Wish me luck…

…just do a better job with the wishing than this, okay?

decorated cake, rainbow-colored, bearing the words You Are Tolerable

From Cake Wrecks, one of my favorite non-lolcat sites.

I have a job interview today! Alas, I’m not quite as published as John yet, and thus not quite able to become a full time writer — although I don’t think I’d want to, even if I had the financial wherewithal. I tried the full time writer life for a few months after I got my book deal, and discovered that it was surprisingly boring to sit at home and write all day. Inorite? Not at all what I expected, back when I was an unpublished writer dreaming of making a career out of my imagination. But really, “boring” is an incomplete description of the problem. I’m not a raging extravert — I’m almost 50/50 on the E/I scale of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, with a slight leaning towards introversion. But you know what my favorite thing to do is? Teach. Teaching is considered a hardcore “extravert” activity, but I absolutely love standing in front of a group of people and helping them understand some complex subject. Since I’m a career counselor in my day job life, I’m usually teaching concepts like work-life balance — and for me, and my balance, I need to have some meaningful work other than writing. Specifically, I need to be helping people, making some real, substantive difference in the lives of others, in order for my fiction to feel meaningful to me. Plus, paying the rent on time is kind of nice.

So while I may make concessions to my writing life — this job is part-time, for example, to allow enough time for writing; and I may try the full-time writing thing again at some point in the future if deadlines demand it — I don’t think I’ll ever fully give up my day-job life. I just like it too much.

So here are your fru-fru touchy-feely questions for today: what is it that makes you feel most fulfilled? Do you have it, or not? I’m going for mine; how are you gonna get yours?

About nkjemisin

Speculative fiction author in NYC. Likes fine wine, video games, jazz, anime/manga/doujinshi, gardening, travel, nonwestern mythology, and books. Lots and lots of books. And chocolate. (Wow, can't believe I almost forgot that one. That was important.)

37 thoughts on “Wish me luck…

  1. I’m most fulfilled when I’ve solved a problem for somebody. That’s a major reason why I became a design engineer. I like making things that help people. It’s not that I want to help them directly – I don’t like people all that much, frankly (I’m pretty firmly in the “I” camp) – but I like to be the one who made it possible for them to help themselves.

    Last year when I was laid off they sent me to a career counselor. (You should come to Rochester – lots of work for career counselors here, sadly, but the rents are way cheap and it’s six hours closer to Toronto.) I took the Meyers-Briggs and some other tests, and they all confirmed that engineering is pretty much what I should be doing. But they also suggested two other careers that I might like: security services and writing. So on the side I’m trying my hand at military SF. That’s also why I hang out at Whatever. (It’s also why I wish we could coax John into writing another Old Man’s War novel.)

  2. Talking about or teaching science. I’ve seen it said, when you’re in love, you want to tell the world, and I love astronomy. The research is pretty sweet, but it’s better when I get to explain to people how sweet it is. That and I like feedback from others.

  3. Two things… Solving problems and being creative. I’m a programmer, so I get to indulge both.

    I also play around with a camera on a regular basis, which helps satisfy the being creative part even more, although I’m not very good at it so I end up just creating more problems instead of solving them… :-)

    Oh, and one other: Being a dad. That one’s taken care of too.

    So basically: Yeah, I’ve got what I want out of life. And I’m incredibly pleased about it, and try never to take it for granted.

  4. Break a leg!

    I feel most fulfilled when I have helped solve a problem, and then get to go hike to the top of a mountain with no one else around. Either of those things by themselves is great, but getting to do them in sequence – priceless.

    I suppose that’s my own I/E balance coming out.

  5. A) Good luck

    B) There’s the rub. I, myself, am almost completely unfufilled by what I presently call my day job (it’s gotten somewhat better lately, but once the current project I’m on expires, it’ll go back to unfulfilling again). Writing, on the other hand, gives me a huge jolt of satisfaction when I’m working on it. As an unpublished author, however, I have to focus my time, currently, on things that pay money, no matter how fulfilling/unfulfilling they are.

  6. Good luck. I’m sure you’ll nail the interview!

    As for what makes me feel fulfilled, hmmm… that’s a tough one. Finish a story definitely feels that way, helping someone at work with a difficult problem does as well but not as much. I think I feel most fulfilled after a kendo class. I dunno, but getting to whack people upside the head for an hour or two is very satisfying.

  7. I’m with you–if I had the choice (and wouldn’t that be nice), I think I’d choose to keep my day job.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to discover a lot of activities I love and find fulfilling–writing’s one of them, and a big one, but I’d be really sad if it was the only one I had the opportunity to do.

