[How to Have a Day Job] Six Things!

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So in the midst of a lot of different things going on right now, I looked up and realized that a special day had passed. September 28. On this day six years ago, I entered the company I currently work for. It shall continue to remain nameless, but the lessons I have learned…those I will share.

Here we go: 6 things I would not have learned without my day job.

  1. Finances: money can’t buy me love, but it does pay the bills. And there’s a whole other world of insurance, retirement, stocks…all those words that get thrown around that would not have made sense to me if it weren’t drilled in year after benefit year. And I feel much more comfortable being able to budget and handle finances in my personal life now that I can put those things together.
  2. How to present information: I used to sing in front of my school and church growing up, but it’s different when you actually need to instruct human beings. I have become very eloquent and comfortable working in front of people, and there is no way I would even be able to make that happen if not for the trainings and presentations I’ve held.
  3. Dealing with mean people: despite what anyone tells you, there comes a time when you have to work alongside folks who are not your favorite crowd. Is it fun? No. Will it kill you? Also no. Do you learn how to deal with it and get things done? Unfortunately, yes.
  4. Why bad habits are bad: skipping breakfast, not washing your hands, drinking a lot of soda…it just builds up.
  5. The importance of working hard and playing hard: being present means knowing when to get deep into your job and when to really enjoy life. That means being able to go to bed each night knowing you did your best. That means taking risks, using your sick time, traveling, planning weekends, having parties. By living with joy and adventure, you stop counting down to Friday. And on that note…
  6. How to let go: my day job gets 40 hours of my week and not a minute more. It took a long time to get that skill honed, and now it’s more than my nine-to-five. It’s releasing regrets, anxiety and fear. It’s not always easy, but it’s way better than holding onto things that try to push me down.

What have you learned from your day job?

[How to Have a Day Job] On Kindness and Magic

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This week, I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. This was a Christmas morning surprise of a book – I was browsing Audible with my monthly credit in hand, and it popped up in the new releases. A book on creativity by the Ted-talking, globetrotting, smooth-talking (not in the sleazy sense, but in the read-me-my-library sense) authoress with the mostest? Yes, please!

In the midst of her discussions on being kind to your creative spirit, I hit a chapter called “Day Jobs.” My throat tightened just a bit. I was a little nervous, because I was afraid that this was going to completely take the wind out of my sails. Was the world’s foremost authority on eating, praying and loving going to take over what I had started?

Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. I was actually really excited about hearing what she had to say.

I did not expect that she would so perfectly summarize what I’ve been trying to convey with How to Have a Day Job from day 1.

To yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away. Because you’re making really loud noises, and your face looks weird when you do that.

She also talked about how she kept up her day jobs through three book publications before she quit to write full time. Three books. And admitted that if the third book hadn’t been such a success she would still be working day jobs so she didn’t have to put that pressure on herself, her craft and her finances.

So if you’re wondering why I keep talking about this, about all of this, about balancing your life and your paycheck, about managing your sanity while you clock in and out, this is it. It isn’t fair or nice to say to your vocation, “Hey, pick up the slack, buddy.” Who would stick around for that kind of abuse? Feed yourself, pay your bills, and give your muse the time it deserves to flourish comfortably.

[How to Have a Day Job] 5 Things I Never Would Have Learned Without One

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Some days, it’s hard to have perspective about your day job. Suddenly, something happens and you’re all 1) crying, 2) stressed out beyond all sanity, or 3) gassy. Hell, sometimes it’s all three. And you get those Lifetime movie moments where you think, “I could just get in my car and drive. Drive away from all this.”

That’s why it’s good, when there’s a pause between the bombshells going off, to think what experiences you would lose if not for your job. And as much as I’m sure you’re going, “I could live without those experiences, let me tell you,” I think that is wrong.

Here are five of mine.

