Finding a Career You Love

About a year ago I read a scathing book titled Do What You Love and Other Lies.

The author excoriated this method of obtaining a job.

Her most famous analogy was that of individuals with PhDs who can’t get tenured positions at colleges and universities. They’re hired as adjunct professors making barely above the minimum wage. They’re forced to pay their own expenses to attend academic conferences.

We cannot ignore the reality that some jobs pay a dismal salary.

What is the remedy? Having a “side hustle”–a second source of income–is imperative when your primary job isn’t high-paying.

It’s better to have two jobs you love than one soul-sucking job.

The point is you should not hate your job as a matter of course. Continuing to show up to a job you hate you might be tempted to numb how you feel with food, street drugs or alcohol, or expensive vacations you can’t afford.

How might you figure out the kind of job or jobs that earn you a livable salary that you’re inherently happy to go to?

I created a method to do this which is predicated on promoting The Business of You.

The first step when you’re collecting SSI or SSDI or attending school is to create what I call an Action Grid: doing work in a variety of fields first. You can get experience in one field for three to five months then move on to another field for three to five months.

Here’s how:

Getting an internship or doing volunteer work in one field and then getting an internship or doing volunteer work in a second field and then a third field can help you narrow down the job or career you want to work at first.

Conducting an information interview with a person working at a job you’re considering doing is also a method for ruling out or verifying what you want to do.

This isn’t an interview for a job. You’re asking the person for advice on what they like and dislike about their job, what skills, traits, and experiences they have that benefit them on the job, and other salient questions.

Armed with this information you’ll get a clearer sense of the path you might like to go down.

People who collect SSI or SSDI are in the perfect position to do these things while unemployed.

Taking these action steps can help you determine what career is the right fit for you right now.

I recommend doing more than one internship while you’re searching for a full-time job. I helped a woman with a career search who listed 3 internships on her resume to account for what she was doing while unemployed.

Eighty-five percent of hiring managers think volunteer work is impressive according to one study. Doing volunteer work linked to a future job or doing an internship can set you apart from scores of job candidates without this kind of experience on a resume.

I’ll end here with this positive advice:

It’s not ever too late in life to get a job you love.

It wasn’t until I was 35 years old that I found my ideal career.

I worked with a guy who had collected a disability check. When he turned 55 he said: “This is it. No more. I want to get a job.” He was able to obtain a job as a peer advocate.

In coming blog entries I’m going to talk about promoting The Business of You, which is a visionary method of finding the job you love that can pay a livable salary.

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Christina Bruni’s Story

From the fall of 1987 to the summer of 1990 I collected a government disability check and received Medicaid. I lived below the poverty line. For two years back then I lived in public housing.

These earliest experiences changed me forever. They’re the root of why I have compassion for those of us who are less fortunate.

In fact I know plenty of people who collected so-called “entitlements”  when they needed them, and got off the government rolls when their situation in life changed.

Alas, the myth persists of “lazy freeloaders” collecting entitlements forever with no intention of bettering themselves.

Only other people should understand that for a minority of individuals holding a job and obtaining employment isn’t possible.

I’m aware that there are those of us with a diagnosis or disability who have a passive resistance to taking initiative to get a job. They are the exception not the rule.

I wrote You Are Not Your Diagnosis for people who have the desire and ability to work at a job and have a career.

Today it’s possible to stop collectingt SSI or SSDI for the rest of your life.

Today it’s possible to do what you love on and off a job.

Today it’s possible to have your own version of a full and robust life living in recovery.

I’m committed to serving people who want to recover.

My story offers hope and can empower people:

Within 3 years of getting the diagnosis, I stopped collecting government benefits and obtained my first job as an administrative assistant. Seven months later I moved into a studio apartment near the beach.

The wind-up of this story is that you’re not doomed to a life of poverty, unremitting welfare, and joblessness or homelessness when you have a mental health issue.

Wherever you are on the road of recovery whether just starting out or in your older years it’s possible to find the job you love.

The Occupational slice of the Wheel of Wellness should fit into your goals and personality.

I will in coming blog entries talk about a method of finding the job you love and would be happy to go to every week.

I detail this method for achieving occupational fitness in my own forthcoming career guide You Are Not Your Diagnosis.

Achieving Career Fitness

I’ve written a second book that I’m trying to publish this year.

The aim of the book is to help individuals living with mental health issues achieve career fitness.

You Are Not Your Diagnosis is a visionary guide to finding and succeeding at having a job or career.

What I wrote could help anyone not just people with a diagnosis. What’s visionary is that the target market of the book is mental health peers who want to have a better life living in recovery.

The Occupational slice of the Wheel of Wellness should fit into your goals and personality.

My contention is that finding the job and career you love can reduce the impact of your disability.

In fact I can state without a doubt that working at the jobs I love enabled me to recover. It wasn’t the other way around: I wasn’t able to hold these jobs because I had first recovered. No–I didn’t recover until I started my librarian job at 35 years old.

I was ill-suited to work at my first career in corporate insurance office jobs. Continuing to show up to those jobs restricted how far I could go in my life. In the 1990s I was laid off–terminated–from four out of the five jobs I held in the first seven years.

To start off this focus on occupational wellness I will talk about my own life in the coming blog entries.

From my experience I’ve been able to create a method for finding the job you love that I want to share with readers.

Here’s to us square pegs who tried to fit into round holes just to succeed.

There’s a better way. I’ll talk about it in coming blog entries.

 

Moving the Needle to the Left

I’d jumped into writing about the visionary book.

It seems I’d wrote that I’d write next about how to shift the needle to the left of the dial.

My intent in titling my memoir Left of the Dial was to demonstrate how doing the things you love can help you heal.

Living your life left of the dial–joyously, creatively, and passionately–if you ask me is a beneficial method of healing.

