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Trapped in a Job You Hate? Where to Search for Freedom

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Bill, a 28-year-old web developer and programmer, feels stuck in a job he no longer enjoys. He hates sitting in front of a monitor all day and worries that the stress of corporate life will shorten his life. “I know,” says Bill, “I am trading money for health and happiness.” His real dream is to be his own boss. “This sounds crazy, but I want to be a locksmith or somebody who works with their hands and does not sit in a chair between four walls all day.”

So what’s stopping him? Bill points to three things: ignorance, money fears and time. The solution to overcoming these common dream busters is startlingly simple. The opposite of being ignorant is becoming more informed. The unknown can be frightening. So, the more you know the less there is to fear. And, thanks to the Internet, getting informed takes virtually no time at all. The key here is information, which, like truth, is exactly what Bill needs to be set free.

Here are three places for Bill to begin his search:

Look Within

The first place any dreamer should look for answers is in the mirror. Despite being desperately unhappy in his chosen field, Bill says he is concerned that, “Traditionally a locksmith is not a respected position and the money may not be that great. When I tell people I am a programmer I see something in their eyes that says I am smart.”

Everyone has his or her own definition of success. For Bill, earning a certain amount of money and being seen as intelligent are clearly in the mix. But, to a growing number of people, success means enjoying more control over their lives. When Working Woman magazine asked women business owners why they became entrepreneurs, the number one reason was not money but freedom and flexibility. For many, success equals happiness. In a survey of conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers new college grads said that the most important factor in a job is enjoying what you do (making lots of money ranked 9th).

Looking within will bring Bill and his dream to a fork in the road. If holding fast to some socially contrived image of the kind of work “smart” people do is important – and he is willing to continue to pay the price for this validation – then Bill should stay put. Otherwise, he needs to continue his quest for information.

Look to Others

Perhaps the best source of information about any line of work is someone already doing it. Most people are more than willing to talk about what they do for a living. At least Walter Kulas of BMT Lock and Key in Springfield, Massachusetts was. I plucked Walter’s business out of my local Yellow Pages. Despite catching him in the middle of a job, Walter said that he and the other locksmiths he knows would be only too happy to talk to someone interested in learning more about the work they do. If, after talking to a few locksmiths, there were still holes in the information bucket, Bill still has a vast resource he can tap.

Look it Up

Bill complains of being constantly caught between a clock and a hard place. As he tells it: “I was going to take a vacation once. My plan was to quit it all for a week. Walk out of my house with my clothes and spend the next seven days just being a bum.” Wandering the streets for a week is one option. But think how much more ground Bill could cover if instead, he invested a single hour roaming the information highway.

That’s how long it took me to discover, that despite any reservations Bill might have on the IQ issue, today’s locksmiths have to be pretty smart. The Associated Locksmiths of America tells prospective members that installing electric locks, alarms, access control systems or surveillance devices requires being knowledgeable about electricity and electronics and possessing mechanical and mathematical ability.

Any further image-qualms Bill may have about joining a group of stereotypical “blue-collar grunts” would be quickly put to rest by reading Marc Goldberg’s article, I Am a Locksmith. In it, this young, good-looking entrepreneur explains that his profession isn’t all nuts and bolts. A locksmith is also a businessman, a diplomat and a psychologist.

Another bit of reassuring news comes from the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, which predicts no slow down in this field through at least 2008. Perhaps less encouraging is the department’s wages database estimates locksmiths earn, on average, $26,640 a year – presumably far less than Bill is pulling down as a programmer.

Once again though, information to the rescue; Bill may take comfort in a national job posting at The New York Association of In-House Locksmiths for a job in California citing income as high as $60k. Undoubtedly, self-employed locksmiths earn more as well. If money is still a showstopper, Bill should think like a true entrepreneur and calculate how many freelance programming projects it would take to bump up his earnings.

Information could help Bill take a real vacation; maybe even to a place he’s always dreamed of living – like on a tropical island. When not collecting seashells he could be gathering information. Through the St. Croix Directory I easily located five locksmiths. Who knows if any of these operations are looking for an apprentice? But if he were willing to turn his vacation into a fact finding expedition Bill just might discover an opportunity to become a locksmith in paradise.

A mere hour of information gathering and Bill’s “crazy” dream suddenly seems entirely within reach. What IS crazy is not giving a dream even half a chance. Looking for information from within, from others and online is the key to unlocking just about any dream. When it comes to breaking out of an unsatisfying job, information truly can set you free.


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About the Author

“Profiting From Your Passions®” expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger’s, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman’s Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.

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