Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

How to Get Your Dream Job

Those of you who pay attention may recall that I promised you “good news” (in the non-Second Coming sense) last Monday.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.
Instead, I’ve chewed my nails, bounced my legs, thrown myself into a ridiculous 21-day workout challenge, and generally done everything I can do to avoid sitting still.
I’m not sure why I’m trying to build suspense. You obviously know where this is going. I’m just stalling in case saying something out loud makes this whole thing go away…
I GOT MY DREAM JOB!!!
Okay, it’s out.
The walls are still standing, the dog is still chasing a fly, and there’s still a map of Australia poking me in the arm in a very annoying manner. (Actually, I just noticed that last bit.)
But yes, as of two weeks ago, I officially secured my dream job at…
GAHHHHHhhhh!!!!
Here are the (embellishment-free) details:
What: Retail
Hours: Part-time, includes weekends
Pay: Hourly
Biggest perk: Discount on shoes
I realize you might be scratching your head right now, as I’ve gone way out of my way to NOT oversell this. In many ways, it’s just your average retail job. The kind NPR always says “under-employed” people have settled for post-recession.
But the way I see it, this is far from settling. This is education. Grad school, if you will. A chance to watch and learn from experts who know so much about running they make me look like I’ve barely scratched he surface.
So, with no further ado, my official advice on how to get your dream job:

1. Be Vocal About Your Passions

When I first started contemplating a career change, I knew my real passion was endurance sport. (Specifically running, but I’d take anything.) I also knew I had almost zero qualifications for a job in said industry.
Sure, I had 7.5 years of professional experience…in measurement and automation software. I spent a full day trying to re-work my resume for my Rogue interview. Needless to say, it was the first time I’ve ever listed my blog as a “professional qualification”.
Yes, I know it sounds funny to worry about qualifications for an hourly retail job. However, I hadn’t interviewed for ANYTHING since graduation, and I fully believe anxiety has less to do with the “bigness” of a job than with how badly you want said job.
Also, I figured I had two factors working against me:
  1. I had to convince a potential employer that I was 100% serious about making 1/5th of my prior salary.
  2. Austin is overflowingwith much faster, much more experienced athletes looking for similar jobs. (They don’t exactly hire ex-pro milers for SportsCenter.)
So, how in the world did I even get an interview?
Simple. Someone at Rogue read on this very blog that I had quit my job with no back-up plan, and asked if I was serious about maybe working at a running store.
Of course, there was LOTS of luck involved.
There’s the obvious – someone in-the-know happened to read my rambles.
Also, summer was just ending, and the store had just lost some seasonal workers.
But, I do believe that we make our own luck, and that if I hadn’t been such a complete and total psycho about running, said in-the-know person would probably have done something else with the 2 minutes they spent shooting me an email asking if I was interested.
Piece of advice number one: If you want something, tell everybody AND THEIR MOTHER just how badly you want it.
All my social media is covered with running pictures, quotes, articles, disaster stories, you name it. Honestly, I’m shocked anyone stays friends with me at all, because I basically have two topics of conversation: running, and my dog.
And then I brought my dog TO a run. It was magical.
I’m not saying you have to go start a blog about your dream career (although it couldn’t hurt), but in my years of recruiting, I was always astounded by how many people would ace an interview only to shoot themselves at the end by saying their “real dream” was to be something completely different.
If I can pass on one thought before I die, it’s this: Always let them know you WANT THE JOB. (Or relationship, or help…the sentiment is widely applicable.) During my interview, I actually told my now-boss that “for me, this job is about chasing the dream.”
Melodramatic? – Yes
True? – Also yes