  1. Resumes: yeah, I know, I got the stickiest one out of the way first. But this has actually come up surprisingly often. Because of my business writing experience, I have a resume for my writing career. It helps me to focus and see where I want to flesh out my abilities.
  2. Appreciation for customer service: I’ve heard it said that everyone should have to work retail or food service at least once. I’d like to add to that that everyone should have to take inbound calls in a call center for a day, minimum. You have no idea what the other end of that feels like until you’ve been in that seat, sweating and being screamed at and then having to come right back with a big smile and a “Thank you for calling Such and Such, how can I help you?”
  3. Being an adult: I was grappling with how to word this one, and I’m not trying to sound condescending. If you can make it through life without ever having to deal with the crowded fish tank that is the corporate life, you are fortunate. But when you are exposed to drama, cliques, gossip and catty crap for 40 hours a week, you really do walk away with a lesson or two about how to fight clean, be the bigger person, and deal with having no control over the people around you.
  4. Balance: Life. Work. Commute. Car problems. Illness. Finances. There’s no HOLD button for any of those things. By having this constant movement of live, work, eat, sleep, rest, rise, I’ve learned where, when and how to insert the things that are really important to me.
  5. Microsoft Excel: Man, spreadsheets are so useful for real life stuff. I wish I was being sarcastic. Being organized makes things so much easier.

What have you learned from your day job? Any hard lessons? Convenient truths? Helpful computer programs?

How to Have a Day Job: Monday, Monday

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Every week, that iconic song by the Mamas and the Papas plays in my head. Which, while it’s a softer tone, isn’t too much better than the saccharine Office Space voice saying, “Somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!” And then there’s the manic Monday, the rainy day Monday, the I-don’t-like Monday (tell me more!). Think Monday and you get doom, gloom, short tempers and wailing grievers, bemoaning the loss of those sacred seconds in Saturday and Sunday.

When was it that the world decided to hate Monday? How did Monday get the short end of the stick? What high school told Monday that it was the Least Likely to Succeed? What bus drove through a puddle and soaked Monday in front of all his coworkers? Well, I’m sick of seeing Monday eating lunch alone every day. It’s time to flip the script with this. Life is way too short to begin each week with resentment, immediately counting down to the end of it. I say no more to that!

Here are 5 ways you can make Monday more awesome:

  1. Start something new: have you been meaning to start a new book but just haven’t made the time? Maybe you want to go for a walk every afternoon, or cook more, or create a better cleaning schedule. Mondays have historically been seen as an auspicious day for good habits. It’s a clean start. Give it a try!
  2. Eat that frog: if you’re dreading a certain item on your To Do list, Monday is a great time to knock it out. You’ll get a kick of encouragement and motivation that will set you on a success streak for the rest of the week.
  3. Meditate: I love alliteration, and the gentle m’s of Monday put me in the mood for some mellowing out. Take 15 minutes out of your day, find a quiet space, and take long, deep breaths. Focus on the feeling of each inhalation (7 seconds) and exhalation (11 seconds). Clear your mind and refresh your core.
  4. Begin with the best: Monday is also a great day for assessing your morning ritual. Get a good breakfast, do a few stretches, fill up a water bottle. Leave your house a little early so you don’t have to worry about running to your desk. Load up your phone or iPod with some good music, books, or podcasts. Sit in your car and drink in the morning.
  5. Recognize Momentum or Management: There’s that glorious ‘m’ again! You don’t know how your Monday is going to go until it’s over. If it’s good, you can ride the momentum and let it supercharge the rest of your week. If it’s not, take a step back and try to figure out what you can manage. Did something happen that was outside of your control? Let it go. Did something occur that you can learn from? Make a note for the future. Stay in the moment rather than dwelling on what’s in the past. Tuesday is right around the corner! Just make sure Monday doesn’t feel ignored…

What do you do to work through the beginning of your week?

How Chris Rickert Has a Day Job

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In the southern area of Pittsburgh, amongst rolling hills and long streets, tucked near the winding T rails, you will find a bookstore. But not just any bookstore. This is no Barnes and Noble, no big-box-little-people establishment. This is Rickert & Beagle Books. And it is a magical place. It’s the type of bookstore like in movies where kids find books that transport them to other worlds. It’s the type of bookstore where you get this huge smile on your face from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave.

And obviously, running such an amazing literary wonderland takes hard work. Enter Chris Rickert, who started working at the establishment when it was Eljay’s Used Books. In 2013, after the owners retired, Chris took the reigns at the Dormont shop and paired up with a certain awesome author to reopen as Rickert & Beagle Books!

