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Work/Life: Write your own duty statement and see who buys it

Ok, so you and I missed the boat on being a child prodigy*. You want a job that pays well enough, one you’ll get up for without smashing the alarm clock. People ask me, how did you convince that company to hire you? (We’re talking here about my job which pays very modestly but for some reason many people want it. I’m trying to fathom why.) I tell them to turn the question around: How did the company convince me they were worth spending hours of my life on that I’m not going to get back?

Ok, so you and I missed the boat on being a child prodigy*.

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You want a job that pays well enough, one you’ll get up for without smashing the alarm clock.

People ask me, how did you convince that company to hire you?

(We’re talking here about my job which pays very modestly but for some reason many people want it. I’m trying to fathom why.)

I tell them to turn the question around: How did the company convince me they were worth spending hours of my life on that I’m not going to get back?

So here’s an unconventional approach to finding a seamless work/life job – one where you’re working without feeling like it’s work – that you might not have tried.

Start by finding a company who makes a product you use and like, and – very important – with a personality you like. You don’t want to spend 8 hours sleeping beside someone you don’t like, why feel same for the next 8 hours?

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Next, think about what you like to do, because if you do more of that, you will eventually get good at it and like it even more. It’s not leisure, because that can get boring. It’s an activity where you feel ‘comfortably challenged’.

I know what I like to do, because I do it unasked, 24/7. I like to bring people together, in person and in writing, making sure there’s a win-win-win all round. You win, I win, and at least someone else wins. They Inc. call this networking, I call it smalltalking. We all love to small talk better than big talk, presidents and royalty make special trips to ranches and fishing resorts to do precisely that. So develop the art of smalltalking. Blogging is just smalltalking in cyberspace, and you don’t have to dress up or buy a fancy meal to do it.

So you’ve identified a company you like, and the kind of activity you like to do.

Now approach the company, and say, I like you, this is what I like to do, and how I think it will benefit you. If you think this is useful to you, pay me for it. If not, please find someone else.

That’s basically what I did. I call it writing your own duty statement and seeing if anyone buys it, rather that looking for an existing duty statement to try and shoehorn yourself into. If the company buys it, you are on your way to having an unreal job, a seamless work/life that you enjoy.

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About job titles. Like a lot of companies, the company that was interested in my self-supplied duty statement wanted to give me a title. Marketing Director or something.

I didn’t want a job with a title, because I might end up having to do things I am lousy at. I’m not talking about being lazy and unwilling to learn and grow, I just know there are some things I want to leave to the born naturals.

In many jobs, no matter how good you are at part A, the part B you’re not good at will come under scrutiny and scotch all your kudos from Part A. This is called reaching your level of incompetence. It’s a danger with volunteer work. Volunteers get loaded with more and more expectations, so they end up bitter and burned out and there goes your free charity worker. Know what you like, what you relish doing over and over, unasked, unbegged, unthreatened – and go write that personal duty statement.

Once you write your duty statement, try awarding yourself with a cheeky title.

I gave myself a title of Customer Evangelist, largely as a joke. The funny thing is, people accepted that title as readily as if I’d called myself Certified Practicing Accountant or Structural Engineer, only they burst out laughing when they read my business card. Laughter is good – it’s up to me to decide if they’re laughing with me or at me, or if even care. Only in America can you give yourself a fun title and people don’t scoff or blink. They egg you on, cut you slack and say ‘go for it!’ I enjoy that part of being in America so much more than receiving the cynical opposite in the UK and to a lesser extent, Australia.

So the steps:

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Find a company you like.
Identify what you like to.
Think about how you will benefit the company doing what you like to do.
Write yourself a duty statement.
Give yourself a title.
Package it all up and call them.
Ask them if they can use your package.
If they can’t, go elsewhere.

I’m not just sitting on my cushion here preaching, my USA work visa expires soon and I’ll have to put the above in practice. I’ll soon be reporting from the top of a glassy tower overlooking the Hudson, or from behind an apron, or somewhere in between or beyond. At least I’ll know I wrote the duty statement, I have no one else to thank.

Next week: Not going anywhere? Make your place of work a place to stay.

Lynette Chiang spent last night eating at Peter Luger’s with customers at their invitation and she doesn’t even eat meat.

* Like Charlie Bell


The Gal’s ever-evolving duty statement included attempting the 72 oz Steak Challenge on Route 66 – all in the line of duty of course!

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About the author

"Be social and the networking will follow." Lynette Chiang is an award-winning copywriter, brand evangelist, social media community manager, filmmaker, solo world bicycle adventurer and inventor of useful things. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Harvard University curriculums, the New York Times Book Review, FastCompany and the relationship marketing business press

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