    Aside from giving me a chance to do some of the other things I love, my day job also gives me an opportunity to be of service and make the world a better place, which is a big draw. And the benefits package–well, let’s just say that my writing would have to be netting me a lot more than my current salary for the scales to come out even there.

    If I were ever lucky enough to get to where my day job was actually costing me money–as in, leaving it would increase my writing income by more than I’d lose in salary and benefits–I’d probably need to sit down and consider how much my day job is worth to me in monetary terms. But I would have to think about it.

  8. Luck!

    I’m kinda similar to you, in that I’m really an introvert, but I love helping people accomplish things. I’m not the teacher type, but I *did* study theatre and performance in college, of all things. Mostly, it taught me a lot about storytelling and getting inside the head of characters who aren’t at all like me, which helped a lot with my writing.

    My day job is as an executive assistant for a non-profit org. I guess that sort of sums it up, as I’m actually happy there. I get to help people without being the leader on anything in particular (and without having to chair committees or all that stuff). I did try doing the full-time writer thing for a couple of months, but ended up taking temp work periodically, because a) I was bored of the scenery of my house which doesn’t make for inspired works b) my husband, who was still job hunting was driving me crazy and c) I needed the money. ;-)

  9. I am a potter and a painter, but alas that career path is not conductive to another thing I want in my life – money :p Well, not so much money but being able to afford a nice home, good food, plenty of books, and a big trip once a year, etc.

    So I work as an office drone, and try squeeze in some art when I can.

    I need to win the lottery…. :-/

  10. 1) Good luck.

    2) Like you, I am 50/50 on the E/I scale. I have found I need to be around people to feel fulfilled, but also need to NOT be around people (usually by reading a book) to also feel fulfilled.

    I am one of those rare individuals who is largely happy, and fulfilled with my work. My day job is finish retouching for the entertainment industry, or as I like to say, my job is to make good people go to bad movies. The work is demanding and hectic, but I am very good at it, and enjoy it immensely. I also seem to be improving, getting better at both Photoshop (after 16 years) and as a professional.

    My biggest problem is that there are not many older people in my industry. Its a young person’s game. I can count the number of people I know who are over 60, on one hand. And this is in a field with 1500 or more workers. Even the most optimistic person would look at this and say, “humm, I don’t think the odds are very good I’ll retire doing what I love.”

    So now I am also learning to write, which might offer me a way to work into old age, and still make some income.

    The problem with writing, as you stated, is that there’s no one around but yourself. I find being involved in an online community (not this one so much, but another) is a big benefit. Another thing I’ve learned to to use public transportation to get to work. (On the bus you’ll find a captive audience of fellow travelers, and more “interesting characters” than you can shake a stick at. I have a special category on my blog just for such encounters, they are so frequent.) I also teach at the local community college.

    So all of these things help to sublimate my need for people. Books, especially sci-fi, tends to sublimate my need to NOT be around people. Is it perfect? No. But perfection is not in the cards anyway.

    One last point. One of the better things about being creative is that one can use that creativity to tackle problems in their own lives. It’s fun to find a creative way to move your protagonist out of a deep dark hole you placed them in, but it fulfilling to do the same thing for yourself. You probably know this, but other may not. There’s a book called “Creating a Life Worth Living” by Carol Lloyd, about this premise, that one can use their own creativity to create their life. I have found the ideas in this book to be a godsend.

    My apologies if this sounds like a hard sell.

  11. I am a massive introvert (who has had extrovert training, and can fake it well now), but I’ve never understood the “teaching = extrovert” thing. Yes, there’s a lot of people, and yes, you need to have the interaction, but it’s your show, and things go your way (to some extent, at least). So I have done both one-on-one tutorials (which I love), and 20, 30-people university tutorials, and the odd 100-person lecture; I’ve never felt “peopled out” from any of them.

    Public school – not so much, I’m sure.

    One odd point, however: my school was heavily into public speaking – we had one week every year dedicated to it, in addition to whenever it came up. So I’ve never had a problem with public speaking, if I’m talking about something I know. Private speaking (say at parties, interviews, networking sessions, parties, bars, parties, or parties) – that’s another issue altogether.

  12. My job is also in education- academic advising at the university level, and I love it. I fell into the job accidentally, having returned to school to major in information systems- the ‘hot job’ of the ’90’s, and started helping out with new student orientation. (I know, your career counselor soul is wincing at the thought of my going for the hot career field. Now that I know more, so is mine)

    I love working with students, but need that alone time at the end of the day to recharge the batteries.

  13. I’m another person who would consider themselves introvert and yet as a museum curator talking about our past and sharing my enthusiasm is what drives me on a daily basis.

