Tell us if this sounds like you: you’ve got LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster bookmarked on your work computer. You check them for new job postings every day, plugging in different keywords, setting new alerts, waiting and wishing for the perfect position to pop up. You KNOW that once you find the perfect spot, the cover letter will basically write itself, and you’ll be on your way. But as the days have dragged on, you’re starting to find it harder and harder to tune out that little voice in the back of your head…
What if the perfect job opening never shows up in your feed? What if it doesn’t exist at all?
We’re definitely on record somewhere quoted as saying, “Everyone can work at their dream job!” And that’s true! But, the other truth is, it’s very likely that your dream job isn’t actually…out there…yet.
So what do you do about that? You get over it…and then you get to creating!
With the rise of the “slashie” culture (where everyone has a “job-job” and a side gig, leading to job titles like “entrepreneur/designer/basket-weaver”), many people believe that they should have a few marketable, money-making skills in their everyday toolbox, and then reserve their creative abilities for the nights and weekends. We’re fans of that approach, as long as you’re as happy at your job as you are at your creative endeavor — but you shouldn’t feel like you need to keep the two separated.
Here are some examples of leaders we’ve interviewed who didn’t just wait for the world to present them with the perfect job: they went out there, planted themselves in the middle of their Venn diagram of skills, and created a dream job for themselves:
Don’t Stop Clowning Around
When Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman met, Eric was stuck at a fork in his road. He’d been studying engineering, and was prepped to get a steady, lucrative job. But during college, he’d joined a touring circus and discovered a taste for risk, a passion for performing acrobatics, and a knack for spinning fire (save the one time he burned off half of his hair). As graduation approached, he felt he had to choose between a safe bet and…well, whatever’s the exact opposite of a safe bet.
Brent, who’d dropped out of college to jump on to the booming startup train, dissuaded him from carrying on down the road of “uninteresting, unproductive, boring engineering jobs,” assuring him that there was something better out there.
The pair started “creating just to create,” using the mixture of their combined engineering skills and Eric’s circus background to develop fun, yet technically complex games and performances. The hobby evolved into a company called Two Bit Circus, which engineers cutting-edge “playgrounds” for schools and businesses. These playgrounds prominently feature lasers, robots, and fire, and they’re kind of awesome.
As college students, surely neither Eric nor Brent ever thought they’d have the title “experiential entertainment engineer” on their business cards. But as Brent told us,
“You have to reject that cultural narrative that there’s just one road to take. It’s different for everybody, and it’s changing faster now than ever before.”
Ham It Up
As a student at Wesleyan University, Anthony Veneziale met a group of fellow students who shared a few of his interests: theater, improv, comedy, and music — specifically rap. After some of them moved to New York City to form a theater company, Anthony realized that they had the perfect platform to create something the theater world had never seen before: a comedy/rap show that was completely and totally improvised on the spot.
Because of his enthusiasm, Anthony’s friends were totally onboard, probably due in part to the fact that he had some pretty amazing friends. (Among the performers that Freestyle Love Supreme counted as members? Tony-winners Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Christopher Jackson … basically anyone who helped make Hamilton a hit.)
Freestyle Love Supreme performed live shows around New York City for years, eventually picking up steam and a spot on TV. The show was recently renewed on Seeso this year, more than 10 years after the original idea for the show was tossed around. That amount of staying power isn’t half bad for a guy who’s a (say it with us) freestyle comedy rapper.
Pick a Place, Any Place
If those two case studies seem totally overwhelming, don’t worry! You don’t have to establish your own company to create a job that’s hand-tailored to your interests— you can also build your own position at a company that you already love, just like these two did:
Find Your Red Rubber Ball
As a child, Kevin Carroll was obsessed with the playground. To him, the idea of a classic red rubber ball always represented the idea of our earliest hopes and dreams. It also signified his devotion to incorporating creativity and play into everyday life, ideals he carried with him first to the Air Force, and then on to his career in sports medicine and training.
After snagging a job as the head athletic trainer for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1995, Nike caught word of the innovator. They knew that they wanted to bring his creative mind to their company, but at the time, they didn’t actually have a job opening for him.
Instead, they decided that his first task would be to come up with a job and job title all on his own — the only stipulation was that he would add value to the mission of Nike’s brand. Kevin hit back with a job titled, “The Katalyst,” and tasked himself with inspiring creative change throughout Nike’s offices in any way possible. Of course, Nike was more than happy to sign off on it.
After serving in the position for seven years, he left to start his own company dedicated to fostering a culture of play at companies and in classrooms nationwide, never losing sight of that kid with the red rubber ball.
Get A Little Bit Artsy
“It’s not like there’s a position out there waiting for you. There are positions you could fit into, but there are also jobs you can make yourself. Trust that you have something unique to offer.”
That’s what Ana Hortillosa — events coordinator at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco — told us about carving out your own niche at a company that you love.
When applying for jobs after college, Ana knew that first and foremost, she wanted to be in a place that felt right — and for her, that place was the Asian Art Museum. But she didn’t immediately see a job that perfectly fit her interests in art, anthropology, and theater, so she took an entry-level job. She liked aspects of the job, but she also felt like she could be better utilizing her knowledge of the arts.
As the museum began to recognize her unique strengths, Ana says the right job kind of just “emerged,” and soon she’d created a position for herself — events coordinator — that perfectly blended all of the things she’d wanted to do.
Now, Take Action!
If you don’t feel like you’re working in your dream job position right now, or feel like your dream job might not yet exist, you have two big options: You can completely forge your own, new path, like Brent, Eric, or Anthony. Or, you can stay where you are, but start to address the gaps in your company that you think you can fill. Talk to your managers, make a case to human resources, and present an argument as to how and why you should make the pivot into your dream job. That might sound intimidating, sure, so we’ll do what we do best and leave you with some words of encouragement from Anthony Veneziale:
“Fear holds us back a lot, but it’s really never that bad! I mean, so what if you look like a fool in front of someone? Remember: every person out there is just faking it until they make it.”