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5 Tips on Finding a Career That’s More Than Just a Job

Note: this post is sponsored by Capital One Canada, but the views and opinions are my own.

One of the most interesting things I’ve done as a financial blogger was host a Facebook Live Q&A panel earlier this month with Capital One Canada at the Enactus National Exposition in Vancouver. The theme of the panel was Finding a Career That’s More Than Just a Job, which really resonates with me – and I think a lot of people that read this blog too. :)

If you’re not familiar with Enactus, it is a global organization that fosters entrepreneurship among post-secondary students. Since 2012, Capital One Canada sponsors an annual regional and national competition where student teams identify, develop and deliver financial literacy projects aimed at improving and shaping their local social and economic landscape. It was a pretty inspiring few days to say the least!

A career that you love

The main reason why I was drawn to this Capital One event was because of its core message:  Finding a career that’s more than just a job is so important to your personal happiness. For me, it’s rewarding to know that I’m in a career that allows me to reach my full potential.

Related: Are you passionate about your career?

I write a lot about career progression here on the blog, and the initiative it takes to really get ahead, find a career path, and secure an employer that’s worth committing to. In the panel interview, Senior Director of Partnerships at Capital One Jay Acharya said it best when he compared job interviews to dating. That’s how I’ve always looked at it as well! The exchange needs to be a two-way street with an equal performance on both sides – they need to love you, but you need to love them too. :)

Related: What do you look for in a job?

It’s important to establish what you want out of your career. Personally, it took me a long time to figure out what would make me happy. But now, I’m confident in who I am and what I’m looking for. I’m not afraid to walk away from a job offer if I don’t feel like I would fit in with the company culture, or if I don’t think it’s a company I believe in.

That’s exactly the point Hannah Stegen made in our discussion (she’s a former Enactus student and recently hired Capital One associate). She spoke about how Capital One worked with her to find the position that was best suited to her skillset and to what she wanted to do. I think that speaks a lot to the company and their willingness to find and retain the best talent. And after a few years of getting to know the team over at Capital One (they’re a platinum sponsor of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference too), I can honestly say that I think it’d be an amazing place to work.

One of the things that got me most excited was Capital One Canada’s flexible workplace and its comprehensive health benefits:

  • Benefits – Capital One offers a comprehensive benefits packages that cover standard health and dental, including fitness/gym memberships, additional time off for volunteering, and financial assistance.
  • Flexibility – the company acknowledges employees have lives outside of work, which means striking a work-life balance is crucial. That’s why Capital One allows employees to work remotely (at home or a coffee shop).

Related: Why I don’t want to be self-employed

I really want to share with you the short Facebook Live video (since I know most of you didn’t get a chance to watch it!) that includes 5 job searching tips:

Find A Career That's More Than Just A Job

We'll be live on Facebook with Krystal Yee from Give Me Back My Five Bucks to share tips for landing your next job. Have a question? Add it as a comment below and it could be answered live!

Posted by Capital One Canada on Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Head of Talent Acquisition for Canada at Capital One, Victoria Reynolds, mentioned that they’re hiring for a bunch of different positions – especially in the digital and tech space – so if you’re interested in finding out more about jobs at Capital One, I’d encourage you to go to www.CapitalOneCareers.ca for more information.

As for me, it’s taken me 10 years to build my career up to where I want to be. I feel like I’m on a real path to success now. I like challenging myself on a daily basis, I enjoy my co-workers, I feel respected, and I’m proud of the work that my company is doing – and I hope that you feel the same way about what you’re doing in your career too. :)

What do you look for in a job?

Recently I was head hunted for a management position with a different company in the same industry. It would have been a promotion with a higher salary, and with the type of organization I was interested in working with. The opportunity came as a bit of a shock because I’m happy where I am, and haven’t actively looked at job postings at all for the past 1.5 years. So while I was flattered that they were interested in me, I knew I was never going to seriously consider the position. And after talking it out with a few friends and stressing for a few days, I knew I had made the right decision.