2. Take as Much of a Risk as You can Stomach

This goes right along with announcing your passion to anyone and everyone. I would love to tell you that I marched up to the Rogue owners and announced my intention to become the most valuable employee they had ever had. Unfortunately, that would be a complete and total lie. Asking for help is WAY out of my comfort zone. Especially face-to-face.
But putting things in writing isn’t. At least not until I click “Send”.
Writing the post about leaving my old job felt not unlike spilling my guts in the middle of Times Square, but it was *just* this side of what I felt like I could handle.
And guess what? After the initial shakes and desire to hide from all humanity subsided, I couldn’t actually remember why in the world I was so scared in the first place. I’ve gotten virtually no negative feedback on anything I’ve written (except perhaps a few awkward conversations). Au contraire. I’ve gotten 99% thanks and rewards.
No, not every professional aspiration lends itself to brutal honesty – I’m pretty sure my political career is now tanked – but MY perfect career does involved encouraging the world to get a little more real. And as a fellow Clif/Rogue employee told me just this weekend, Rogue is all about being yourself. (I knew there was a reason I was so obsessed with this place!)
Piece of advice number two: Don’t let your fear make your decisions. I personally always picture myself at 80. When I look back on life, will I be happy with my choices?

3. Don’t Get Too Stuck on Specifics

If you’re a former co-worker of mine, at this point you’re probably wondering what happened to those claims I made pre-departure about pursuing a career in freelance writing. For a solid three months, I even convinced myself that my dream in life was to write a novel.
While I still like to daydream about walking into a bookstore and seeing a rack full of books with my name on them, the truth is that writing was something I was both good at and qualified for. It was the skill I could fall back on when I panicked that I’d never be employed again.
It was also a little more socially acceptable than saying, “I’m going to go take a few months to ponder my dreams.”
When I decided to make this move, Handsome J and I first ensured there was enough in the bank for me to be completely unemployed for 6 months. The idea was that if I was going to do something crazy like this, I wasn’t going to do it 8 times.
So, before committing to a new job, I wanted to make sure it was really going to be a dream job.
For me, this was really quite practical. I have a tendency to get really excited about things for a few days, and then subsequently lose all interest. Needless to say, chasing any old random job I saw on Indeed.com would not be a good idea.
I’m not exaggerating. In the month and half between my old job and Rogue, there were days when I was going to be the following:
  • Therapist
  • Vet
  • Nurse
  • Novelist
  • Librarian
  • Academic Advisor
  • Freelance blogger (oh yes, there’s a job board for that)
  • Senior Tech Writer
  • Social Media/Marketing Specialist
  • Retail Sales Associate
You could do a psychological analysis of what these jobs have in common (but save your time; I’ve already done it). Basically, I knew I wanted to be creative AND help people. The “how” was the murky part.
I was pretty quick to rule out a few options: Vet, nurse, librarian…too much school. Novelist…too much isolation. Therapist…too difficult emotionally.
But by simply sitting still and NOT trying to jump too quickly, a more specific unifying factor of the remaining jobs became clear. I enjoy writing….this blog about running. I enjoy sharing things on Twitter and Facebook…if those “things” are articles about running.
And while I never saw myself in a traditional “sales” job, with quotas and required extroversion and the like, I realized that I can actually talk to people all day long if the topic is something I’m interested in. Like…running.
The day before hearing about the Rogue job, I was *this close* to applying with the new Athleta store in town. Not because I particularly love that brand, but because it’s a sports-specialty brand, and it would be a way to start learning about jobs related to…running.
By waiting to see where my dreams would circle back to, I was able to let go of the pressure to find a forever dream job, and focus on a for now dream job.
Which is exactly what Rogue is for me: professional development. I have the opportunity to learn about the business of running from people I’ve known and admired for several years.  
What’s more, this is a store that came into being from a training program, and I absolutely have known for years that a forever dream of mine is coaching people like myself. No, I’m not officially coaching now, but you better believe that once I get my feet under me, I’ll be pestering the Intro coaches to take on an overly-enthusiastic volunteer/shadow.
So there’s my third piece of advice: Don’t get hung up on finding your forever job from day one. NOBODY does that. (Except maybe child stars, and they all end up on drugs anyway.) Be open to any job that will feed your passions. The “for now” dream is just as important as the forever one.

