9 Women On How They Landed The First Job They Truly Enjoyed

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These days, it’s rare for me to find someone who loves their job and feels like they’re in the perfect position career-wise. To me, your mid-to-late twenties are an incredibly transitional period between jobs, work, life, career, etc. I find that when I talk to most people about their careers, they’re just happy to be in the right industry, but they know the “perfect” job in that industry will come much later on (if ever). However, if you ask people to explain what their ideal position looks like, I’m sure they have an answer and can rattle off a list of the ideal attributes of their dream job. I was curious to hear the women around me recall the first job they ever felt truly happy working at, and how they got there. What did they seek out? What hoops did they have to jump through to snag it? I reached out to nine women to talk about their experience, and this is what they said.

1. “I took my time with the interviewing process, even though it was painful. I knew that I wanted a job that made me feel happier than the one I was previously working at (which was overly taxing and soul sucking). When I made the decision to  finally leave it in favor of working a job with a better work-life balance, I mapped out a list of stuff I knew I wanted in my next position. Since my requirements were much stricter and I was much pickier, I knew the process would take longer, and it did. I spend nearly a year looking for and interviewing at companies until I finally found the right fit for me. I had the luxury of taking my time, which not everyone has, but it was what I knew I needed to do to snag a job I felt happy at.” — Amy

2. “I made demands at my new job that my old self would have been too scared to voice. I truly feel like the key to the happier position I now have in my career, which is working at a job I’ve been engaged with for the last five years, is speaking up. In my younger days at previous jobs, I really let people walk all over me, I got handed tasks I should have declined, and I was too scared to voice concerns. Now that I’m older, I feel like I’m in the first job I’ve ever really loved working at because I’m 100% honest with myself and others around me (but not in an annoying way — you gotta know when to pull back!). I feel like practicing honesty and speaking up for myself has made me more aware of my own strengths, needs, and desires. I can be my ~true self~ at this job, and it’s made a world of difference.” — Sarah

3. “Once I vowed I would never again live more than 20 minutes away from my job, my whole life got better. That might sound petty, but it’s the best thing I ever did for myself. The only job I ever loved was the one where I could walk to (on a nice day) or take the subway to. It made my entire life better because I didn’t have to drive and commute a long way every morning and evening, and waste precious time. I got more sleep, and my whole life was better for it. Then, I switched jobs, moved much further away, and hated the next two years of my life. After that, I vowed I’d never live X distance from my place of employment — I had to learn the hard way that that’s simply what I need.” — Heidi

4. “I finally got the job I really loved because, on interviews, I paid less attention to what people were saying and focused more on how people acted, worked, made body language cues, etc. Everyone tells you what to do in an interview: speak clearly, dress well, ask questions, etc. However, they hardly ever tell you what you should be looking out for. You want to look for signs that people working there are happy. When I found the first job I ever really loved, it was because I paid attention to particular things throughout my interview process. I observed the work culture, how people interacted with each other, I spoke with people I passed by in the office, snuck a peek around at the kitchen, community board, cubicles, etc. I wanted to feel at home at the place I worked at, and know that I would fit in.”  — Jenn

5. “I found my ‘happy’ work through friends who I already got along with. Perhaps the only job I ever really loved (I’m only 23 though) has been working alongside my friends at a theatre. I needed some quick cash to make ends meet, and my friends hooked me up with work as a stage hand at a theatre in the city. I loved the physical demands of the job, and the fact that I didn’t stare at a computer all day every day. It was a less impressive job for people to hear about, but I loved it.” — Eliza

6. “I used a job-search site that aligned with my values — Idealist.org. When I finally got serious about setting my career in the direction I felt to be more compelling and more valuable to me, I thought it made sense to job hunt through websites that aligned with my values. I had heard about Idealist back in college when I went to a job fair, and I’ve always had it tucked away in the back of my mind I suppose. Nearly three years ago, when I made a massive career change, I used it to find a job working in a more ethical line of work. The site connects me with volunteer work, organizations, events and stuff, it’s really cool. Doing something that makes me feel good about myself has made such an impact on my personal life, and I’ve never been happier — it really is the only job I’ve probably ever loved.” — Jean

7. “I took a pay cut and started working at a beauty supply store, and it’s the only job I’ve ever loved working at. I used to work as a counselor for patients, who had suffered from extreme injuries, at a physical rehabilitation center. I had gone to medical school for a year before dropping out because I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for that line of work. It turns out I wasn’t, and the stress of the job nearly broke me. For a long time, I had been trying to make everyone else around me happy, but I never listened to my own voice. I’ve always loved makeup, beauty bloggers/vlogers, the artistry and creativity of the beauty industry, and I finally took the plunge and decided I would give it a go. I’m now enrolled full-time at beauty school, have a job at a makeup store where I LOVE working. I get to meet new clients every day, I get to do something artistic and fulfilling, and I’ve never looked back. I learned to stop being afraid of going after the things I want. I don’t apologize for it, and I’ve never been happier.”  — Kathryn

8. “To be honest, the happiest I’ve been at a job was when I went out on a limb and moved across the country for it. I felt like, this urgency that compelled me to make the absolute best of the situation because I was so nervous about moving. I threw myself into work and into exploring a new city; I took on challenges I never thought I’d be capable of executing, and I went nuts networking, socializing, and meeting new people. It was one of the happiest times of my life because I was constantly surprising myself, and I just felt really fulfilled because of it.”  — Rachel

9. “The happiest I ever felt at a job (and this might not sit well with your readers) was working at an unpaid internship on a movie set during my college years. I busted my ass waitressing on weekend nights to pay my bills, and I worked on the movie set about twenty hours during the week. There was such an insane amount of excitement surrounding that job because it was the first one I worked in the industry (which I was majoring in). The unpaid internship eventually landed me a job as a full-time Production Assistant, which I’m still doing now. I was one of the lucky ones who actually got a paid position afterwards, so I feel very fortunate. That experience taught me to never say ‘no’ (or at least not right away) to temporary pain for a potential long-term gain.” — Holly

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