job search

A HeSo Lost and Found (Part 1)

“Find a way to get paid to do what you love.”

That ubiquitous advice used to drive me crazy because I had no idea what I loved to do besides for watching television and eating cookies – and I couldn’t find a single job listing for a cookie taster.

I started this blog as a public quest to figure out what satisfies my HeSo. In case you’ve wondered what HeSo means, it’s my nickname for heart and soul. Like a lot of people, I got to a place in my life where I had no idea what made my soul happy. There were lots of things that made me happy – but nothing on a deeper, spiritual level.

For so long I let fear (mostly fear of being poor) control my decisions. I didn’t know how to let passion take over. Besides, how could I let passion take over my decision-making process when I didn’t even know what I was passionate about. This blog was my permission to try new things, make mistakes, and ultimately figure out my HeSo project – or as the yoga sutras describe it:

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”

Before starting this blog, I quit a lucrative job, and had $50,000 in savings. I was absolutely petrified that I would go broke and never be able to amass that sense of security again. But I had 40 loyal readers and I couldn’t let them down. In my first year on the HeSo project, I became obsessed with an invention I came up with for baby beds. I went through about $20,000 in savings for this project and ultimately had to let it go when I found out I couldn’t get safety approval. But here’s what I learned:

  • How to get comfortable taking a risk
  • How to run a small business
  • How to let go when something is not working.
Getting ready to give up on the foam

Me getting fed up with making the prototype.

It was really hard to let that dream go, and I retreated into a part-time job, thinking the security of a paycheck would help me feel like less of a failure. However, I’m extremely hard-working and that part-time job quickly became a senior management position and all of a sudden I was working sixty hours a week on a job I didn’t care about. I had to stop and remember the HeSo. I quit the next day.

By this time I was really giving into my writing urges. The dream of becoming a professional writer seemed far-fetched but that didn’t keep me from writing whenever I had the chance. Even though I was done to $10,000 in savings, I decided to take a six month break from searching for a career and focus on my writing. I took classes and began writing 750 words a day. This was really hard work, and even though it wasn’t fun all the time, my HeSo was growing – but so was my debt.

I reached a fork in the road. I realized I wanted to keep writing, but I also wanted to be able to pay the rent. I took on another part-time job that left me with enough mental energy to come home and write every day. At this time an amazing thing happened:

I told myself that I would apply for a “real” job once I dipped below my last $2,000 in savings, but until then I would push forward with my writing. Every time I came close to that threshold, money appeared from out of nowhere. First, I got a completely unexpected $1,000 refund from the government for a tax return from three years prior. Next, a client from my old job randomly decided to pay my bill which was overdue for four years. Later, I got asked to be in a focus group for one hour and the pay was $300. Again and again, money appeared when I thought I’d have to give up on writing. I decided to take that as a sign that if I was going to pursue writing, the universe will support me.

The beginning and the peak of BFI.

The beginning and the peak of BFI.

At this same time I came up with the crazy idea for Brutal First Impressions. I went to the park with a sign telling people I would give them my honest feedback about their general appearance if they gave me a few dollars. This was a HUGE hit, and everyone loved this idea – except for me. I take that back. I loved the idea, but I hated doing it. I’m naturally an introvert, so it was extremely uncomfortable for me to stand in front of a group of strangers and criticize them. Also, I love looking for the best in people, so my patrons were often disappointed when I didn’t give them harsher feedback.

I think this was the moment I realized I was done with BFI.

I think this was the moment I realized I was done with BFI.

I decided to pursue this idea anyway because everyone else was so excited by it, but deep down, I just wanted to keep writing. I started a website and got a few clients, and I did BFI in central park a few times, but it never took off and I think that’s because my heart was still in my writing. However, I did learn these valuable skills from it:

  • How to design and program a website.
  • How to market an idea
  • How to be ballsy

I am telling you all this because I love hearing about all the “failures” people go through before they discover what really works for them. The good news is that I finally figure it out. I found my HeSo project!!! … and I’ll tell you all about it in the next post 😛

Mini Memoir Monday: Three Rivers Make a Why

This week’s mini memoir was written by my friend, Matthais Sundberg. Enjoy!

matthaisI had been fired from a job I loved.