4. Use Your Strengths…To a Point

One of the things I most appreciated about my past job was that the company, in general, was pretty good at recognizing strengths and weaknesses and trying to match people with positions that played more to the former than the latter.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big believer in tools like StrengthsFinder and the concept that you’ll excel most in positions that fit strengths you have naturally. There’s a lot to be said for not trying to fight your basic personality.
For example, a book that really changed my life was this one:
Because it was the first time I read a strong argument that a lot of introverts would be more successful if they acknowledged that the world is geared toward extroverts. This book basically taught me (in 300+ pages) that it’s a-okay to let someone else carry the conversation. (Thank goodness.) We introverts just need to accept that we live in a society that rewards certain types of behaviors, and that if we want something that necessitates behaving in a certain way, we’re going to have to practice those behaviors. (And then schedule sufficient downtime to recharge.)
This conclusion was almost immediately supported by this Wall Street Journal article about how most introverts report feeling happiest when they pretend to be extroverts.
I realized that while “introvert” might not necessarily equal “ideal salesperson”, it also didn’t have to equal “quiet weirdo in the corner”. If StrengthsFinder consistently claims that my top strength is “Empathy”, which it does, doesn’t that suggest that I should actually be semi-decent at connecting with people? So, if I have a topic I love to talk about and a sympathetic (empathetic?) ear, what’s stopping me from helping someone find their ideal pair of running shoes?
In all honesty, there’s a part of me that’s really pumped about being the one person in the store who never ran competitively. Maybe, just maybe, another shy person who’s worried they’re not a “real runner” will see me and be a little less afraid to come in the store.
So, piece of advice number four: Know your strengths and weaknesses, but don’t let either be limiting factors. Passion can override weakness 9 times out of 10. Sure, I can be shy. But I also can talk about running all day long. So, as long as we’re talking about running, why does anyone have to know I’m shy?

5. Build a Strong Support System…and Use It

I know, I know. Up until now I’ve been all, “Chase your dreams! You can do anything if you really want to! Just look at me!”
But if you look at me closely enough, you’ll eventually see that I’m still a giant walking mess of anxiety. (I choose to look at it as a strength. How many totally laid-back perfectionists do you know?)
While I am without a doubt proud of the decisions I’ve made and where I’ve landed, I by no means got here by being a pillar of solitary bravery. Remember the old quote:
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
(Or my personal version: “It’s okay to be afraid of flying as long as you get on the damn plane.”)
When I was such a miserable mope in my old job, it was my support system that finally pushed me into making the big move. And I don’t mean my friends were telling me I *had* to quit. They just told me that they were tired of listening to me.
And having people in your life who can tell you the hard truths is crucial to bravery. These people led me to judge that the relationships in my life were more important than my fear of living in a van down by the river.
SNL in the 90s. SO MUCH comic greatness.
These same annoyed people were also my biggest cheerleaders.

Sometimes your own strength will fail you, and at that point you will straight-up NEED someone else to remind you that you’re smart and capable and that the likelihood of you ending up in said van is really quite miniscule.
Piece of advice number five: Lean on the people you think you can trust. If they’re really trustworthy, they won’t let you down.

6) Stick Your Fingers in Your Ears and Repeat After Me

Lalalalalalala!!!
Seriously, you’re going to have to practice that. Because another reason you’re going to need that support system is for the times when you run into less-supportive folks. I’ve definitely had a few people react with…less than optimal enthusiasm for my decision to take a job in which one of my co-workers is literally still in high school. (But, she’s also a damn fine runner who knows more about track meets and racing flats than I do.)
For motivated people – and, I’m going to flat-out say it, for motivated WOMEN especially – doing something purely because it’s what YOU want can be shockingly difficult. Did you ever read that article about how you really can’t have it all?  HIGHLY recommend.
I have struggled with all of the following:
  • Fear that asking my husband to be the primary breadwinner is both selfish AND anti-feminist
  • Fear that I have let my parents down by not fully “using” that college degree they paid for
  • Fear that I have hurt working women everywhere by leaving a management position of my own volition
  • Fear that I will punch the next person who says, “Ohhhh…” and gives me a sympathetic look when I say I’m really excited about my new job in retail
Piece of advice number six: Be prepared for the eventuality that someone might judge you. And remember what we discussed previously – it’s not really about YOU.