This experience got me thinking again about what I look for in an employer, and how much that has changed over the years as my career has progressed. When I first graduated, jobs were pretty easy to come by, and I spent a lot of time chasing dollar signs and job hopping. While I was concerned with the integrity of the company, admittedly I was more concerned with my salary. And because of this, in the first four years of my career, I was able to double my income … but my resume looks pretty horrible. :)

Related: Why I don’t want to be self-employed

Now the job market is a lot tougher, and my career direction has become a lot more focused (which means less jobs to choose from). 10 years ago, I was a marketing generalist by choice. I knew that by not specializing in anything, I could try a variety of different roles to find what aspects of marketing I enjoyed and where my strengths were. Now, it’s safe to say I’ve become a specialist with a somewhat niche skill set. With a decade of experience under my belt, I know that a pay cheque isn’t everything, but I also know that I have the luxury of saying that because my salary is comfortable.

Related: When it’s worth it to take a pay cut

Deciding not to pursue this job opportunity has really reinforced what I want out of my career. I’m also happy to see that the gamble I took by entering into this industry 3 years ago (by taking on a junior position) was a good decision, because this isn’t the first time I’ve been head hunted before. It seems that this type of marketing is always in demand, and there just isn’t a huge pool of people to choose from here in Vancouver.

Aside from salary, here are a few key things that I look for in a job and a career:

  • Work-life balance. Overtime cannot be avoided in this fast paced, deadline-driven industry, but there has to be a trade off. Because my job isn’t my passion, I value my time away from the office. I want a 40 hour/week career and flexible hours because so many things that I love (like freelancing, sports, and travel) happen outside of the office.
  • Good people. I don’t necessarily want to become best friends with my co-workers (and I’m a pretty introverted person), but being able to be social while at work is more important than I realized when I first started my career. When I look back at all the jobs I’ve had, the best ones were where I’ve had friends.
  • A company I can believe in. I want to be proud of the company I’m working for, and I like knowing that they are helping to make a difference. Whether it’s through the work that they do, or through giving back to the community, I love companies that help make lives better. :) AND I find it so inspiring when others around me truly believe in making the company better.
  • Ability to learn. Getting stuck is a huge concern for me. I want the ability to keep on learning and growing as an employee, and if those options aren’t available to me, eventually I’ll have to look elsewhere for employment. And that’s not something I want to do, because I also value…
  • Long-term potential. I want to be able to stay with a company long-term. Job hopping is tiring and stressful. Finding a role I can settle into is something I value, and it looks good on a resume when you have stayed in a position for at least 3-5 years.
  • Location. I’m done commuting long distances, but it’s hard to get by in the city without a car. I drive a lot for field hockey and hiking as it is (where transit is not an option), and where we live right now, I wouldn’t even consider applying for jobs that aren’t located within walking distance of a SkyTrain stop.

What do you look for in a job (and in your career)?

Why I don’t want to be self-employed

IMG_1770I was 29 when I quit working in a cubicle and became self-employed. It was a huge step, and I was excited to experience the freedom of setting my own schedule, working wherever and whenever I wanted, and creating a lifestyle that I had always dreamed of. I was eager to test myself to see how much I could accomplish on my own. Plus, I was moving to Germany for a year with my boyfriend, and that just added to the excitement.

My passion for my new freelance life was further fuelled by the fact that so many of my friends were either already working for themselves, or aspired to one day work for themselves. I felt like I had finally achieved something important: after two very difficult years of working 70+ hours/week at both my full-time job and freelancing, I had grown my freelance writing gigs and this blog from nothing, into something that I could actually make a decent living from. I had steady clients in place, and a good amount of extra freelance work rolling in.

However, after a year of doing my own thing, I knew that being self-employed wasn’t the right fit for me … which was interesting to learn about myself after years of wondering if I could make it on my own.

Although the year I spent freelancing proved that I have what it takes to work for myself if I ever wanted to go that route again, I am much better suited working for someone else for the rest of my career. Freelancing and self-employment isn’t for everyone, and I honestly think it’s a lifestyle that not many people can handle (no matter how much they dream of being their own boss). I’m constantly impressed by my friends who are thriving as freelancers because I know it takes a special kind of person to make it work.

