Land your dream job: How to find work that brings both joy and money

Do What You Love, the Money Will FollowIn 1987, Marsha Sinetar published Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow, a popular book about finding your dream job based on your passions. She urged readers to "follow their own hearts to the work of their dreams".

Sinetar is a proponent of what she calls Right Livelihood: Doing your best at what you do best.

"Each of us, no matter how ordinary we consider our talents, wants and needs to use them. Right Livelihood is the natural expression of this need," she wrote. "When we consciously choose to do work we enjoy, not only can we get things done, we can get them done well and be intrinsically rewarded for the effort. Money and security cease to be our only payments."

"Do what you love" sounds like a great idea -- who wouldn't want a dream job that was both fun and paid the bills? -- but as many people have pointed out over the past thirty years, it's generally poor career advice. When folks cling to the belief that they'll have no trouble if they do what they love, they run the risk of not being able to make ends meet.

One obvious problem is that not everything you enjoy doing can generate a reliable source of income. I like videogames, for instance, but I'll never make big bucks playing Hearthstone. It'd be foolish to try.

A few years ago, career columnist Penelope Trunk put it this way: "I am a writer, but I love sex more than I love writing...I don’t sit up at night thinking, should I do writing or sex? Because career decisions are not decisions about 'what do I love most?'"

There's another problem that's seldom mentioned. When people do manage to find what they think is their dream job, to make a career out of what they love, they frequently lose enthusiasm for the very thing they once valued. I've experienced this first-hand.

When I started Get Rich Slowly in 2006, I was working as a salesman for the family box factory. I didn't like my day job, so blogging was a fun escape. Eventually, I made enough from blogging that I could quit my job selling boxes to write full time. I was going to do what I loved! Awesome, right? In many ways, it was awesome -- but it also quickly became a curse. Writing went from a fun escape to a tedious chore, a slog instead of a joy. (That's one reason I sold this site in 2009.) When I repurchased the site last fall, I thought long and hard about how to avoid falling into that trap once again. (So far, so good!)

Having said all that, I don't think it's bad to seek your dream job. In fact, I believe it's a worthwhile goal -- as long as you have realistic expectations (and can be patient). The challenge is to juggle what you're good at, what you enjoy, and what people will pay you to do.

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Five steps to make more money while growing your career

You've heard it a million times before: To build wealth, you have to spend less than you earn. It's a great piece of advice -- one of my favorites, actually. Too often, however, people take this to mean simply "control your spending".

While your spending is certainly part of the equation, there's an equally-important component: your earning.

Here's what I think a lot of people miss: It's easier to spend less than you earn when you earn more. It's also easier to reach your financial goals. From my experience, the best way for most people to earn more is to grow their careers. Today I want to show you five ways to grow your career so that you make more money and enjoy greater job satisfaction.

The Case for Career Growth

Unemployment punI know, I can hear the collective groan.

For myriad reasons, many people dislike advice about growing their careers. It's probably because so many hate their jobs.

I get it. I've been there myself.

But I also understand that there's a paradox between hating a career and achieving your money goals. If you hate your job so much that you don't want to focus one extra second on it, you will actually prolong the time you need to work -- the very thing you hate so much!

Instead, if you put a bit of time and effort into growing your career, you'll end up making millions more (literally), hitting your financial goals earlier, and (very likely) enjoying your career more.

If I were able to give you a few, simple, easy-to-implement tips to help you achieve this, would you be interested?

How Can I be so Sure?

Before we get to the tips, let's address the elephant in the room: How can you be sure that the Bozo writing this piece can actually deliver?

In all honesty, you can't. But I do have a few accomplishments that might give you some confidence:

  • Personal experience. I was able to grow my income by 8.16% per year throughout my career. Obviously people have done much better than this, but 8%+ isn't too shabby over almost 30 years. If you don't believe what a huge impact this can make, pick a starting salary and increase it by 8% each year for 28 years.
  • Corporate experience. In addition to managing my own career, I saw countless colleagues and subordinates managing (or, mostly, not managing) theirs. I eventually became the president of a $100 million company, supervising the careers of hundreds of people. So along the way I learned a bit about growing your career, how to get ahead, and how companies view employees.
  • Education. There are thousands of books (and millions of web pages) about career management. I've read many of them and tried a variety of techniques. I will say that most of them are virtually worthless, but there are some nuggets of wisdom that I've applied and learned from.
  • Millionaires do it. I've interviewed over 30 millionaires (and more on the way.) Almost every one of them has developed a high income by applying the skills below which have accounted for a large part of their success.

The good news is that you can do even better than I did. It took me decades to come up with the tips I'm about to share. Most of them were discovered in the school of hard knocks by trial and error. You can cut out the pain of failure and get right to doing what counts.

You can also skip the thousands of tips you might gather from here and there. Simply apply the five steps below and you'll get most of the impact for a fraction of the work.

With that said, here are the five tips you can use in 2018 to grow your career...

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Performance reviews and asking for a raise

More and more, companies are dispensing with traditional annual employee reviews. They say this is out of sensitivity to a new generation of employees who find reviews stressful. The real reason may be that dispensing with employee reviews saves companies money -- albeit at the expense of their employees.