I’ve reckoned with the fact that becoming a trial attorney wasn’t in the cards for me in this lifetime. I was destined to go left when everyone else goes right.

Seeking emotional harmony between your thoughts and feelings is a way to shift the needle to the left. This can be via talking to a therapist. It can be via reducing the nonstop reliance on your electronic devices at all hours of the day and night.

What has changed my life for the better has been exactly this: shifting the needle to the left of the dial.

In the  book How to Make Disease Disappear Dr. Chatterjee recommends keeping a grateful journal. You can buy a hardbound journal to keep at your night table. Write three positive things that happened to you that day before you go to bed.

Dr. Chatterjee refers to a pioneer in the positive psychology movement who asked his daughter three questions every day: “What did you do to make someone else happy?” and “What did someone else do to make you happy?’ were two of the Qs.

Giving joy to others as a daily ritual is the foolproof way to feel good yourself.

We can’t control whether other people do good things for us or simply act for self-gain every day. This isn’t our concern. If we want to feel good, the best way I know to do this is to help others feel good.

Living a healthy life. Living whole and well.

These things are possible when you live in recovery.

That’s the ultimate premise of Left of the Dial: you don’t have to spend the rest of your life in endless hell. You can heal.

 

The Truth About Recovery

No one else has written about this before either. Again I’m the first to tackle this dynamic in my blog. I want to talk about the truth about recovery.

Not everyone feels like they’ve recovered. This is the distinction. It’s an individual accounting of what your life is like.

In the 1990s I lived at home while I worked at a terrible insurance office job I was ill-suited to do. On paper it might have looked like I recovered because I had a j-o-b.

Only I told my mother: “I want a life.” She responded: “You have a life.”

Little did I know or could articulate then how my time on earth would be forever altered by moving to Brooklyn and becoming a mental health advocate.

It must have been in my subconscious that I understood there was more I was being called to do. Only trapped in that cubicle hell I couldn’t clearly see where the road ahead would take me.

This is partly why I think it’s a mistake to measure a person’s status solely by external markers of success like a house and car and job.

In the 1990s I hadn’t “recovered” in a way that was soul-enriching, life-affirming, and mood-elevating.

This begs for all of us the question: “What is recovery?”

Recovery should be a self-defined lifestyle. You should be the one who’s able to determine the direction of your life.

The question for each of us to ask is: “What kind of recovery do I want to have?” AND “What kind of life do I want to have?”

In the next blog entry I will talk about shifting the needle to the left on the VU meter of life–the theme of Left of the Dial.  This is how I was able to live the kind of life I wanted to have.

I will talk about how to take action in the direction of your dreams.

For there are a myriad ways to recover–as multitudinous as there are people living in recovery.

Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness

I’ve installed the book Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness on my iPad.

The author has a number of physical illnesses that aren’t visible to the eye. Yet her advice could also help individuals living with mental health issues.

Her no-nonsense advice about when to disclose to a romantic partner is specific to those of us with physical woes. Yet it might just be good practice for those of us with mental health conditions too.

A therapist has told me not to disclose too quickly.

You can see my blog entry at the Left of the Dial blog for my take on this: reel the person in on your fishing line with your real self apart from the illness. After they’ve taken the bait, introduce mental health into your conversations.

Talk about how Kanye West has revealed he has bipolar. Talk about a person in your own life who has an emotional illness. Then bring up your own diagnosis in the bare-bones way. You don’t have to reveal every single detail of the symptoms you’ve had.

Ilana Jacqueline’s refreshing take on disclosing early in the dating game intrigued me though. How soon is too soon? How long is too long to wait?

It depends on what your gut or your intuition is telling you is the right time to reveal your condition.

Either way, Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness is a short yet informative read that I’m confident could benefit mental health peers in other ways too. Like for disclosing on your job and requesting a reasonable accommodation. And for creating a job where you can work from home.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to give this book 5 stars on Amazon.

I recommend this book without reservation.

Left of the Dial

My goal in writing Left of the Dial was to chronicle everything that happened after I recovered.

I wanted to dramatize the events that led me to where I am today.

Stories of young people who received the right treatment right away document that a few of them no longer needed medication.

I wasn’t so lucky.

I’m here to tell you that there’s no shame in taking medication to be well.

There’s also no shame if you don’t become a librarian like I did or do the things that other people do.

My goal in telling my story was to offer hope for healing and having your own version of a full and robust life.

In 1988 when I was first diagnosed it was unheard of for a person with schizophrenia to live in her own home and have a full-time job.

Today as of August 2018 you’d better bet it’s possible for more people living with mental health issues to have their own home and work at some kind of job.

This is predicated on getting the right treatment as soon as you need that treatment.

Over the years there’s been near-endless rhetoric about the broken mental health system. About the fate of peers whose illnesses are chronic and persistent and severe. About how their disability progressed to a permanent state because they were denied treatment. Over the years copious amounts of press have been devoted to this.

With no disrespect to anyone I simply wanted to document my story to dramatize what happens when psychiatry gets it right.

Before the Elyn Saks book and before my book there were few positive portrayals. The other first-person accounts hewed to the “misery memoir” genre. This emboldened me to want to publish Left of the Dial.

I say: the goal isn’t to become a famous Ivy League attorney or to become a famous author. The goal is to take inspiration from our stories to craft your own recovery.

Elyn Saks has ongoing symptoms by the way. Proof that you don’t have to be in remission to have a good life.

The truth is that a minority of peers won’t recover as well as I have or Elyn Saks has. This makes it more imperative to advocate for those less fortunate.

The way I see it those of us who are doing well owe a debt to society to do what we can to help others recover.

By telling my story I wanted to show what happens when psychiatry gets it right.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk in more detail about the myth of being a superstar.