Wednesday, November 30, 2011

dressing for the job: a self-examination.

{outfit found here

You know that saying, "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have"?

When I was in high school and college, I had visions of being this high-powered magazine editor, hailing cabs and tracking down sources, always dressed in some fabulous ensemble that inevitably included a black blazer and some killer heels.

Then I graduated, got married, and moved back to my hometown. I got a job working communications at a non-profit, where people innocently wore capri pants and flip flops on a regular basis. 

I was determined to dress my best anyway. I gave up wearing suits -- which, if I'm being honest, never felt like me anyway -- and tried to just dress professionally. Nice tops, slacks, skirts. Those words, "dress for the job you want," floated through my head, and every time our public relations rep would visit our office, I'd make a point to see what she was wearing. If I wanted to remain in the non-profit world, I knew I'd need to go the public relations route (even if just the term public relations was a dirty word in my college journalism classes), and I figured modeling myself after a PR professional was the best way to make that happen.

My time in non-profit communications, though, didn't last long. I was hungry for more journalism experience, and despite the lessons that first position taught me, I knew it was time to move on.

I took a job at a local legal news publication, and I discovered: Journalists dress no better than non-profit employees.

What I mean is, unless a story requires a trip to the courthouse or a senate hearing, suits are out. Professional comfort is key.

Don't get me wrong; there is a dress code, and all of my coworkers dress professionally.

I just don't happen to dress very much like them.

Which is why, yesterday, when I donned boots and tights, khaki dress and floral sweater, I realized something. 

I dress for the job I want, and I want to be an art teacher.

More accurately, I want to be an "education coordinator for after-school creative writing."

Is that too specific?

That's probably because I've been dreaming about it since 2009, when I came across this position description in my daily web wanderings. 

Despite all my efforts to pursue a corporate life, I am decidedly uncorporate. I can't help it. Black suits just aren't my thing. 

A few weeks ago, while traveling for business, someone asked me what my dream job was. It's a question I hadn't been asked in a long time, maybe because I'm finally, really, truly getting older, and no one asks that question anymore because they know what you know: That you've settled into a job that will pay the bills.

My job, gratefully, though, does more than that. It keeps my brain sharp, allows me to go home to my husband and discuss legal jargon and the U.S. court system. It has me researching and writing, using a hard-earned degree that so many of my fellow journalism grads aren't getting to use at all. 

But it is not my dream job. And as I sat there, speechless, trying to answer this guy's innocent question, words came out that I knew just weren't true. 

"I'd love to write for a magazine one day," I said. "I'd love to write for a lifestyle or home publication, like Southern Living."

That answer? False. I've been there, done that, and every day was painful because I felt like I was writing fluff. I was writing stuff that, when it it boiled down to it, just didn't matter.

So the answer that came out of my mouth that night wasn't entirely accurate. Sure, I'd like to write for a magazine one day. Ideally, I think that might be the next step in my "career." But I don't really want to write for a lifestyle publication. I'd like to write words that make a difference.

The truth is, my dream job changes on a fairly regular basis. I want to be a high school English teacher or a short story writer or an advocate for teen girls or magazine editor or a bookstore owner or a creative writing tutor. I want to pursue words, and I want to pursue them creatively. I'm not sure what that looks like, professionally-speaking, but I know I'm not quite there yet.

Turns out that picking out your outfit for the day can lead to all kinds of self-examination. Or at least that's the way it is with me.


So what's your dream job? What job do you "dress for"?
Am I the only one that analyzes about this kind of thing?


chet said...

Dream job? American Religious History professor at UNC Ashville or University of Colorado at Boulder.
Job I dress for? Truck driver or canoe rental salesman.

monster cakes said...

Wait... did I write this? haha We are too similar. It cracks me up. Basically my story is the exact same, just slightly different settings. I've given up on suits, though I still try to dress a notch above the rest in hopes it will keep me motivated to go get the job I want. And I think I'm currently coming to the realization that I want to write young adult novels. Where did that even come from?! I wanted to be a serious journalist at a 9-5 job! And now I want to sit at home ghost writing about high school all over again?! Well so be it. I can almost picture God laughing at me saying "and you thought you had me figured out!" Go get your dream job friend. Even if it takes a while. Life is too short.