I got to watch cartoons for a living, worked with a man who built Wolverine claws and tommy guns and actually shot me in the head once. We made videos for the Internet and my company recently decided that my department was redundant and could be liquidated. So long, cartoons. So long, special effects guys. So long, free Coke in the fridge every day.

During my time at the company, I had been working for a man whom I look to as a mentor. He taught me the valuable lesson of ‘Why.’ He asked why, for every piece I was editing and assembling, I was putting our red robot on a blue background. I said, “I don’t know. I just did.”

He said, “Find out why and tell me. Don’t change it yet, but until you can give me a reason, maybe we should think of a new background for him.” From that moment on, I never did anything without having a defendable reason for doing it.

I learned later that the company I used to work for was to be sold to Google’s YouTube. I could have been a Googler, but I was redundant.

I worked for a while performing odd jobs. I work in the entertainment industry, so that means, mostly, being a production assistant on movies and television. It paid piss-poor, but it was something to pay the bills.

I ended up getting a job as a freelance editor for one of the first-ever video podcasts.  It was a job that made my editing better, because it taught me to look for the important things before making a project. Details are important.

I learned these lessons because the person I was working for did not know why he was doing things or what his details meant. He always gave the impression that he knew, but there was never a clear reason behind anything. Subsequently, it was not a successful company.

I worked at that job for a couple years, slowly becoming more integral and more important and less likely to be “redundant.” I found the more that I could inject myself into the anatomy of the company (and I use the term only in its most technical sense), he couldn’t fire me.

That also meant, I had nowhere else to go. I was stuck with this plan of action, even when he mysteriously ran out of money and couldn’t pay the five people that worked for him.

I slogged on. I worked on projects for the company that became increasingly fraught with politics. He was trying to create a deal with PBS, and even had a short-lived web-show with a very famous children’s TV creator. Meanwhile, I started to budget out and develop a refresh of the podcast brand. My version was more dynamic and fun and youth oriented, not talking-head-in-a-studio. Walter Cronkite was dead; his format should be, too.

One of the people that worked on the parenting show (with the very famous children’s TV creator or VFCTC) asked how I was doing. I said fine, that my wife and I were thinking about leaving New York City. It is a wonderful, terrible place, meant for the very young or the very rich; we were getting to be neither. I said that we were weighing escape options. Our list consisted of Portland, ME; Pittsburgh, PA; San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL and a couple of other places that we had idly thought we might like to move to.

She perked up. “Pittsburgh?”

“Yeah, my wife’s family is from around there.”

“You want a job?”


It turns out that the VFCTC had created another program and it needed an editor for some live-action segments in the middle. The only hitch was that the editor needed to be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

My wife and I talked it over and I went to Pittsburgh to see if they might give me the job. The VFCTC was working in partnership with another company, so she wouldn’t be in Pittsburgh. I met with the partner company head, who informed me that he only wanted to look at my resume “because I’m curious.” He offered me the job right there. “Can you be here on December 5th?” It was the end of a snowy October. Without hesitating or consulting anyone, I said the only thing I could.


A month later, my wife and I tearfully left our friends in New York, moved into a house we hadn’t seen, in a city we were unfamiliar with for a job I only knew about two months earlier. I quit from the podcast program in a grand way, still being owed roughly $1500, even telling the new host she should run away (which she did in the end; she runs a start-up with her husband now).

My mentor would have asked me why? Why do all of those things?

I’m an editor on the award-winning children’s program, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and we’re about to finish our debut season. My wife and I have a dog and a yard and a house. We have a garden.

Though we miss our friends terribly, we are happy.


