Monday, July 26, 2010

To Find My Dream Job, I Didn't Just Dream

If you can dream it, you can live it.
How often do we hear that? How often are we told that we can't live our dream unless we first visualize it in our head?
It's no doubt true. But I also can tell you that visualizing your dream isn't enough. You have to work at making dreams real. You have to sweat.
And that brings me to the subject of this column.

In my last column two weeks ago, I told the story of leaving The Wall Street Journal, my home for 17 years, in order to find a new job that better meshed with my family's needs and my wants.
Lots of people, of course, dream of chucking their current job for something else. But dreaming is all they do. They then wait for the fates to hand them the perfect job.
It won't work, though, because they aren't out shaking the trees. In fact, they're not even in the orchard. They're effectively waiting for the fruit to fall on its own -- and for a brisk wind to blow the fruit across the fields and over the fence and to place it gently in their lap.
Good luck.
As my grandmother told me when I was growing up: You've got to work for what you want, because nobody's outside your door waiting to give it to you.
So this is the story of how I took my grandmother's advice. It is the story of how I finally, after many years, decided to work for what I really wanted. It is the story of how I sweated.

* * *

Here's my passion: international investing. Yes, it's geeky, but I love the idea of investing directly in markets overseas. I've been doing it since 1995, and I've written a book about it. I've always thought working in that world would be the perfect way for me to make a living.
I would occasionally ask people in the field of international investing about opportunities...but nothing ever popped up.
Then again, I wasn't trying. My heart was never really into a job search, because I was content with what I was doing. I always felt fortunate to be making good money at a job I loved, for a paper I respected, in the city -- Baton Rouge, La. -- where I wanted to live.
That changed earlier this year for reasons I noted in my last column: mainly that I saw no opportunities to advance my career without moving back to the East Coast -- a move that I felt would hurt my family, both emotionally and financially.
So my mind-set changed. I began to seriously think about combining my talent for reporting and writing with my passion for international investing. I never laid out a precise job description, because I didn't want to restrict my search. Since I had no idea what kinds of jobs might exist, I wanted to hear about anything that could interest me in any way.
And then I started shaking the trees.

* * *

The way I figure it, the best jobs are the word-of-mouth jobs, the ones that often exist only in a manager's head, the "wouldn't-it-be-nice-if-we-had-someone-to-do-X-if-only-we-could-find-the-right-person" job.
The trick is making sure those managers know you, to get your name into their heads alongside their imaginary jobs.
That's where the sweat comes in. I began by contacting anybody I could think of, emailing and calling friends and acquaintances all over the globe. I talked to public-relations executives and headhunters, portfolio managers and ex-journalists. I talked to sources I hadn't spoken to in more than a decade.
It often seemed like an enormous waste of time. Nobody knew of any current openings -- not surprising, given the vagueness of my job description. And there were many moments when I felt like I didn't have the time or energy to make yet another call, write yet another email.
But I knew that I needed to make sure that as many people as possible knew I was looking.
And then one morning an email popped up from a source I had talked to several months earlier about my wishes. He told me to expect a phone call.
At an investment conference he had just attended, an executive of a newsletter company mentioned to him that his firm was looking to add a writer who understood overseas markets. My source gave him my name.
And with that began a very quick courtship. I flew to Miami to meet the executive, who brought his boss -- the publisher -- into the interview. The boss felt I had more to offer the firm than just writing about international markets. She sketched out my job duties.
I would become a senior editor, working on a newsletter about international investing. I would help mentor younger writers. I would travel whenever and wherever I wanted, and take on some of her duties meeting with banking executives around the globe. I would be eligible for bonuses, a perk I never had in newspaper journalism.
It sounded ideal. It wasn't a job I ever knew existed. And it probably never had, except in the boss's head.
The next morning the offer arrived -- and I couldn't say no. It offered me everything I could want in a job, and I could do it from Baton Rouge. The funny thing is, two days later an investment firm called to offer me a communications job, a new position they thought I would be perfect for.
And that's my point: When looking for a new job, if you define your career interests broadly and then shake every tree you can find, the fruit will start falling.
You just have to be there with a big net to catch the ones that look interesting.
Write to Jeff D. Opdyke at

Original WSJ Article

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