  14. Two months from now I will be RETIRED! Hallelujah! So, ask me then.

    Best of luck with the interview. A job that suits you is a treasure.

  15. Good luck!

    I also like teaching; but right now I’m looking to build myself the terminal career. I’d like to be a consultant in brain-based learning systems/advising. It looks like the path to that may lead through an Interpersonal Neurobiology certificate, and then possibly to a doctorate in psychology.

    In my 50s. Yikes. Still, doable, I’d say, especially since I would like to be working up into my 70s (if I could do it in this and in writing). Maybe even still working into my 80s. All depends.

  16. I hear you. I have a masters in fine art, always thought I’d be “an artist”. You know, painting, drawing, having one-man shows in prestigious galleries and making serious bucks. Or not, but for sure painting and drawing.

    So I end up with a 35 year career in social work. Helping people. Really frustrating at times, of course, but I like to think they were better off because of my help and the work I did on their behalf.

    Now I’m retired. What do I do? Read, write, review, blog. There’s not a paintbrush in the house…

  17. Good luck!

    As for being fulfilled….well heck. With my personality what else am I going to do but be a lawyer? As my wiser daughter says, “It’s a good thing you decided not to be a doctor, Mom. You’d be House.”

  18. I’m a high-end computer systems person – a bit of a sysadmin, a bit of a systems programmer, a bit of an architect. What floats my boat is three-fold, with one short-term, one mid-term, and one long-term:

    Short term: Fixing something that’s broke. If I go home without having fixed anything, it’s been a really bad day.

    Mid-term: Automating something. Every day I or my co-workers waste our time doing something that should have been automated. It may take 10x or 100x as long to automate than to do it manually, but after 100 days, you’ve saved the time back. Funny thing, the longer I work in a position, the more effective I get. That generates time for the next joy, which is:

    Long-term: Cleaning up a mess. If there’s a pile of neglected crap that everyone hates but nobody is brave enough to dive into and rebuild, I’m the guy. Over time I’ll tear it apart, figure out how all the pieces work, fix what’s broke, eliminate what’s unfinished, and automate it.

    If only I could apply these principles to my basement, my wife would be a much happier woman.

  19. Good Luck!

    I am most fulfilled at the job I have had for nearly 10 years. Working at a bookstore. I talk to people about books! People come to me and ask me what books to read, and usually I can give them more than a few suggestions. The best part is when they ask specifically for me when they come in the store.

    On the top of the suggestion list are John’s OMW, Makers by Cory Doctorow, and Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

    On the top of my reading list are anything by H. Beam Piper I can find (most are out of print) and Snoop by Mary Roach. I just finished Mockingjay the 3rd in the Hunger Games.

  20. Good luck!

    Oh dear, when my team at work had our Myers-Briggs assessments done, the lady who gave the test said I was probably the most ‘full-on E’ she’d ever met. I’m not sure if that was good or bad, because she just sort of shook her head…

    I work in the infrastructure space in IT – I’m part system admin, part software engineer, part glorified babysitter. Most of my coworkers have no idea how to communicate with the rest of the human race, so I’m sort of the spokesperson for my team. I also am the only woman on the team, which complicates things a bit sometimes. It’s not uncommon for me to be on a conference call with 50 people from 10 different countries and be the only female in the bunch. I also take over most of those calls and just run them myself, because it’s far too easy for it to get away from problem solving and become either butt-kissing or finger-pointing.

    I admit that I love the customer-facing stuff I do. There’s something very satisfying about solving problems, cutting through corporate bullsh*t and having everyone be amazed at my fabulousness. It sort of takes away from the rest of my behind the scenes work, though, which gives me less time for actual work-work. I’ve thought about going into consulting, which might suit me better. But for now, I am content.

  21. Good Luck! May the job be right for you, and may you be right for it!

    As to teaching and the Myers/Briggs thing – I’m a strong introvert and a teacher/corporate trainer these days, when I’m not writing.

    Teaching suits me precisely because of the effect of large groups of people on the introverts. Extroverts are energised by social contact, whereas introverts are enervated by it. But we (INTX) also love ideas, sharing theories and playing with language. And teaching means, for me anyhow:

    Step 1. Prepare interesting material and do lots of fascinating research.
    Step 2. Deliver the results, and see the ideas develop in a whole bunch of minds. Bounce ideas about.
    Step 3. Go somewhere quiet and have time to myself for a while, to re-energise.

    I need recovery time, where I can read with my iPod providing the soundtrack, but I still love my job. And it’s lucrative enough, mostly, that I don’t have to work full time. So I can write.

