Working for Work

3 07 2008
Hudson Coffee Shop

I’ve been out of town, gadding about the Hudson Valley in New York. But the amazing thing about being 3000 miles from home (in that bucolic setting) is that our world continually follows you.  A spate of technology articles, a plethora of people talking about the latest dancing Matt videos, and loads of discussion about iPhone and PDA screens for films — it’s not easy to duck the fact that we live in an age where we are surrounded by media.

This should be an awesome time, therefore, for people who are working in media (or who want to work in the field).  And, if you ask me, it is. The students at USC who graduated last month (at least the ones who I talked to) are  both excited and petrified of what is to come. What, they wonder, should they do when they get out of school?

So, this morning, I read an op/ed piece in the New York Times by Nicholas D. Kristof called “The Luckiest Girl”. The piece isn’t about media, exactly, and it isn’t about working, but it was appropriate nonetheless.

The piece talked about Beatrice, a young girl from an impoverished family in Uganda, whose family got a donation of a goat from a group of children in Niantic, Connecticut. The donation was small ($120), but the family was able to sell the milk from the goat and started saving money. Eventually, they sent Beatrice to school — an unheard of opportunity before the donation — and she eventually was able to go to a prep school in the United States. She’s just graduated from Connecticut College (a great little college on the Long Island Sound, with foliage that looks like the Hudson Valley that I just came back from).

One of the points of the piece was that this success story was started by a tiny (in the overall scheme of things) donation of $120. Kristof points out that it is often easy to be daunted by the immensity of a problem (poverty) or a goal (giving education to the poor), but taking small steps towards the solution can often bring large results.

A few years ago, Beatrice spoke at a Heifer event attended by Jeffrey Sachs, the economist. Mr. Sachs was impressed and devised what he jokingly called the “Beatrice Theorem” of development economics: small inputs can lead to large outcomes.

So, at last, we come back to looking for work in the modern age. It is often too difficult to “look for work” since that it is a goal which is too broad and immense. It is much better to take the small steps towards that goal. In other words, break down your goal into a lot of little steps. It is probably too hard to “look for work” but you can certainly “Look through the Hollywood Creative Directory” and make a list of places and people you should contact. Then it should be possible to divide that list into the places that suit your goals and are likely to respond to you. After that, it should be possible to call 20 of them on Monday, 20 on Tuesday, and 15 on Wednesday.

As an aside, Merlin Mann, who (coincidentally) is one of the funniest people of the web today, also runs a blog called 43 Folders, which “writes about modest ways to make your life a little better.” By that, he means helping to organize your thoughts, your work and your life into a form that works best for you. The name of the blog comes from the work of David Allen, who has written a book called Getting Things Done, which talks about organization. One of the tenets of his teaching, is that you cannot accomplish a large task, but you can easily do a series of smaller ones.

Sometimes, making one phone call, or giving your business card to one person at a user group meeting, or volunteering to work on one short 48-hour film festival, will lead to many other things. Mark Horstman and Michael Auzenne, over at the Manager Tools podcast, have often said that you should give advice and help to people without expecting anything in return. I agree completely with that, even though it sometimes tend to be more work than if you stayed at home and didn’t.

And that, I suppose, is what I’m driving at. If you want to have a successful job search you need to be with people. That is the first step. And it could lead to much bigger ones.

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2 responses

3 07 2008
Rob

Talking about things that make your life a little bit better … I have subscribed to
Notes From The Universe for awhile now. Each day I get a very short message from “The Universe” that makes me smile. I also added them to the bottom of my web site and a new one shows up every day.

The guy’s very prolific.

Peace,

Rob:-]

3 07 2008
It seems to say.. » Generosity is not Sustainable

[…] read this NYTimes piece titled “The Luckiest Girl,” but I did read this other blog by a film editor which was ABOUT […]

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