My Favorite Job Was When I Was 12

I’ve had eight jobs, and my favorite was a paper route, when I was 12. I delivered newspapers for the Daily Californian, from the late summer of 1997 through the late summer of 1999.

After school, I rode my bike a few miles around central streets of El Cajon, a suburb of San Diego, CA. The freedom and independence, combined with self-organized effort, gave me experience that I’ve benefited from ever since.

I mapped out my route from memory. The best way to remember a house was from how it looked, because few houses looked alike back then. For apartments, it was the apartment number, or the subscriber’s front / back patio.

I had the trust of my employer and subscribers that I would deliver the newspaper, and not an overbearing boss or camera spying over my shoulder. Sometimes I would miss delivering a newspaper, but it was rare.

I earned roughly $60 every two weeks, which was great for a 12 yr old. It was a direct reflection of my output and efforts, instead of a market-based average hourly and salary employees are paid today.

When I needed a break, I could simply stop and take it. I didn’t need many, and I did attach a bottle filled with water to my bike. Knowing that I wouldn’t be timed, or allotted a number of breaks, was a great freedom to enjoy.

I had to be organized: my boss, who delivered the papers in a stack each day to my door, didn’t tell me how to do everything. When I had a new subscriber, or one cancelled their subscription, I wrote it down on paper, and kept it with me until I memorized it.

I had to roll the newspapers myself, and tied plastic bags on them when it rained. Delivering newspapers in the rain was a lot of fun – especially during a thunderstorm!

The skills, the lessons, and the experience, of working independently was very enjoyable and rewarding. I suggest it to anyone who wishes to break their minds and potential from the chains of traditional employment.

How to Get Past the Experience Catch-22

You can’t get a job because you have no experience. Does that sound familiar? I’ve been there; we’ve all been in that catch-22. I’ve also found a way to get out of it!

Here are reasons why it’s a pain in the ass to get a job without experience, and what you can do about it.

Your Hand Was Held

You went to school, took the course, studied books, articles, and papers, and feel you are the most intelligent being on the planet!

You’re ready to change the world!

Then I say, “Your education isn’t good enough.”

You fall flat on your face in disappointment.

In school you’re allowed to make mistakes, and try again. A teacher held your hand along the way, guiding you to the answers. Hell, the answers were in the book you were reading.

In the real world, nobody holds your hand, especially the person paying you to do the job. You don’t hold the waiter’s hand as he returns to the kitchen with your order, do you?

I hope not, that might be unsanitary. Also, don’t invite me to lunch if this is what you do.

Show You’re Capable

Showing you’re capable of doing the job so the employer can assess the risk they take to hire you.

The distinction between someone who is capable and not capable is their level of confidence.

Example: You learned how to handle sexual harassment complaints from a book, but you don’t feel confident you can handle such a sensitive issue.

How do you get confident?

Simple: do what you don’t feel confident in until you feel confident about it.

It really is that simple.

You did this when learning to walk and talk. It’s no different an approach than anything else. Unless that anything else is a robbing a bank, in which case you shouldn’t do it in first place.

Do Spec Work / Volunteer

As corny as it sounds, it helps tremendously.

Spec, or volunteer work, is work performed without a contract or agreement of payment or hiring. Basically, no promise that you’ll get the job. It may lead to the job, or it may not.

Artists, architects, and anyone in a creative field knows that spec work is the best way to get your foot in the door.

If you’re in a non-creative field, such as management, where there are laws, regulations, and the ever present factor of other humans, then volunteering. Your ‘spec work’ will be references from people involved.

(Note: If you’re doing spec work with other people’s trademarks / logos, then you must put ‘spec work’ or ‘ad-spec work’ on the piece, so people know it’s not from the company.)

Getting Experience Without a Job

Do the following things to create experience for yourself.

Organize

Create a portfolio of your spec work (or several portfolios if they’re not related). This shows you are capable of organizing yourself, which means you’re capable of organizing an employer’s or client’s project.

Present

You also need to present that portfolio. If it’s possible, put it online; even in a place that is free, such as WordPress.com. Make sure the presentation is easy to access, use, and understand: this in turn shows you are capable of doing the same for your employer.

Don’t send USB or Flash drives, email attachments, or printed copies, of your portfolio, unless requested. (I’ve done this before to Sony, and was promptly ignored.)

Work Without Supervision

Your school teacher supervised you while you learned. In the real world, you’ll receive little supervision from the person hiring you because they expect to pay you to do the job without guidance.

When you’ve put the portfolio together, and presented it well, you’ve shown that you can work without supervision. You did put it together yourself, right?

Accept Criticism

Criticism on your portfolio is a chance to learn what the client wants. It’s valuable insight, and it may even land you the job.

It’s excellent to show you’re willing to take direction away from what you believe is best, and accept what others believe is best for them. This is essential to success, either as a freelancer, employee, or business leader.

Put it Together, and You Have Experience

When you’ve created the portfolio, without supervision, presented it, and accepted criticism from others, you’ve taken the crucial steps to gaining experience.