7) Say Thank You

Introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, no one gets where they want to be without others. We are social creatures. We need each other. We just tend to really really suck at admitting that.
I, for instance, know that telling people that you value them and why is one of the most important things you can do in life. I’m also terrible at it. Especially in person. I’ll typically say the wrong thing 18 different ways because I’m afraid to say the right and honest thing just once. My collection of memories of gratitude expressed poorly could fill an entire bookcase.
So, if your name is on this list (in NO particular order – some of you are family, some of you just casual friends), know that somehow, in some way, you helped me get to this truly incredible point in my life, and I will never, ever be able to thank you enough:
Handsome J, Emily, Jeanine, Jandri, Kate, Erik, Lynn, Beth, April, Mandy, Mom, Dad, Cousin Kate, Coach Chris, and my whole running crew.
I mean this with all possible sincerity AND cheesiness: I love you guys. 

[DISCLAIMER] Because I’m a lawyer’s daughter, I feel the need to explicitly state the following: While I am thrilled to be working at Rogue, this remains my personal blog. Anything you read here is my personal opinion, and not the statement of an official representative of the company.

7 comments on “How to Get Your Dream Job

  1. Jeanine Swanson
    September 9, 2013

    I love it, Chris! I am so thrilled you got your dream job, it is about damn time!!!!!! Now I'll add to your list:8. Be a sponge and enjoy the ride! Soak up all those learning moments, big and small and have a little fun with it. Now it is not all work and no play, rather all play and a little work! Congrats and good blog post.

  2. Emily
    September 9, 2013

    Ok, so this post is particularly well timed! (And no I am not just saying that because I'm mentioned in the blog.) I'm going to take some of this good advice and get over some of my fears as well! Because, after all, no matter what happens, we won't be living in a van down by the river. Or as is the case in Texas, the dried up river bed. I'm looking forward to capitalizing on your new found knowledge and expertise and will be happy to test you on runs at any time 🙂 You're going to be great!

  3. Beth
    September 9, 2013

    Chris, I'm so happy for you, and I'm glad I've been of some help as you've found your way to where you're supposed to be. I'm going to take advantage of your new job and come buy some new shoes from you. I've started jogging again (very slowly), and my feet hurt! I need someone to fix that so I can focus on finding joy and health instead of my achy feet. Thank you for having the courage to take a chance on finding your joy, then telling us all about it. Everyone has to start somewhere. It sounds like you've made a beautiful new start.

  4. Chris
    September 10, 2013

    Excellent point! I'll have to be sure and add that one when I take the next step up the dream job ladder 😉

  5. Chris
    September 10, 2013

    Well, after four full days of training, I've officially tried on every shoe in the store (except some trail shoes and racing spikes) and apparently there really is a "competency test"!!! So now know that you can feel real darn good about any shoes you get at Rogue ;)I'm super-excited to see where your dreams take you! I know you'll keep me updated, but let me know if you ever want to write a guest post with your own advice. Everyone loves a true story with a happy ending!

  6. Chris
    September 11, 2013

    Aww, thank you! Both for the kind words and the friendly ear when I had no idea what I was doing with myself.I'm so excited to see the running love keep spreading far and wide! Does this mean you're considering that triathlon? 😉 And yes, we can definitely find you some good shoes! They really do make all the difference in the world.

  7. Kate Gunn Pagel
    September 22, 2013

    While I know we don't keep in touch all that well, you always inspired me with your dedication to running, and I love keeping track of things on the blog. I was SO thankful to have you as a roommate for our summer abroad, and wish you the VERY best of luck in your new career…excited for you!!

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This entry was posted on September 9, 2013 by in anxiety, dreams, friends, motivation, work.
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