Microsoft and Dell are among the high-profile companies that have made news recently by dumping annual employee reviews, and Silicon Valley has long turned its nose up at such traditional means of measuring performance and managing people. For many employees, the initial reaction is relief, but they would be wise to look closer. Without that annual review process, they could find that opportunities to get a raise are fewer and more difficult to obtain.

Young woman asking for a raise

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

As much as you may view a formal review as resembling an interrogation scene out of George Orwell's "1984," it should work to your benefit -- both financially and in terms of feeling more connected to your workplace.

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4 things to do before you ask for a raise

It's the most wonderful time of the year -- no, not the holidays -- performance-review season at work! Now is when many employers evaluate their employees' contributions to the organization's mission and bottom line, and then make decisions about raises, bonuses, and promotions accordingly. So it's a great time to ask for a raise.

But if you aren't able to make a good case for yourself, then you might find that not only is your career becoming stagnant but also that you could be first on the chopping block in the event of corporate (or wider) economic misfortune. Assuming you don't want to be considered disposable in the eyes of your employer, here are some tactics and strategies to implement before you ask for a raise. They might just help increase your chances of success.

1. Use your initial job interview to set the stage.

Remember how nobody cares about your money more than you do? Well, nobody cares about your career more than you do, either. In fact, in many ways your career and your money are arguably the same thing.

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Best side jobs for extra cash

Photo illustration showing one of the best side jobs for extra cash photography

Who doesn't want a little extra money each month? The best side jobs or "side hustles" are popular ways to earn cash quickly, but it's also a fact of everyday life for many Americans now. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6.1 million U.S. workers are "involuntary part-time workers" or those who would prefer full-time employment but can't because their hours have been cut or they can't find full-time employment.

To find the best side jobs you need to be armed with enough information to avoid scams but also a sense of whether its a match for your particular skills and situation. For example, if you have small children and care is either unavailable or prohibitively expensive, things you can do from home in the off hours (nap-time, evening) is essential. To help, we've researched gigs that offer flexible hours, a reasonably simple way to get started, and what appears to be a fair wage. Our methodology is a subjective look into the benefits of each side job using the three factors we deemed most important:

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The secret to making extra money with eBay

Once upon a time, I decided it was high time I sell some of my stuff on eBay to make some extra cash. Since it was just after the holidays, I decided to get the ball rolling with a new shirt I had just received for Christmas.

Even though it was cute, the shirt fit a little small for my taste. And even worse, the store it was purchased from was out of state, which meant no returns. So, after taking some pictures and crafting a snazzy description, onto eBay it went. Priced at $6, the shirt sold right away.

Off to a Good Start, Until...

Unfortunately, the buyer later wrote to say the shirt had a hole in it and demanded a refund. I asked for a picture and, when they wouldn't produce one, denied their request for their money back.

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How to optimize your resume for employment gaps

Are you currently taking a hiatus from paid employment? Maybe you want to stay home with your kids until they're in school. Maybe you haven't been able to find another job after a layoff. Maybe you had some savings and took a mini-retirement. Or maybe you just wanted a break.

Self-imposed or not, taking a break from the paycheck can be scary.

You know what I find even scarier? Trying to re-enter the job market after a long hiatus.

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Hourly vs. salary: Which is better?


I had a conversation with a friend, we'll call him Joel, who had two job offers. One was a low-stress 9-to-5 gig but paid $10,000 less than the other offer, which would require longer hours and greater responsibility. He didn't like a lot of things about the higher paying position, but he accepted the offer because it was more in line with the salary at his last job.

In the months that followed, he was regularly putting in 12-hour days at the office and working Sundays. My guess is that it was at least 60 hours per week, and that's being conservative. His gut instinct was right — he wasn't enjoying the new job. Continue reading...

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How to cancel COBRA insurance

In a recent article, I described what COBRA insurance is and my experiences obtaining it. One of the biggest complaints I had about COBRA was the sign-up process. Signing up for COBRA insurance had to be initiated by my employer, and it was a paper process to boot. This meant there was a lag between when I signed up and when I received proof of insurance.

Unfortunately, after wading through the sign-up process, the rest of my experience with COBRA didn't get any easier. A paper bill was mailed to me each month and I was supposed to send in my check. I couldn't find cancellation instructions anywhere on the documentation I received, and it wasn't possible to initiate the cancellation process online either.

Billing Mismatch was Just the Beginning

As I stated in my previous article, I needed COBRA only for the period between April 15 and May 1, when my insurance at my new employer was set to kick in.

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What is COBRA insurance? (and other frequently asked questions)

Next week marks my two-month anniversary at my new job. Huzzah! In addition to celebrating my new, higher salary, I am also feeling simultaneously challenged and less stressed.

I feel challenged because my new job is in an entirely different industry than my former position. But I'm definitely less stressed because the performance expectations are reasonable and my colleagues are fun and friendly. I may even be celebrating a new coworker soon, since the friend who got me into SEO in the first place (and who was also one of my professional references for my current position) has applied for a job in my department.

Saving can Make a Job Transition Easier

While all of these are good things, one aspect of my job transition that was less than festive was the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) insurance process. Since one of the features of an improved economy is an increased willingness to switch jobs -- or even to leave a current job without having another lined up -- I thought I would share my experience with COBRA.

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