One of my favorite TV shows is Dirty Jobs, starring Mike Rowe — most of you have probably seen an episode or two. He's entertaining and has a great sense of humor. I've watched him interviewed many times and, each time he has practical, real-world common sense advice for anyone willing to listen.
Mike also puts his money where his advice is via the mikeroweWORKS Scholarship Fund. The goal is to get high school seniors ready to enter the workforce with the skills they need to land jobs available in the U.S. — the key word being available.
"The jobs right now that we have available, people don't seem to want — and it makes no sense because we're lending money we don't have to kids who can't pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist," Rowe says.
Each mikeroweWORKS scholarship is worth an average of $15,000. Any high school senior interested in theprogram, however, must first take the S.W.E.A.T. Pledge(Skills and Work Ethic Aren't Taboo) and make a case as to why they're deserving of the scholarship in the form of a video.
Rowe believes if they're not willing to sign it, this particular pile of free money is probably not for them. You can find the pledge on Rowe's website, profoundlydisconnected.com.
Parker Hall, a young fan, recently sought career advice from Rowe. He wrote:
I’ve spent this last year trying to figure out the right career for myself and I still can’t figure out what to do. I have always been a hands-on kind of guy and a go-getter. I could never be an office worker. I need change, excitement and adventure in my life, but where the pay is steady. I grew up in construction and my first job was a restoration project. I love everything outdoors. I play music for extra money. I like trying pretty much everything, but get bored very easily. I want a career that will always keep me happy, allows me to have a family and some time to travel. I figure if anyone knows jobs, it’s you so I was wondering what your thoughts are on this if you ever get the time! Thank you!
Because I’ve got two daughters — my youngest just finished her senior year of high school —Rowe’s response to Parker really hit home. You may have already seen this circulating online, but I thought it profound enough to share with you here. Enjoy.
My first thought is that you should learn to weld and move to North Dakota. The opportunities are enormous, and as a "hands-on go-getter," you're qualified for the work. But after reading your post a second time, it occurs to me that your qualifications are not the reason you can't find the career you want.
I had drinks last night with a woman I know. Let's call her Claire. Claire just turned 42. She's cute, smart, and successful. She's frustrated though, because she can't find a man. I listened all evening about how difficult her search has been. About how all the "good ones" were taken. About how her other friends had found their soul-mates, and how it wasn't fair that she had not.
"Look at me," she said. "I take care of myself. I've put myself out there. Why is this so hard?"
"How about that guy at the end of the bar," I said. "He keeps looking at you."
"Not my type."
"Really? How do you know?"
"I just know."
"Have you tried a dating site?" I asked.
"Are you kidding? I would never date someone I met online!"
"Alright. How about a change of scene? Your company has offices all over – maybe try living in another city?"
"What? Leave San Francisco? Never!"
"How about the other side of town? You know, mix it up a little. Visit different places. New museums, new bars, new theaters…?"
She looked at me like I had two heads. "Why the hell would I do that?"
Here's the thing, Parker. Claire doesn't really want a man. She wants the "right" man. She wants a soul-mate. Specifically, a soul-mate from her zip code. She assembled this guy in her mind years ago, and now, dammit, she's tired of waiting!!
I didn't tell her this, because Claire has the capacity for sudden violence. But it's true. She complains about being alone, even though her rules have more or less guaranteed she'll stay that way. She has built a wall between herself and her goal. A wall made of conditions and expectations. Is it possible that you've built a similar wall?
Consider your own words. You don't want a career – you want the "right" career. You need "excitement" and "adventure," but not at the expense of stability. You want lots of "change" and the "freedom to travel," but you need the certainty of "steady pay." You talk about being "easily bored" as though boredom is out of your control. It isn't. Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting. It's one thing to "love the outdoors," but you take it a step further. You vow to "never" take an office job. You talk about the needs of your family, even though that family doesn't exist. And finally, you say the career you describe must "always" make you "happy."
These are my thoughts. You may choose to ignore them and I wouldn't blame you – especially after being compared to a 42 year old woman who can't find love. But since you asked…
Stop looking for the "right" career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what's available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late.
Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don't waste another year looking for a career that doesn't exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that's consistent with those beliefs.
Many people today resent the suggestion that they're in charge of the way the feel. But trust me, Parker. Those people are mistaken. That was a big lesson from Dirty Jobs, and I learned it several hundred times before it stuck. What you do, who you're with, and how you feel about the world around you, is completely up to you.
Good luck — Mike
P.S. I'm serious about welding and North Dakota. Those guys are writing their own ticket.
P.P.S. Think I should forward this to Claire?