Here are four reasons why I left freelancing and went back to my cubicle (and none of it had to do with not making enough money!):

1. Freedom

Yes, freedom! So many people talk about wanting to have the freedom to create their own schedule, and not feel like they’re chained to their desk. Well, I’d rather be chained to my desk for 8 hours a day than feel like I’m chained to my own laptop and smartphone 24/7. Honestly.

Sure, I got to work whenever I wanted, and travel when I felt like traveling. But as it turns out, I was kind of a demanding boss on myself. I always felt pressured to work harder, and when I wasn’t in front of my laptop? I was either checking my emails and looking at social media, or worrying about checking my emails and looking at social media. I didn’t want to miss any new opportunities, and it drove me crazy. It’s pretty horrible to feel like you can’t be without your phone, ever. I had major anxiety, and started to lose all sense of balance. My work consumed me, no matter what kind of schedule I tried to implement. I wasn’t practical, because I was too scared not to hustle as much as I could.

So even though I was only doing actual work for 30 hours a week as a freelancer, I never felt like I could step away. Whereas a full-time job brings me the freedom to leave work behind. After 5pm, I don’t have to worry about projects or clients or income targets, and my evenings and weekends are mine to enjoy however I want. Life is short, and I’d rather hold hands with my boyfriend in the park after work, than sit in front of my laptop trying to hit a deadline.

2. Time Off

I used to think that if I became self-employed, I could take as much time off as I wanted to. But it was actually pretty hard to go on vacation and complete unplug from the outside world. Sure, I traveled a ton, but the problem with being your own boss is that when you’re on vacation, you’re not getting paid. Plus, most evenings (and yep, sometimes during the day) when I was on vacation, I was checking e-mails and following up on work-related admin stuff, or stressed out about a client reducing their budget – none of which were relaxing!

My old corporate jobs allowed me two or three weeks of vacation, which obviously was not enough time for the amount of traveling I wanted to do each year. I yearned for more time to go adventuring, and thought freelancing was the answer. But what I didn’t realize was that perhaps it was just the industry I was in that was limiting my freedom.

I love the industry that I’m in now because of the flexibility it provides when it comes to time off. I feel lucky in that every little bit of time I work above and beyond a normal work day gets given back to me – which works out to having seemingly unlimited vacation time. Last year I took 6 weeks of paid vacation, and this year will likely be around the same. Maybe even a bit more. And best of all? I don’t have to worry about anything related to work while I’m gone.

3. I am not special

I have a very good idea of where I stand in the personal finance world. I’m an average writer with an average get-out-of-debt story. I don’t have any unique skills, and I’m not special. But what I do have is an above-average passion for personal finance, and the desire to help others. And that’s why this blog has been around for almost 10 years.

There are so many other people who have the self-employed thing dialed in. They know exactly what to do and how to do it, and if I’m being honest, I don’t have that fire in me. When I used to tell people I was self-employed, they would tell me how amazing that sounded, and how they wish they could do the same sort of thing. But in reality? I was craving stability and a normal 9-5pm work week. :) Which brings me to my next point…

4. Stability

The ability to work for yourself opens up the doors to limitless streams of income, and I will admit that felt super liberating. But I’m a natural worrier, and even though I had steady contracts which gave me a steady income stream, having the rest of my income fluctuate caused my anxiety to skyrocket. Some weeks I would bring in thousands and I’d feel so confident. Then there were other weeks I’d make nothing and I would start to panic. Everything evened out over the course of the year to provide me with a perfectly livable income (that was actually more than my previous full-time job provided), I couldn’t handle the ups and downs with grace.

My desk job provides me with the stability I crave. I know that every two weeks, I’ll be getting X amount of money. It’s something I can count on, and I need that feeling of stability.

Being self-employed is a terrific option for some people. I have plenty of friends are are self-employed rock stars! But it’s a lot less glamorous and a lot harder than you might think. I know myself well enough to know this now, but it took me half a decade of freelancing and a full year of being self-employed to really understand it.

Have you ever wanted to work for yourself?

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