If I write it, it will come

I hope everyone’s safe on the east coast. There’s no public transportation in NYC so at least I’m getting a lot of writing done 🙂

Lisa Bourque, the great life coach, recommended that I write about my perfect job. Sometimes just knowing exactly what you want helps you to get it, and sometimes just putting it out into the cosmos helps you get it. So here is my job description:

Dear Universe,

I want a job that intimidates me. Every day there’s something new to learn and there’s room to grow. I work with a team of energetic, passionate people and there’s always a long term goal in mind. There’s something new to do every day, and I have some flexibility on my responsibilities and my schedule. I’m very good at noticing what needs to be improved so I would like the authority to be able to make changes. I’m great at organizing people and motivating them, so I would like to be managing several people, but I don’t need to do that right away. I actually enjoy giving presentations and public speaking.

The actual job title is vague. Sometimes I wish I had a clear career path that would help me focus my job search, but I’m truly open-minded and adaptable. I’m a competent person and I believe I could do most jobs (very well). I don’t mind working with numbers, or in sales, or logistics, but my main goal is working with people, and more specifically people who enjoy themselves at work. I love making friends with my co-workers and when it comes down to it, I would be spending the bulk of my waking hours with them so it’s important that they’re cool.

Salary can be from $50,000-$500,000 (anything above that would just be gratuitous :P) with full health benefits, retirement contributions, and cool benefits like a gym membership, or a self-improvement stipend (I know companies that have this!). Oh, and I want at least 20 vacation days (heck I said it was my dream job).The only way I would accept a lower salary is if I get in early with an exciting start-up, where I can have a lot of influence and there’s a promise of financial reward eventually.

OK that’s my description of my dream job. Thank you, Universe, for your time. I look forward to meeting you at your convenience.


Tracy Young

p.s. I would really like to get this job by the end of November, if that’s at all possible.

Stop using the internet.

If you want to find a job, get off the internet. This is strange for a blogger to say, since most bloggers secretly (or not so secretly) hope that one day a publisher will stumble upon their blog, offer them a million dollar book deal, and Jennifer Connolly will play them in the movie version of their blog. No, that has never crossed my mind.

Until that day comes, one must find a job, and if your one like me, you must find a job that is rewarding, challenging, and passion-worthy. It must be HeSo approved.

When applying for jobs online, I can’t help but feel that I’m putting all my hard work and energy into a black hole. It’s easy to get frustrated and take it personally when organizations completely ignore your application, or give you a canned email response. However companies receive hundreds of applications for mid-level jobs, and while it’s a full time job looking for work, it’s also a full time job looking for employees.

I decided to get more proactive with my job search. I asked my professional friends if they could suggest someone they admire in any work field. One interview led to another, and now I have two interviews set up for next week.

This is a great chance to learn about business fields that you might have over-looked. It’s also a great time to develop your interview skills, and really pinpoint what are your strengths and passions.

I would suggest talking to anyone who’s well connected, or in the field that you want to join. They might not have a job for you, but if they like you, they are bound to refer you to someone who will have a job for you.

I must admit it’s scary doing these interviews. While it takes a lot more time to apply for jobs online, there is something safe and anonymous about that process. You’re really not putting yourself on the line or taking any risks. However, in this economy, employers are looking for people who are confident and take risks, so if you are looking for a job as well, I encourage you to get off the internet and start making connections.

Visionary Job Search


This summer I worked 12-13 hours most days as well as the weekends. In my effort to do a good job in my new position, I completely lost track of what’s important to me. I hardly saw any of my friends or family and poor Mike had to deal with Traysaurous more than he should have. It can be really rewarding to take on a failing project and put all your energy into it to making it successful, but at the end of the day if that’s not what you’re passionate about it’s not worth all your energy. On that note, I’ve decided to look for a new job.

This time I’m taking a different approach. I’ve never made a vision board before but I thought now would be a good time to try. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept it’s real simple. Flip through a bunch of magazines and rip out any images that you have an immediate positive response to. Glue them on a board and hang it up somewhere. Take it a step further and study it for a while to see if there are any themes you didn’t recognize when you were first ripping out the images. Having a visual map of something to work towards helps you figure out what you need to do to get there.

I didn’t have a good collection of magazines so I did mine on It’s free and it has lots of images, but you do need to create an account. After doing mine I realized how much I value the great outdoors and the balance of companionship and peaceful solitude. I’m not sure yet how this will help me find the perfect job, but it was more fun than spending another afternoon on!

My first vision board