Hailey Marie said...

I love this. Loved every non-fluffy word you wrote. :) fight the fluff!

Tiffany said...

Dream job? University TESOL teacher in the Arabian Peninsula. I love dressing in my teacher clothes! I've been thinking about this so much because I'm about to graduate with my TESOL degree...who knows what will happen come may?

Kristen said...

I'm trying to accurately piece the word "dream" and "future" together. The truth is though, that I have no idea what I want to be in the future, I just don't know. So I see the fact that you have such a clear idea and I want to tell you to take it and run with it. Good for you. Seriously. You know this for a reason!

Laken said...

First, that job description sounds just like you. Really, truly - that is almost exactly what I picture when I think of you and your perfect job.
And I almost think some of those dream jobs you listed could easily combined into one dream job of all dream jobs. A bookstore owner who writes and holds creative writing workshops for high-schoolers?

And second, to tell you about my dream job would take an entire week. Bakery owner, food magazine/newspaper columnist, writer (of what variety I'm not sure), event planner, owner of some type community kitchen/center where I hosted cooking classes and family style dinners, etc.

Kim Humes said...

Love this post! I think this is something everyone analyzes. Now that I have been in the working world a few years, I have learned that the idea of a "dream job" is sort of not relevant anymore - both because the economy does not allow most ppl to pursue their passions, but also because most people don't have just one dream. We are all multifaceted with many interests and loves, so in a way I don't feel there is ONE dream job for every person - I think our dreams can change and we can have lots of dreams all at once. Besides, in North America we place far too much importance on our jobs - in the end, it's just a job, it's just a way to make money. It isn't everything. If you can't find one you love, find one that works ok and focus on what you love in your spare time!

Rachael L. Anderson said...

Wow, this posts sounds a lot like me. I too was Journalism, but I don't feel like being a reporter really. I guess what I would be best at is writing lifestyle pieces, or editing articles, but I'm still not sure what I would actually be passionate about.

Jennifer said...

I absolutely loved this post. I worked as a church for over a year, but I never dressed like I did. I definitely wanted to be in a creative field. I guess I dressed for the job I wanted without even knowing it. I do remember refusing to let my all of my creativity "go to waste" so I used clothes to express some of that. I definitely analyze these kinds of things too.

I can't wait to see where you're headed! I know you will make a difference in whatever you do!

Jenny said...

I love this post! I'm a high school English teacher, and I always wanted to be one of those teachers who dressed professionally. I figured I'd gain more respect that way, and I still do. The problem is after I wear my heels on Monday my feet hurt so bad I have to switch to flats for the rest of the week. I never sit down, and by Thursday I'm so tired I'd be willing to wear my pajamas to work.

Love thinking about my dream job. I think attaining my dream job is impossible because I'm one of those "the grass is always greener" people. I'm trying to work on that :)

Annie said...

you are not the only person who analyzes this! i do, too. in fact, i had many of these thoughts in my head today as i was getting ready to teach my first writing workshop. my job at kumon requires me to dress professionally, and i'm not really sure what my job at upward bound requires me to do (i go straight from ub to kumon so i dress the same for both, which is basically black pants and a shirt or sweater of some kind). i also want to dress professionally because i believe, like you say, that you should dress for the job you have.

but really, suits aren't my thing, either, and a part of me is in dread of the day i have to buy one for interviews. i feel like i would just be playing dress up, and that feeling is exacerbated by graduating college a year early but mostly by only reaching five foot one {and a quarter inch}. and in any case, i like to dress comfortable.

so i wore - with supervisor sanction - jeans and a fleece pullover to give my presentation today. and it was neat and comfortable.

Mindy Erazo said...

This was a really great post! Thanks for sharing.


Kelly Sauer said...

Love. This. It's a fun side of you that is completely tuned out of the corporate world - and there is a place for it! I can't wait to see where this creative dream goes!