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That’s right. Chris is also a close confidante and social media guru for Peter S. Beagle. You know, the author who wrote The Last freaking Unicorn! And if that wasn’t enough to knock your socks off, many of the books from R&B were featured in the 2014 tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars. And she sells awesome B’nnthulhus!

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Okay. Before I gush so much my blog starts oozing, let’s get to the questions and hear about how this amazing lady owns her day job.

What is your current career? This what you love doing that, if asked, you would say, “Oh, I am a ____.” Do you have a day job that supports your career?

I have two “careers”: Bookseller and handcrafter. As a handcrafter I work mainly in fiber arts: tatting & crochet are my main focus but I study all kinds of needle-lacemaking, embroidery/ stitchcraft. The day job that supports my careers is marketing/ customer service. I work as a freelancer in these fields, but most of my work is for Peter S Beagle and his publishing house, Conlan Press.

What is the worst job you ever had? How did you get through it?

Telefundraising was a nightmare. Lots of people yelling at me, old people crying on the phone because they couldn’t donate more to gun control or animal rescue, and cutthroat managers. I was so anxious before shifts I started throwing up on work days. That was an easy fix, I quit. I think I lasted about two weeks doing that. That’s how I found out that doing a job I didn’t enjoy, or at least, feel morally comfortable with, was never going to work for me.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you first started working, what would it be?

“Don’t be afraid to stand up to your bosses when they are wrong” It took me a few times around to understand that my ability to feel comfortable in my working environment was more important than being approved of by my boss.

What would you say has been your master tool for getting through difficult times when working? Is there something that is your go-to tactic for dealing with best-of-times-worst-of-times scenarios?

I have tried to remind myself that I’m there to do a job, and no matter how bad the setting is, I’m getting money in exchange for my best work. If I had a bad day and my bosses yelled at me or I had a problem with a co-worker, I could still say I did the best work I could. But in all honesty, my go-to strategy is to not work in places with a toxic culture. I’ve left high-paying management jobs and gone to work in kitchens just to get myself into a healthier environment, and while my bank account reflects this, I know I’ve saved myself a lot of stress and misery by placing my emotional health above financial well-being. (I also have to point out that my lack of children, a car or a house payment has allowed me to [do this])

With where you are now and what you are doing with your life presently, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working day jobs? Is there a skill that you’ve picked up from a work environment that you would not have otherwise?

HAH! I come from an arts background, so pretty much every single skill I use in my daily work is from the jobs I worked after music school. The most valuable of those are the understanding of running a business from scrubbing toilets to high-level administration, and marketing a product or business. Some of that came from the used record store job I held for a while, but most of it came from running a large indie bookstore. The head of the company made all the General Managers build our own budgets, manage our P&Ls, run big meetings and so on. Basically, we got to try on his job and then get feedback from each other and from him. That’s the kind of experience you normally don’t get until you actually own a company, and being able to do those high-level tasks is often the difference between a failing company and a successful one. It definitely gave me the confidence to start my own businesses.

Are you interested in being interviewed for How to Have a Day Job? Comment below or shoot me an email with a brief description of what you love to do and what you do in the off hours!

How Cat Mihos Has a Day Job

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Good evening! Hope everyone is feeling awesome. I am very, very excited to introduce a new segment to How to Have a Day Job, in which I interview people who have tread the line between living passionately and paying the bills.

My first virtual guest today is Cat Mihos. I had the extremely amazing honor of meeting Cat when she visited Pittsburgh in January for Tatter East/Glitter West, an event held at my favorite local bookstore, Rickert & Beagle. She and the bookstore’s owner, Chris Rickert, sold prints, crochet dolls, jewelry and much, much more.

Even if you don’t know Cat personally (your loss, she rocks), you have probably seen images from a website she runs over on Neverwear.net — a home to many pieces of art bearing the writing of Neil Gaiman. Did I mention that he’s part of her day job?

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What is your current career? This what you love doing that, if asked, you would say, “Oh, I am a ____.” Do you have a day job that supports your career?

I am, first and foremost, a writer. In my “day jobs”, I work with author Neil Gaiman, and he has shone a light on much of the writer’s life for me. I am very lucky.

My other “day job” is a touring production coordinator, where I am paid to travel with different bands and get paid to see the world while listening to great live music. Lucky stars on repeat.

What is the worst job you ever had? How did you get through it?