  22. I enjoy problem solving and learning new things. I’m a systems admin. Right now my job is heavy on the learning new things side as we’ve just implemented several new systems. But I also enjoy knitting, crocheting, and making things with beads.

    RE: the Meyer’s Briggs assessment –A friend who majored in sociology tells me there is no scientific basis for it. However, there is a particular type of introvert in the assessment (INFP I think) that is well suited to being a teacher.

  23. K.W. @24: true, though I think they were alluding to the bedside manner (or complete absence thereof)….

  24. See, I’m the complete opposite. I’m hoping to start making money form my writing soon so I can quit my day job and stay home writing full time. But then I’m quite shy and introverted.

    Good luck!

  25. Good luck! And may the wind be at your back, and inspires words in your mouth.

    I’m most fulfilled starting up new programs for organizations, and designing solutions for groups of people. Creating training programs is great fun—although not doing the training per se. I’m too introverted to really enjoy that.

  26. Few things in life are as satisfying as teaching someone who wants to learn the material.

    My fru-fru touchy-feely question for the day is, how much does counseling on work-life balance actually help when you’re counseling the individual and not the person who’s setting up the system?

    (Obviously it does help some: the person you counsel today may be in upper management tomorrow, they may share ideas with others, and when they understand their own needs for balance they can do a better job deciding which jobs to reject. My concerns, though, are that most of us I know who have that problem feel like we’re forced into it by corporate expectations.)

  27. Stephen @6 and others who are feeling unfulfilled,

    ::puts on counselor hat::

    I do recommend meeting with a career counselor — not necessarily me! — just to have a conversation about your career and finding ways to become happier with it. Doesn’t necessarily mean you need to leave your job (in this economy, I recommend that only as a last resort); it may be possible to shift positions within your company, or simply have a conversation with your boss about getting work that’s more interesting. A counselor can talk with you about whether, and how, to have that conversation.

    Most colleges and universities have career counseling offices, and alumni can usually visit/call them to speak with a counselor for free (though not all services are available to alums — priority is usually focused on new graduates). Though it might also be helpful to hire a private counselor — there are some who are specialized towards working with specific industries (e.g., high tech), and those can actually refer you to possible jobs, or help you network.

  28. Adelheid @25 and others, re the MBTI,

    It depends on what you mean by scientific basis. The MBTI was normed on college students, unless they’ve changed that lately, so you do have to keep that in mind — no one’s sure how good a job it does of measuring people who never went to college, or people who vary from the college-student demographics (e.g., mostly middle-class or upper-class, mostly white, etc.). And it has other problems. That said, it’s generally considered reliable and valid (statistically speaking) in that it measures what it says it will measure, does so consistently, and usually gets the same results from people who take it more than once. (Unless they take it several years later; people’s personalities change.)

    I always hate that personality tests are called “tests”. That implies you can fail! And it gives people the wrong impression — that there’s something definitive or “correct/incorrect” that can be taken from them. It’s best to think of them as an analysis, sort of. They can help you understand yourself better, which may help you make decisions better.

  29. Dichronic @ 31,

    What system do you mean? The American workplace in general? Or an individual workplace that’s got a dysfunctional or harmful environment?

    Most counselors focus on the latter, since the former is a little beyond our scope. :) But the former is part of the equation, and is something all of us should consider trying to change. Different countries have different work philosophies — in Japan, for example, junior company employees don’t leave until the boss does. I stayed with a family in Italy once; both adults routinely worked 12-hour days (went in when they wanted, stayed as long as they wanted), but took a 2-3 hour siesta in the middle to come home and have lunch with the fam. So it’s clear to me that the way we work isn’t the way we have to work.

    But as for the latter — work-life balance is a personal equation, not a systemic one. There are some people who thrive in chaotic, badly-managed environments; I don’t get it either, but they’d be miserable in a workplace that ran smoothly or allowed its workers to dictate their own hours. I’ve had clients who loved working 80-hour weeks and having no life beyond that. So to answer your question, focusing on the individual is really the only way work-life balance counseling can be done.

  30. Like a lot of the above comments, I really get a buzz out of both solving problems and helping people.

    Given I also like using computers, Tech Support for an ISP has worked out pretty well for me. (It helps that the vast majority of our customers are polite and pleasant, too.)

    I hope the interview went well, and that you get the results you are wanting from it.

  31. #nkjemisin “That said, it’s generally considered reliable and valid (statistically speaking)”

    Cool. Someone who went to school, and learned about instruments, inventories and such. Good for you. I don’t think most people understand that the major instruments out there have a LOT of math underpinning their value.

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