Are You Happy At Work? Follow Your Passion, Not The Paycheck

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In April of 2016, I was on the hunt for my first desk job, a real 9-5. At the time, I was working part-time both as a ramp agent/bagger for Piedmont/American Airlines at Sky Harbor airport, and as security at the Phoenix Convention Center while I attended class at Arizona State University downtown. I was on again with my then on-again-off-again girlfriend of three years. Between my two part-time jobs and school, it became increasingly more difficult for her and I to spend time with one another, and we both agreed that I should get a more standard full-time, 9-5 job for the sake of our relationship. More importantly, I felt like I wasn’t maximizing my potential.

Is Your Job Allowing You to Utilize the Valuable Skills That YOU Want to Utilize for a Living?

I was ready. As I’d mentioned earlier, I’d never had a full-time, civilian, 9-5 job. I’d joined the Air Force fresh out of high school at the wide-eyed age of 18 in 2008 as an F-15 aircraft mechanic , then got out of active duty and went National Guard in 2012, finishing up with the military completely in 2015. In early 2015, at the age of 25, I got my first ever civilian job at the airlines, and boy was I was excited about it! I got to work out in the good ol’ outdoors just like I did in the military, and the travel benefits were amazing. However, the honeymoon phase faded away after about the first 6 months. The work itself wasn’t difficult. In fact, it was cake. I’m young and physically fit, so loading bags with a partner into the aircraft wasn’t tough. After the flight took off, I had about a good 15-30 minutes to myself or to socialize in the break room before my next flight came in. Sometimes, I was tasked as commissary, stocking the aircraft with snacks and beverages while making sure other areas like the lavatories were also operable. It was easy, and it was fun to travel on the benefits with my girlfriend. Through all the perks of working there, I couldn’t help but feel that I was shorting myself in terms of what I was capable of.

In August 2015, I got out of the California National Guard and began my true civilian life. I was still working at Sky Harbor for the airline (I drove 4 1/2 hours to March ARB in Moreno Valley, CA from Phoenix once a month, so I’d been living in Phoenix while in the Guard), but I needed more money for travel, so I decided to take a job as security at the convention center. I felt that with my military background, getting a security job wouldn’t be too difficult despite my lack of civilian work experience, plus I felt it was a gateway to finally being able to use a valuable skill set I covet in myself: working with people and solving problems. Yes, I did mostly patrols around my designated zones, but I also got to really interact with customers at my workplace for the first time. I got to greet people, make small talk, and help people find their meeting rooms and event locations. This was the kind of interaction and work I was craving!

I worked both of these jobs for a grand total of 50+ hours, 6 days a week, having only Saturdays off. I did this for about 8 months before realizing this schedule and lifestyle wasn’t good for my health and my relationship. At this point, I’d had to quit my passion of weightlifting/bodybuilding to split what little time I had wisely between my two jobs, school, and my girlfriend. I looked more into attending ASU Online full-time to look for a full-time customer service related job to get more into a realistic rhythm where I can actually live. In April 2016, I moved on from my security job and got a job as a call center customer service representative for the debt relief company Freedom Debt Relief, a branch of Freedom Financial Network. I worked out a deal with a co-worker of mine at the airlines to take half of my shifts so I can work this full-time job as well as keep my part-time job there. It was everything I’d ever dreamed of in terms of a plush desk job. I had my own cubicle, I could hang my own pictures, customize my desk, wear a button-up and tie with dress shoes to work (I’ve always wanted to work a job that required a professional look), I got to talk to people on a regular and help solve their problems, and I was out of the elements and in air conditioning or heat. It also paid the most I’d ever been paid in any job. I was finally on that path to that comfortable 9-5 life and time with my baby.

Wait. Is this really what I want as a career and in life?

Don’t Stop Searching Until You are Happy With What You Do

All three of my civilian jobs, as well as my time in the military, had one thing in common: in each of these jobs, I experienced an incompetent superior who should not be in the position they’re in. Whether they just couldn’t handle the task they were given,  can’t properly lead and interact with people, shady in their work, or even simply a victim of too many wedgies in high school and want to take advantage of their current position of power now, I’d run into enough incompetence from superiors where I’d just grew tired of it. I’m a very professional and courteous man. I also understand and respect authority and a chain of command, but that doesn’t mean I like to sit around and accept systems that are broken and need fixing. In most of the cases where I had interactions from those incompetent bosses regarding concerns or solutions, I was met with a know-your-role kind of attitude. Sometimes it was subtle, and sometimes it was basically said to my face for via email. Either way, I didn’t like it, and I was tired of it.

It didn’t help matters that I didn’t enjoy the type of work I was doing at Freedom Debt Relief. Ironically, it was actually the best company I’ve ever worked for so far. Our upper management really took care of us, kept morale high, and valued our opinions and work, and the atmosphere in the office was positive and exuberant. Bu there was a reason they had to keep their employees so upbeat: the phone calls with the clients. When I first joined the company, part of my excitement and appeal was being the empathetic ear and being the one directly helping people with their problems, but what I received on the line too many times was an angry ear full from someone getting ready to be sued by one of their creditors while we waited for our negotiators to reach a settlement on the card for them. I was just front line customer service and simply didn’t have the answers they were looking for. Not the right answer sometimes anyways. I was just tired of trying to answer for mistakes or hold-ups that I had no control over (most of the time the mistakes or hold-ups came from other departments who, by company policy, cannot speak directly to the clients), then getting yelled at for it. Quite honestly, it hurt. I wanted to help people, but this was not the way I’d envisioned helping people. I almost felt like most of the time, I really wasn’t helping, and the few instances where I was helping, it was because I had to side-step typical procedures and protocol, and go above and beyond for them . This was not the experience with customers and people that I was looking for.

That year at the end of 2016, I’d come to realize that at the age of 26, I’ve experienced enough in my life to know how to lead, and that it was time for me to be my own boss, on my own time, on my own dime, and answer to my own work. In late December of that same year, I left my job at Freedom Debt Relief. The month prior, I had enrolled myself into the Institute of Integrative Nutrition program to work toward starting a health coaching business, and my mother had just landed a nice government job in Tacoma, Washington. Leading up to my decision to enroll, I’d discovered about myself that my passion lies in holistic health, where I’m helping people by preventing illnesses, while also helping them become the best version of themselves that they can be. I don’t like to complain without taking action to what I’m complaining about, and I know that I also simply want to be my own boss on my own schedule, something I can do in a self-started business. This, this, was where I knew my heart was, and the direction i knew I needed to go. I saved up about two pay cycle’s worth of paychecks from Freedom Debt Relief, and then I left for Tacoma with my family to pursue my true career calling.

It wasn’t long before I was able to find temporary work to get the bills paid while I began my work as a Holistic Health Coach. I was happier more in that first month in Washington, and being in an environment that suits my nature, than I ever was working in that plush 9-5, steady-paycheck, full-time job working at Freedom Debt Relief. Sometimes you can try and put all the science you want into why you should stray off of your projected, comfortable course in life, when sometimes, you simply won’t find the factual answer to it. What you need to know and understand though, is that that gut feeling you get that either tells you you’re safe or not safe, content or not content, or happy or not happy? Yea that’s your instincts. It’s part of what makes us connected to other life, and our universe. Don’t try and drown out those instinctual, gut feelings.We as human beings developed them for a reason. Listen to it and embrace what it’s telling you, because chances are, it’s right. If you feel that you are not spending your time at work fulfilling a passion, doing what you love to do, or simply just not happy at work in general for whatever reason, listen to your gut. It may be time for change.

© 2017 Anthony J. Richard All Rights Reserved

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