The 'big lesson' Mike Rowe learned several hundred times

How do you jump-start a career?
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Story highlights

  • Mike Rowe says it took him a while to learn people are in charge of the way they feel
  • Rowe: Stop looking for the "right" career, and start looking for a job. Any job.
  • Finding the "right " career is like looking for a soul mate, Rowe says
I had drinks not long ago with a woman I know. Let's call her Claire.
Claire just turned 42. She's cute, smart, and successful. She's frustrated though, because she can't find a man. I listened all evening about how difficult her search has been. About how all the "good ones" were taken. About how her other friends had found their soul-mates, and how it wasn't fair that she had not.
"Look at me," she said. "I take care of myself. I've put myself out there. Why is this so hard?"
"How about that guy at the end of the bar," I said. "He keeps looking at you."
"Not my type."
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Feel you gotta do it? Mike Rowe gets it
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The stage is always changing elevations
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Somebody's Gotta Do it: Le Reve wardrobe
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"Really? How do you know?"
"I just know."
"Have you tried a dating site?" I asked.
"Are you kidding? I would never date someone I met online!"
"Alright. How about a change of scene? Your company has offices all over -- maybe try living in another city?"
"What? Leave San Francisco? Never!"
"How about the other side of town? You know, mix it up a little. Visit different places. New museums, new bars, new theaters...?"
She looked at me like I had two heads. "Why the hell would I do that?"
Here's the thing: Claire doesn't really want a man. She wants the "right" man. She wants a soul-mate. Specifically, a soul-mate from her zip code. She assembled this guy in her mind years ago, and now, dammit, she's tired of waiting!!
I didn't tell her this, because Claire has the capacity for sudden violence. But it's true. She complains about being alone, even though her rules have more or less guaranteed she'll stay that way. She has built a wall between herself and her goal. A wall made of conditions and expectations.
Is it possible that some people who are looking for a "dream job" have built a similar wall?
They sometimes talk about wanting the "right career," not just a career.
They may say they need "excitement" and "adventure," but not at the expense of stability. They may want lots of "change" and the "freedom to travel," but they need the certainty of "steady pay." They talk about being "easily bored" as though boredom is out of their control.
It isn't.
Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting. It's one thing to "love the outdoors," but they may take it a step further. They may vow to "never" take an office job. They talk about the needs of their family, even though that family doesn't exist. And finally, you say the career you describe must "always" make you "happy."
These are my thoughts. You may choose to ignore them and I wouldn't blame you.
Stop looking for the "right" career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what's available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today.
But don't waste another year looking for a career that doesn't exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that's consistent with those beliefs.
Many people today resent the suggestion that they're in charge of the way they feel.
But trust me, those people are mistaken. That was a big lesson from when I worked on a show called "Dirty Jobs," and I learned it several hundred times before it stuck.
What you do, who you're with, and how you feel about the world around you, is completely up to you.