The absolute lowest low of my touring career was working the Woodstock ’99 festival.

It was my first experience at touring on that level, and things went very wrong at a top organization level. The crowd set several trailers on fire. Some of the protesting was brought about because of the high price of basic needs, such as water, among other things. You really shouldn’t put a huge number of people into a space and tell them they can’t bring their own water, but over-charge etc. The lines at the pop-up ATMs were horrendous. The amount of waste in catering struck my heart; they would throw the food away rather than give it out. I saw this giant catering company turn away a group of Tibetan monks, while throwing away food as they watched. Witnessing that level of karmic disservice dropped my spirits to their lowest.

The silver lining was that I feel I can do any job now with a strong spirit and now would challenge that in attempt to make changes. I was just a dumb kitten then.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you first started working, what would it be?

Good question! I would be less hesitant in my actions, less fearful of doing the wrong thing. “Fortune favors the bold” is a true statement. As Neil says, “Make beautiful mistakes.” Also I would have counseled my younger self to be less worried about asking for help. People inherently want to help one another. Speak up!

What would you say has been your master tool for getting through difficult times when working? Is there something that is your go-to tactic for dealing with best-of-times-worst-of-times scenarios?

There is something about a certain level of self confidence that gets me through anything. Hold your head up when you walk into a new situation and remember that everyone started somewhere, even the masters. Don’t let fear hold you back. Be interesting and engaging. Stay in the present. I used to hide in books (ok, still can do) and now I try to interact with my surroundings as much as possible. “Be where you are” is one of my main mottoes.

With where you are now and what you are doing with your life presently, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working day jobs? Is there a skill that you’ve picked up from a work environment that you would not have otherwise?

Hmmmm. A little synopsis of my touring day, we roll into a new city and set up a show, do the show and then pack up and head to the next town. The days can be 20+ hours long, you need the local team of whichever venue you are in to want to help you, so you have to be patient. It is important to be clear and direct with your needs. After a long load out and a shower in the venue dressing rooms, which are usually locker rooms of some sort,  you are on a bus with your co-workers, so you are in close quarters with the people you have just spent those long man hours with.

Live kindly, be thoughtful, let anger be your last resort. My skill is survival in all things, but with kindness.

Are you interested in being interviewed for How to Have a Day Job? Comment below or shoot me an email with a brief description of what you love to do and what you do in the off hours!

[How to Have a Day Job] Movin’ On Up

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As I type this post, I am sitting in front of my computer the night before the last day of my current day job. Starting Monday, I will be doing a NEW AND IMPROVED day job. And so far as day jobs go, it’s going to be related to something that’s become my niche skill in the industry in which I work. As such, it feels like a smooth change, like putting on a new outfit while still keeping the same shoes.

In dealing with the stress of changing jobs, I figured this would be a good topic to write about for H2HaDJ. And instead of doing my usual 5 things list or a how-to, this one is going to be in the form of an FAQ. Because I realized there are a lot of questions I’ve been asking myself, even if I haven’t said them out loud. After all, this is the first job change I’ve had in three years.

Oh man, what if I look like an idiot because I don’t know anything?
Everybody starts out not knowing anything. But guess what? That’s going to change every day you’re there. Hold off on judging yourself for a solid 90 days. 3 months. If at the end of that you don’t feel smarter and more capable…well, that’s not going to happen.

What if they don’t like me?
Oh man, there it is. The high-school-y whiny desire for acceptance. It’s there, no matter how much of an island you think you are. But the fact of the matter is this: you can’t control what people think of you. What you can control is how you treat them and how you let their attitude affect you. Put on your best mental Brita filter: only let the good, clean vibes in. Nothing else is worth bringing into your world.

Is this a huge mistake? Shouldn’t I have just stayed with what I knew?
Obviously that’s not true, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You can take that as meaning this moment in your life, on a grand scale, or this specific situation. Be positive. Look at what you can gain, not at what you’ve lost. This is a new adventure. It’s going to be awesome. And if it isn’t? There’s going to be another new adventure before you know it!

How am I going to get stuff done? I’m going to be exhausted!
Whoa, take it easy. You actually don’t know how you’re going to feel yet. Give yourself some space. Take about a week and feel out your new schedule, especially if you’re going to have a change to your commute, work hours, or sleep patterns. This is the time that investing in a day planner is really going to help. Block out the time you’re going to need for your new job but pencil in things you want to do. Be nice to yourself, dammit.