By the way, these are the same steps every business owner takes when creating a product, with the first additional, all important step:

  1. Find what customers want and why they want it.
  2. Organize: Design and produce what they want.
  3. Present: Make it available for the to buy it.
  4. Accept Criticism: Make changes so the product becomes and stays what customers want.

That’s invaluable experience.

My Real Life Examples:

  • I have a web page design that’s still in use since 1999.
  • My first job was a paper route, which was being an unsupervised 12-year old.
  • I do graphic design, for fun!
  • I create ad copy, for fun!
  • This blog is a portfolio of my writing, for fun and for you!

What is your experience and advice getting over the catch-22?

5 Reasons Why You Should Hire (or be) a Rebel at Work

A rebel on your payroll can help you beat your competition, or if you are the rebel, drastically improve your career.

By rebel, I don’t mean the punk in spiked leather breaking beer bottles on the cop car, while battling his arch nemesis: the inner conflict of the man-child crying for his mother’s love.

No, by rebel I mean the man or woman who is allowed to challenge the status quo, lend a different perspective, innovate, and be fearless from receiving the usual repercussions of questioning their boss.

Here are five reasons why having a rebel on staff, or being the rebel yourself, can be beneficial.

1: I Challenge You, Good Sir, to a Duel!

The signature trait of a great rebel is someone who challenges the rule because the rule holds back progress.

Challenging the rule — questioning its validity and if its still applicable — ensures that either it is effective or destructive.

A challenge to a rule is to test its validity and applicability to how things are now, or in the future.

For example: It may have been a rule that refunds could only be given to customers if they could find a defect in the product. More often today, though, it’s almost a requirement that refunds can be given with little or no questions, and all money back.

Challenging rules can also reveal if they are effective or not. By being able to voice an opposing view about a rule, the rebel can bring to light rules that may be harming employee performance or customer satisfaction.

2: “I’m Not Afraid Anymore!”

Yes you are.

Rebels have fear, but they have more courage. Over time, they listen less and less to the fear because they listen more to their courage.

In business, employees can easily become complacent, turning into yes men and yes women. This may feel great if you’re the leader, for awhile.

If nobody rocks the boat though, it’s bound to stay at sea. If your people don’t do it, then surely the ocean will, and won’t be so forgiving for your crew’s complacency.

By allowing a rebel to be courageous without as much punishment, they can tell the truth, and keep the ship on course. A great rebel would have the courage to tell the captain about the whirlpool a mile ahead.

A great leader would check the facts and perspective of the rebel before deciding which way to row the boat.

3: I See Things a Different Way

A rebel breaks the rules to cause havoc, if it’s their intention. The rebel in the workplace doesn’t intend to harm others, but seeks to bring a new perspective.

While the leader may view things one way, and keep pushing for it to be that way, the rest of his crew may just row along in whatever direction they are told.

The rebel will see the rocks in the waves the captain overlooked, or the oncoming storm that’s on the horizon — further than where the captain was looking.

  • Having different perspectives allows new ideas and concepts to emerge.
  • Having different perspectives allows a rebel to point out the hole in the bottom of the ship, when everyone else thought it was going to be a pleasant cruise.
  • Having different perspectives grants the rebel the opportunity to see how the competition may take over, and offer a solution to head them off before the ship is sunk.

4: Captain, oh Captain! Stay my Captain

If comfort is the killer of ambition, then challenge is its fuel.

People who have all they want can fall into the trap of comfort. When people are comfortable, it’s easy to be blindsided by competition.

A rebel in the workplace should question and challenge the leadership, to keep them from sitting comfortably. If the rebel is the leader, they should create a community of fearless innovation.

The job of the rebel on any ship is to ignite the captain’s responsibility to keep the crew headed toward its destination, and to ensure the captain doesn’t become so comfortable in his navigator that the course they set doesn’t bring them to peril.

Another benefit of having a rebel on the workforce is that it grants leaders an opportunity to flex their muscle. By flexing their muscle, they can remain strong, grow, and push themselves further ahead toward the goals.

5: Innovation

A requirement of innovation is to make something exponentially better. If everyone is fine with how things are, there will be sameness, conformity, and eventually, a lack of growth and ambition.

A rebel doesn’t accept every rigid rule as the only way things can be done. They seek to find new ways to do things, which can be itself an innovation.

Instead of sticking with the same old ways, a rebel can find ways to do the same, or more, using less resources. They can be resourceful, which is innovative.

Even if the idea is outlandish, weird, strange, or odd, a rebel should be allowed to pursue that path. In order for innovation to exist, one must be allowed to experiment; give the rebel free reign to try new and different things.

Caution!

We must not forget that a rebel is still an employee, and must be treated as such. They should still be held to the same standards — and a standard is a bare minimum of quality — as other employees, with one exception:

The rebel must be allowed to question the decisions of his or her leaders without immediate dismissal. Of course, derogatory, insults, and anything illegal, should not be tolerated; anything that diminishes a person’s character should not be tolerated.

If you could be a rebel at work, what would you do?