Thursday, May 28, 2009


Reader "Rosanna" asked, "How do I get my dream job?" As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is a loaded question simply because there are very few people who can answer it. I bet people in HR or recruiting don't even like their jobs!

In my lifetime I have only met TWO people who said they have their dream jobs. And the second person I only met this week!! Worse, I only met the first person this time last year!!

Clearly I don't have experience in giving employment advice but I will do my best.

It seems to me that the ideal job will be something you like to do which people will pay you for. Being good at it is also a huge bonus. For many of us, that would be watching TV, gossiping and surfing the net but we don't get paid for it. I don't even know how to watch TV because I can't turn on the TV in any of my homes. But I can do it easily in hotels.

Gossiping will be a good job--look at Liz Smith, Perez Hilton and Richard Johnson who have made careers out of it---but not many can do it well and profitably (Like I'm afraid Perez Hilton's incoming is not enough to cover his outgoing legal costs).

However, for us mere career mortals, what to do?

For some reason this week, I discussed careers with one too many people in different cities that I felt I was running a regional recruitment agency. These discussions made me look back at my own career and in retrospect, I did hold my dream jobs only at that time I didn't know it.

I always wanted to work in the fashion business and at the start, I was bent on being a merchandiser or designer. But when a boy named Marc Jacobs in the classroom next to yours gets a job at Charivari and your teacher says that buyers at Saks are never going to leave, you lose hope.

It gets worse when you get closed out of all the design classes you wanted except a garment production class held in a dark room filled with unglamorous sewing and cutting machines. Your classmates are other losers who couldn't get into the glamorous courses.

Your teacher happened to be the production manager of then-famous denim company, Marithe et Francois Girbaud. And she said ONE THING that completely changed your view of fashion and changed the course of your career. "I know many of you are here and disappointed that you have been closed out of design classes. Little do people know that if you go into production you will start at more money and do just as much travel as any designer. The only difference is that you will spend more time in factories."

Money? Travel? I'M FUCKIN' THERE!! You could have told me I was going to become a prositute and I'd still have been first in line!!

"You may not know this," she continued, "But as a production manager you can make as much money and do as much traveling in the same way as a designer. Same hotels, same class of travel and the reason for this is financial responsibility. Production is very important to any company because it is where money is generated. And lost. It is also a direct line to owners."

I found this to be true in my first job in the Los Angeles garment industry. And there was no other department in a garment company that was more important to the owners than production. Sales reports come out everyday but daily discussions usually happen only during market weeks when majority of the sales are done. In most companies, wherever you are or the boss is in the world, you have to discuss numbers, total shipped units and 'cuts' at the end of EVERY SINGLE DAY. I think the Hollywood equivalent are rushes.

But it wasn't easy to get there. I finished school at about the time financial turmoil hit Wall Street in the famous Black Monday of October 1987 so jobs were not exactly falling onto my lap while I sat at my desk dreaming about a job.

I had to look and even when I found my first job, selling shoes at Joan and David in Beverly Hills, it wasn't exactly my dream job although many movie stars came through the store.

But it was a job and better than nothing. This is where lack of pride served me well. I was so desperate, I took anything!! (Which I think is a good thing)

However, if you harbour the dream, sometimes the tooth fairy arrives in the form of a regular customer who asked me, "What do you really want to do with your life? Surely not just selling shoes...."

I told her and the following week was my interview with the head of patterns at Carole Little, then a very big sportswear label. It wasn't exactly my dream job but it was a foot in the door that would open to many dream jobs to come.

But I realized that only now, in retrospect.

I had the money, the travel, the positions (which I worked up from) and the jobs that I really enjoyed with respected Southern California labels. It also helped that they were not very expensive labels as I believe (even if I am a snob at heart) great clothes and fashion should be accessible to everyone. There is a huge difference in quality and service between cheap and expensive goods but everyone should be able to dress well on a budget. As Karl said, "It doesn't matter if an HnM jacket falls apart but if a Chanel jacket falls apart, it's a crime!"

(Today I only wear French labels--except for Fendi-- but there was I time, when I was working in LA that I only wore American because I worked for Americans)

But enough about me. I want to tell you about the only two people I know who have their dream jobs. One similarity they have is that they love the products they sell but they also happen to work for leading names in their respective industries. (Okay, hint: one works for a bank whose stock went down to 1 USD but didn't they all?) The 'names' don't have to be particularly big(although the bank is) but it has to be a brand that has a good reputation both to insiders and end consumers. That always helps and that makes selling particularly easier.

If you ask someone working in their dream job what they like about it, they will usually tell you it's the product or "I like thinking of ideas for clients," but (and there's always a but) they will always say, "BUT... I don't like the admin work or the politics."

Don't we all?? In fact, if you think about it, what REALLY makes you hate your job is the admin and/or the politics. In short, the people!!! They always drive you crazy!! (Which has always been my problem and this is why I think zoo keepers, vets and museum specialists REALLY love their jobs because you are either working with animals who never talk back and are only too happy to be fed, dead people or animals or artifacts that tell a story without speaking)

There is also the subject of determination. This week, I was talking to a friend about how the standards of media staff in (fill in developed Asian country) are so low that they accept mediocre applicants from (fill in Third World English speaking country).

The reply? "They got their jobs not really from ability but sheer determination."

My advice:

A) 1/3 desperation + 2/3 determination = dream job (of course, you will have to identify this for yourself!)

B) As much as I advise you to 'take anything', that only applies for entry level or wanting a change. At all other levels, ALWAYS DO IT FOR MONEY!! Never for love. Not ever. Although I know some success stories, it's the riskiest thing. I would never advise it.

My next entry will be on a far more easier topic---dressing for a tropical wedding.


Ariana said...

I just want you to know - I super love you! Your posts are funny and real. I love your self-deprecating humor. Keep it real!

h said...

Hi! This is my favorite post!!!

Would you say that in this current crisis, it's like back to "entry level" right now, considering that everyone's trying to get into the few roles open?

Thank you for sharing this and keep writing!

dindin said...

do you have esp? i've been seriously thinking of quitting my job because of the PEOPLE!!! and you hit the nail on the head when you said next time, DO IT FOR THE MONEY! korek ka talaga! great, great article, it affirms what took me ten long years to fully realize. *sigh* :(

Rosanna said...

thanks madame kitty.

all along i thought your life was a bed of roses. didnt realize you had to endure pain to be able to be where you are now. ill take note of that. i appreciate this article. your best so far.

from the mundane to the high brow, you can say your piece effortlessly...i really look up to you. if i can only get 1/10 of your wit, i'd be really lucky!



Rosanna said...

THANKS again. i hope to land my dream job soon. i'll message you if ever. if that happens, i promise to donate a portion of my first month salary to a charity under your name. your words never fail to impress me!

Anonymous said...

I love this entry!!!although i work as a sales rep for a call center industry(which pays for my travels,clothes and rent)i always wanted to start studying fashion photography...i don't have any complains being a call center agent but the worst part is seeing people and your "BOSSES" wearing the same outfit every week...telling you to dress professionally when they could think of wearing is a pair of leggings and cargo pants to work!!!