And again, I know I say this in pretty much every H2HaDJ I do but…be present. Focus on NOW. Don’t sit around thinking what it’s going to be like tomorrow, or how shitty today was. Stay aware of what you’re doing at this moment, and live it to the fullest.

[How to Have a Day Job] Bad Days and Announcements (Not in That Order)

Hi, hello, and good evening!

So I’ve ranted and raved about my newsletter series How to Have a Day Job ever since it started. It’s only become more and more important to me as time has gone on. And that is why I have decided to move it from the email-only format to right here. On the blog. In front of you. Not constantly in short sentences, but it’s what I’m doing right now so…boom.

For those of you who are new, as I said in my H2HaDJ (Ech-too-ha-DJ? Hitoohadge?) the basic goal of these posts is this:

I am here to tell you that you don’t have to be defined by the money that keeps a roof over your head, food in your mouth and a few extra sketchbooks and pencils in your bag. I’m right here in the trenches with you. We’re going to get through this together. In this weekly newsletter, I will give you activities and ideas of how to keep your soul fiery when you walk in the door from the office soaking wet. We’re going to talk to people who have gotten to the other side of the river. And we’re going to thrive together.

The first topic in the New and Improved How to Have a Day Job Series is a topic near and dear to our hearts: bad days. You know them. They’re the ones that start in traffic, wind up in awkward bad meetings, find themselves sitting next to the lunch you left on the kitchen table. They’re the days that wind up crying in the bathroom or standing at the coffee pot, imagining exactly what could be said to that so-and-so right before full-blown “you can’t fire me! I quit!” mode.

And worst of all, they’re the days that end on the couch in front of a marathon of Modern Family, a pizza, and zero sense of priorities. Priorities being the book you’re working on writing, the scrapbook gathering dust, or the sewing machine rusting away from lack of use.

Fie, I say! Fie on bad days! Fie on their ability to ruin our productivity. Fie on their screwing up our streak. Fie, fie, fie!

And thus, here I provide, 5 ways to get the better of your bad day.

1. Make the decision that it is over — Once you’ve gotten off work, stop. Close your eyes. Take 5 calming, deep breaths. And say, out loud, “This bad day is over.” Make it final. Smile. Drive home and, on your way, imagine that you aren’t leaving a bunch of bad garbage but you are coming to a wonderful evening.

2. Take a shower — Sometimes, if I really feel like I’ve been wrecked and ruined by my job, the first thing I do when I finish is take a shower. I put on clean clothes, slip on some soft socks, and immediately I feel better. It’s like a nice, hot shower can was away the muck that gets kicked up on you in every way: physically, mentally, spiritually. Get that off.

3. Don’t sit — The couch is sitting there. Or your favorite chair. They call out to you in their siren song…just a few minutes. Maybe an episode of that show you have recorded. Maybe a few rounds of that video game. You deserve it. No. No, no, no. There is time enough for that once you’re done with what you should be doing. Which brings us to our next item…

4. Arrive — Have a section of your house that is dedicated only to your craft. It doesn’t have to be much. Maybe a table in the corner. Maybe a studio (lucky you). Maybe it’s a roller cart you can take into the bathroom. Go there. Say hello. It’s been waiting for you. Sit down. Do something there. Don’t think about it too much. Just…be there.

5. Channel that energy — I know. You’ve gotten to this point in the list where you’re all, “Yeah, you know what, Katie? All this hippy crap is well and good, but we can’t all just let it go, like a Disney princess in the snow. I had a really, really bad day!” And to that, I say…okay. That is alright. Just don’t let that stew inside you. Can’t let it go? Then let it explode. Recently, I made a fantastic purchase: a punching bag and a set of gloves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten done with work, walked over to it, and just kicked the ever-loving shit out of it for about ten minutes. Use that energy, y’all. Take all that bad and turn it into something awesome. Write about it. Sketch about it. Scream about it. But try to give yourself an end to it. Say to yourself, “I am going to let myself freak out for about 10 minutes. Then that’s it.”

Decide you are better than your worse days, and your good days are going to quickly outnumber them.