For the past year, I was on a search for a full time job. Then, two weeks ago, I began working full time for Edlund Associates, a landscape architecture design build firm. The road to this point was rough. Over the last year, I held four temporary positions, sent over 150 applications and attended numerous interviews. Throughout this process, I found myself returning to a number of lessons that kept me motivated.
You should see something new every day. This could mean going for a walk in your neighborhood, traveling to a foreign country or meeting someone for the first time. I spent the last year exploring Seattle and documenting some of my journeys on this blog in sketches and photos. In addition, I met dozens of interesting and amazing people, from landscape architects to truck drivers. I would encourage everyone on a job search to take a step out their door every day and see what happens.
Besides getting out, we all need to take time for ourselves. During the Vietnam War, Buddhist monks, led by Thich Nhat Hanh, would sit between the opposing sides to stop the violence. To handle the stress, the monks had a day off to take care of personal matters such as cleaning their homes, doing laundry, reflecting on their life and gaining inspiration from the sutras. Like these monks, we should all remember to take time for our personal well fare and development.
Besides themselves, the monks also made time on their day off to talk with their families and friends. You still have friends, family and colleagues even if you do not have a job. This year, I attended my grandmother’s 80th birthday. I joined the Seattle Urban Sketchers and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD). I also volunteered with the Washington chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the Seattle Chinese Garden. Career books call this networking, but I always find it easier to think of networking as being yourself.
Finally, do not lose your imagination. It is easy to become cynical, and believe you are a tragic character stuck in your role. However, your narrative is what you create. Over the last year I read 22 books, saw 38 films, listened to dozens of albums, lectures and speeches. In addition, I generated an estimated 100,000 words, over 100 images and helped build several gardens. Never lose your ability to dream of a perfect world today and build it tomorrow.
I list imagination last because without imagination there is no hope for the future. There will always be people who say you can’t. There will always be obstacles. Hardest of all, there will always be a nagging doubt inside you. You have to believe in your dream, trust your network, take time for yourself (especially when things fail) and take chances. I do not promise success, only a great adventure.
Want to learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh? I would suggest his book The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation.