Times have changed. Back in the old days of dial-up and tape decks, a simple life of office drudgery was all you needed. After college, you’d get a grown-up job then work your way up to pushing buttons and making sprockets or whatever. It’s vaguely dehumanizing, but it’s easy and some of your coworkers are mildly attractive. Forty years later, you’ve got a pension, two kids who never call, and a gut grown hefty with regret and, thankfully, bourbon.
Well not any more. Those inspirational bastards behind the twin temptations of books and schooling have filled our minds with dangerous ideas, like having a fulfilling career. You don’t just dream of being a musician, damn it, you bought the fashionably pre-ripped jeans. But that’s just the start. The world is filled with yoga instructors, social media experts, competitive eaters, improv actors, and people who just…travel.
The irony is that if you want to live the kind of life where fulfillment, not money, is the main priority you’re going to need some money. So on your way to opening your own cat themed pie shop you’re going to need a Perfect-For-Now Job to continue eating food, sleeping on a bed, and fucking on that bed.
But you shouldn’t take just any job. Bad jobs are where dreams go to die. Working for a company that’s wrong for you even when you know it’s only temporary can be stressful and frustrating. It will drain you of your creativity and health. Like prison. Which is why if you want to find a PFNJ you’re going to have to…
1. Weed Out Bullshit Job Openings
Job hunting is like grocery shopping. You got to have a plan. Go to the supermarket without a list and you might end up with 12 packs of bacon, a case of beer, and a heart problem. So before you start browsing Craigslist, make your own list.
First, identify what you can do (paint houses, use Photoshop, pole dance), what you’re willing to learn (sales, make espresso, pole dance), and what you will absolutely not do (work with animals, work with children, pole dance).
Second, write down an estimate of how much money you’ll need every month. Usually that’s [all your monthly bills] – [taxes] = your desired monthly wages.
Third, note how much free time you need so you can keep working on your actual career. If you need to take extra classes to learn Advanced Social Media Marketing in the Age of Grumpy Cat, write the class schedule down. Most, if not all, full-time salaried jobs won’t be available to you because of your schedule. Don’t worry. You don’t want those jobs. You might think that you can handle 40-plus hours at the dildo factory and then work on your art. But honestly, unless you’re mainlining Red Bull, you probably won’t have the energy.
Now, take the list you just made and let it be your guide. Ignore any job posting that doesn’t fit with your list.
BONUS: Ignore job ads with three or more grammatical errors, that includes using multiple exclamation points (!!!!!). Ignore anything that is WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS. Ignore ads that don’t require you to submit a resume. And, ignore any ad that doesn’t tell you which company is hiring. More often than not these are scams, or written by people who don’t have their shit together.
BONUS the Second: Try to get a job in the field you want to eventually work in, or somewhere related. If you want to be in publishing, work for a publishing company even if it’s just running errands. If you want to be a travel writer, be a receptionist at a travel agency. Remember, the PFNJ must not distract you from your endgame. So the closer you are to your ideal job, the better.
2. Create the Perfect Meh Resume
“Wait a minute,” I hear you say. “Shouldn’t I make an impressive resume, filled with meaty experience?” Ha! No! You stupid-idiot. Sure, you can just put everything about yourself onto paper and shop it around like a screenplay. You might even get lucky. But an experienced employer will glance at your three page professional life story and immediately click delete. Why? They don’t have the time. There could be dozens of applicants for the same barista job you just applied for. You need to make your resume stand out by being ridiculously easy to digest. You need the Wheat Thins ™ of resumes.
It has to be concise and specific. One page should be enough. Only mention qualifications related to the position you want to fill. And put a graphic header near the top so that if the hiring manager is flipping through resumes, yours will catch her eye.
3. Ace that Interview by Being Real
A job interview is like a first date. If you work too hard, you’re going to freak someone out, and Lisa Katz will never let you unhook her bra.
So follow the same advice that pop songs have been giving you since you were little: be honest with your feelings. Remember, you’re not trying to marry them. You just want to get to the next level.
Do not show up in a suit. Only clueless teenagers and desperate yes-men wear business attire to an interview for a non-corporate entry level job. Wear business-casual. You want to be clean and presentable, not formal.
Don’t act like you’re happy to be there, be happy. You just beat out god knows how many people to get this interview.
Once the interview starts, remember that you’re having an actual conversation. You’re not in court. No one is trying to implicate you in an armed robbery. Just relax and stay on topic. Listen carefully to the questions they ask. If you have to take a second to think about your answer, do that. And always tell the truth. If the reason you’re taking this job is to earn enough money for DJ school, say so. It will let them know that you’ll take the job seriously because it gets you where you want to be.
What if they don’t give you the job because you didn’t show up in a suit, super excited for the chance to flip burgers or fold jeans? Then that means they’re looking for a minion, not an employee. If they are dead set on hiring only the most enthusiastic candidates, they’re looking for a commitment you aren’t prepared to give. So be glad you didn’t waste more time and effort. Just like when you and Lisa Katz didn’t work out because she wanted to get super married like right now.
4. Weed Out Bullshit Job Offers
Wooooo yeah! You have a job offer; you’re set! Or are you?
If you get a job offer, do not just jump on it. Weigh the pros and cons. There is a certain amount of shittiness inherent in any job. Dealing with shitty customers, for instance. But too much stress in a temporary job will leave you unable to keep working on the real important stuff after hours. So be on your toes. A company policy of “The Customer is Always Right” might not mean you’ll have to deal with dicks all the time but it does mean that when you do, you’ll have to bend over. This should be unacceptable.
Take note of small companies that throw the term “entrepreneurial” around. This usually means long hours for below industry standard pay with the promise of big benefits somewhere down the line. To hell with that, you’re not in this for the long haul.
You may be tempted with a job that pays off the books. Listen carefully: you’ll be keeping more money because you won’t be paying taxes but it also means no record of employment. You’ll have nothing to show in case of abuse, or in case you need to apply for unemployment benefits. It also means no professional reference if you need to look for a new job. Don’t go rogue!
5. Never Stop Hustling
So you’ve got a job now. It’s not the best but it pays okay and you like it. This is, of course, only the beginning. Like the vengeful mummies of old, you’re locked in now. Everyday contains easy but repetitive tasks, and muffled grunting. But you’ve got a lot of real work ahead of you too. Perhaps a little less murder involved than if you were an actual mummy, but no less important. After all, you’re looking for a new life — like a mummy.
Never stop working towards your real goals. Never confuse milestones at your job with real achievements. Do not get distracted. Remind yourself everyday where you’re headed with notes, and posters, and frequent trips to places that inspire you like your favorite bakery, gallery, or strip club.
Be a little selfish with your time. You don’t need to go out every time someone asks. Cherish your routine. It will help you avoid burning out. And don’t be afraid to be a little boring in the name of making progress. Enjoy making progress, for now.