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Summary:

A job is that thing where you go to work in the morning, work in somebody’s office, report to a boss, leave by the end of the day, and get a regular paycheck. It’s that thing we’re supposed to get when we grow up, when we’re […]

A job is that thing where you go to work in the morning, work in somebody’s office, report to a boss, leave by the end of the day, and get a regular paycheck. It’s that thing we’re supposed to get when we grow up, when we’re done with school.

It’s also becoming more and more irrelevant.

Some of you web workers are already getting along fine without a job: you work from home, or can work from anyone (you bedouin, you!). But for those of you who aren’t there yet, and are either looking for a job or have one, consider not having one.

There are so many other options out there right now, with the rise of the web worker, the entrepreneur, the telecommuter, the freelancer, the blogger, the consultant, and more.


Why should you avoid a traditional job? Well, just a few of the many reasons:

  • Commuting to an office can be costly and wastes time.
  • Office politics.
  • Cubicles.
  • Your boss looking over your shoulder.
  • Meetings.
  • That monotonous co-worker.
  • The difficulties in getting a raise.
  • Having someone else determine your work schedule.
  • Having someone else determine your priorities.
  • Stifling your passion.
  • Those annoying co-workers.
  • Expensive lunches.
  • You’re making money for someone else.
  • Difficulty in taking naps.

I could go on and on, but you have limited time, so let’s cut to the chase: how do you avoid getting a job?

A few suggestions:

1. Know your talents. If you’re fresh out of college, you don’t have a lot of experience … but you probably have a lot of time and energy, and perhaps a lot of ideas. You might also have a lot of skills that you can market. If you’re not fresh out of college, you may have a lot of experience and skills you’ve learned on the job (and away from the job) that you can use. Remember that you don’t need to do what you’ve been doing — if you have other interests and passions, put those on your list too.

2. Cast a wide net. Whether you have a job or not, you can start looking. There are tons of job listings on the net — start with GigaOm Jobs. At least see what’s out there, and keep your mind open. You might find a job that you weren’t even looking for. And when I say “job”, I mean something with more options than an office.

3. Prepare marketing materials. I don’t just mean a resume. A business card (if you want to be self-employed), a blog or website are great ways, a brochure (on pdf that you can email), a work proposal. If you have these materials ready, you can take advantage of opportunities that come along.

4. Network. Without looking for anything specific, start meeting more people. Have your business card ready (at this point, it might only be your name, email, IM and blog url) and start spreading a buzz about yourself. Don’t oversell, but just put the word out that you’re new, you’re good, and you’re ready to hire yourself out. It’s also a good idea to just meet people, build relationships, get to know them, without selling. You might hear from them at a later point, but for now, you just want to build your network. The network will do the work for you.

5. Don’t settle for an office job. There’s a tendency to just find something, anything, for now. But once you settle for an office job, it will suck away all of your time and energy and it will be hard to find the time to get out of it. If possible, keep your eyes out for something with the flexibility you want.

6. Come up with a plan. What is it you really want? To telecommute? To be self-employed? To be able to travel while working, and live anywhere you want? Have a clear picture of your ideal life, and then make a plan to make it a reality.

7. Take action. Once you have a plan, take action today to start the ball rolling. If you plan to start your own business, take the first step today. Come up with a business plan, or a logo, or file the necessary papers. Find people to work with you, or start looking for clients. Don’t just dream — take action today!

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By Leo Babauta

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  1. Great encouragement. For me, these things were crucial in leaving my programming job of 15 years (and a geek career of 20!):

    o Get the fire – encountering something (or someone) that really captures your passion. For me, David Allen’s method did this. This requires being open to new things entering your life, and *listening* to yourself then one of them resonates.

    o Learning – One of the best reasons to stay with your job is for rapid education in something new. Get creative and make the new stuff someone fit with your responsibilities. Pump up your brain!

    o Practice – Start applying yourself to your new passion. I went 1/2 time to do this, but nights and weekends happen too. Work with others to get better at it – experience is a lot different from sitting in front of our monitors!

    o Network – This was huge, and – as a geek – something I’d totally forgotten (or never knew?) My social abilities had shriveled like a cadaver’s tiny curled claw :-) Read, practice, and let your personality come it – might require some self-(re)discovery… Starting tips at A geek “gets” networking: The strange magic of connecting with others

    Hopefully after some number of months you’ll realize you’re ready to make a switch – a different group, different company, or (as the post encourages) a job where you make all the decisions, take all the risks, but get all the rewards (personal and professional).

    It’s hard – in the US health insurance is a real disincentive, for one – but I will never turn back. Why? Well, when I was ready to quit, I was still in the mode of “where should I work next?” Nothing was leaping out (in fact, the prospects were frankly pathetic) and I thought, “What I really want to do is get paid for reading, thinking, writing, and creating experiences, maybe a corporate or scientific blogger.” Turns out I got that, but I had to work for myself to make it happen. One year and counting!

    Sorry for the long ramble – you hit a nerve.

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  2. Thank you for this. I am recently finished with grad school and stuck in a soul-sucking day job while I try to figure out how to make the leap to freelance work. I know I can be successful if I just have enough time to establish myself. How do you bridge that gap? Loans? Cash in your retirement account? Any other ideas?

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  3. P: For some people (myself included as of about a week ago) the easiest way to get into self-employment is to be laid off. It’s not the kind of thing that can be intentionally arranged, unfortunately, but it enables you to collect unemployment for a bit of a safety net while you establish your own business.

    Failing this, save up for it. Save enough to cover expenses for three to six months (and “expenses” really means the bare minimum of rent, utility bills, etc) and quit your job. Living off savings is scary but if you start picking up client work right away, even if it’s only one-off gigs from Craigslist at first, you’ll have some money coming in to cover the rest of what you need. If you’re disciplined (and good at what you do) you will hopefully have sufficient regular income before your safety net savings runs out.

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  4. I’d like to second the suggestion to resist temptation to take another office job. It’s common to successfully escape your job, gain perspective, and forget what made you want to start your own business in the first place … especially when your bank account begins to run dry. But hang in there. Temping, odd jobs, and unrelated freelance work are (in my mind) better than surrendering to the grind again! Eventually the “real” work starts to fall into place.

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  5. Thanks, Ken. Unfortunately, I’m unlikely to get laid off and even less likely to be able to save money on my current salary. And probably the only way I’m going to make more money is to move to another state or freelance out of state. The latter is my preference!

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  6. 5starsitebuilder Sunday, November 4, 2007

    Many people when they ask what do you do, if you say ”i work from home” they give you a strange look. The norm is for people to get up and go to work in the morning, 9-5 just like little robots. But is this really a life? and how much of us actually want this?

    I have done many jobs in the past and was never happy with any of them, I prefer to dance to my own tunes, work toward my own deadlines. This motivates me and I enjoy my work more and thus do a better job.
    My new job title is ” a bum” who loves his life,has time for his family and who has a more than average bank balance.

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  7. [...] Have Income and a Life, Not a Job – Some practical steps to have a non-traditional job. [...]

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  8. [...] as I was reading my RSS feeds at work, I noticed this article on WWD and I came to the realization as to that I really do want that life. I know it’s not [...]

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