing it? That’s a good test for whether it＊s something you love to do.
If you love writing software, work with friends to write an app to solve a problem. If you love writing period, then start a blog on a topic that the world could use more discussion about. Or volunteer with an organization that needs a skill that you can provide.
Then as you get better and better in this new area, and as you become known for it, gradually spend more time doing it.
That’s how Maureen created for herself three dream careers. (And that’s how I created for myself three dream careers!)
When work becomes fun and fun becomes work
Maureen now is making a much bigger impact on America’s education system than any other first-year doctoral graduate. That’s because an advantage of starting a career when you’re older is that you get to jumpstart it with all the experience and wisdom you＊ve developed over the years.
People often look at Maureen in amazement and ask ‘Where do you get all that energy? ‘
Well, the beauty of creating a career based on what you love is that work becomes fun and fun becomes work. Rather than draining you of energy, work GIVES you energy.
By creating a life filled to the brim with meaning, passion and fun, Maureen has discovered the fountain of youth.
And you can do the same.
*This column was originally written by the author in English. Hear the author read this English column aloud by clicking here.
Joy Chen is a Chinese-American former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles and author of the best-seller ‘Do Not Marry Before Age 30.’ She also is a wife and mother of two young daughters. Visit her at www.joychenyu.com. The opinion is her own.