How to Find the Perfect Job

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

–Confucius

Clearly, back in Confucius’s day, he’d never heard of “outsourcing” or “industrialization”.

I used to love this quote in high school. Back when I was a special little snowflake and thought the world was full of rainbows, unicorns, and gumdrops.

Fast-forward 10 years.

After crawling through the engineering trenches and working long hours in the dark, concrete jungles of the corporate world, I realized the cold hard truth:

The world doesn’t owe you the Perfect Job

This is why, even after years of writing and becoming a published author on the side, I could barely afford food with my writing income, but my engineering income let me retire by the age of 31.

The world valued my coding skills WAY more than my writing skills. Coding jobs were everywhere without enough coders to fill them, whereas everyone I knew was trying to write the next “Twilight” and publishers were going out of business.

That’s why I knew looking for the perfect job was pointless. Because the world doesn’t owe you a job that you love. The world doesn’t owe you a job that’s fun, stable, AND high-paying. And because I’m no longer a Very Special Snowflake or VSS, I can handle this truth.

But my Very Special Snowflake friend, Ben, can’t. He’s been complaining about not being able to find the perfect job for the past 10 years. When I asked him what type of job he was looking for, he said, “stable and low-stress.”

“You mean like a government or non-profit job?”

Ben wrinkled his nose. “Work your butt off while the slackers get away with murder? Hell no.”

“But that’s why it’s stable. Because you can’t fire people easily,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, no. I said I wanted a stable job, not a mindless, soul-sucking one.”

Eye roll. “Okay, how about the private sector? You could work for a software company or be in finance.”

“Um, constant stress and no stability? No thanks.”

“How about a lower paying job? At least you won’t be as stressed.”

He raised an eyebrow. “So you’ve invented a way for my mortgage to magically pay for itself?”

I looked around the restaurant and spotted a bunch of crotchety looking old dudes in the corner. “Oh look! Better people!” And then scampered off, leaving Ben to bask in his own self-righteous glory.

You see, as a “very special snowflake” or a VSS, Ben cares about 3 things when it comes to finding a job:

Fun, stability, and money.

venn

Here’s the harsh truth: Of those 3 things, you can only have 2.

Fun and Stable:

In the top left section, you have your fun and stable jobs. Jobs like these include teachers and librarians. The work here may be enjoyable, maybe even along something you’re passionate about! What’s a Very Special Snowflake not to love?

Hmm, for some reason they don’t pay very well. Or at least, not anymore.

These types of jobs used to be taxpayer-funded, with powerful unions protecting their cushy benefits/pensions and shielding them from the layoffs that the rest of us working stiffs have to put up with. But as we know, unions are steadily declining and most people don’t have pensions anymore. Now, opened up to the laws of supply/demand, EVERYONE wants these jobs, so as a result the salary being offered goes down. After all, if you don’t like it there’s 100 people lining up behind you willing to take it.

Fun and High-Paying:

And in the top right section, you have your fun and high-paying jobs, like athlete, rock star, or best-selling author. Basically, the dream jobs. Fun AND high-paying? Sign me up, right?

There’s a reason these are called “Dream Jobs.” Because one minute they’re there and the next, POOF, they’re gone. Ignoring even the difficulty of making it into one of these, a long-term career in one of these fields is exceptionally rare to pull off. NFL players are constantly one bad injury away from ending their career, rock stars come and go, and even best-selling authors like Stephanie Meyer never reach their previous level of success ever again.

So these jobs are highly desirable but also very risky. Hard to make it, and even harder to stay in it.

Stable and High-Paying:

And in the bottom right, you have your stable and high-paying jobs, like accountant, lawyer, engineer, or doctor.

These jobs are the STEM jobs that every stereotypical Asian parent loves pushing their kids into. They also happen to be the jobs with the most demand but the least supply, since they require years and years of schooling to qualify. As a result, in order to attract workers these jobs come with high pay and are typically stable (or at least, as stable as any job can be these days), but fun?

Guess what, that money ain’t free. If you’re getting paid north of $100k to do a job, your employer is going to want to make sure they get their money’s worth. Even jobs (like mine) that start off with a reasonable work-life balance slowly but surely slide into the world of thankless drudgery, pointless bureaucracy, and life-sucking overtime.

Fun, Stable, AND High-Paying:

Now you see that middle section where all 3 intersect? That dream job where you get paid a butt-load of money to have tons of fun and never get laid off?

Wait, what’s that? There’s nothing there?

Why is that exactly?

Is it because those jobs don’t actually exist? Is it because no company in their right mind would continuously shower you with money so they can go bankrupt while you get to have fun?

Look, I’ve been there. I was once naïve and optimistic that such a job exists. I mean, there’s gotta be people out there who love their jobs, don’t have to worry about getting laid off, and still get paid butt-loads of money right? RIGHT?!

Well, after 11 years looking for said job, I realized just like unicorns, leprechauns, and my buddy Ben’s self-awareness…

The Perfect Job Doesn’t Exist

So are we all doomed? Does that mean we’re all doomed for mediocrity and never living out our dreams?

Well, no….hold on a second…what’s that tiny font in the middle?

Let’s just zoom in shall we?

venn-2

Closer…

venn-4

 

THERE! See that right there?

Right there in the tiny intersection of fun, stability, and high pay is…

Financial Independence.

Why?

Because The Perfect Job doesn’t exist…unless you create it yourself.

And in order to be able to create it yourself, you have to have enough F-U money to not NEED one anymore.

F-U money is magical for a lot of reasons, but basically this gives you the option to either

a) create your own perfect job, or
b) transform your existing job

Because once you have enough F-U money, your portfolio PAYS you to do whatever you like. You can work as much or as little as you want.

You can do what you love, have the stability without the stress, and get paid to have fun.

That’s why working for myself, while not having to worry about hustling hard to find clients, is the best job I’ve ever had. I can switch between blogging, writing children’s books, and coding. And my “salary” comes from my investment portfolio whether I work 40 hours or 0 hours a week. So now I never have to stress out about the money or worry about work-life balance and I feel completely fulfilled. And not only that, since I’m no longer tied to a job, I get to do all this while travelling around the world!

Travel2015

But hey, I get that not everyone wants to travel around the world or work for themselves (psychopaths and nut-jobs, mostly). And for these people, having F-U money STILL gives you that dream job. Because what F-U money does is swing the power away from your employer to you.

Because you are no longer your boss’s bitch, you can now say NO to doing things you don’t want to do. You can have fun being insolent and who cares if they fire you? You don’t need the money. And if the job is really that bad, just walk away and find a better one! You can even take crazy fun jobs that may not pay well, or be that stable, because who cares about those things anymore? You have F-U money!

So instead of being a Very Special Snowflake and chasing the perfect job, like Ben, become FI instead. Because the only perfect job is the one you create for yourself. And the only way to do that is to have enough F-U money to walk away.

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48 thoughts on “How to Find the Perfect Job”

  1. This is such an awesome way to think about jobs. I’d say I started out in the “stable” and high paying field. Big law firm. Tons of billable hours. Scared out of my mind the entire time that some old partner was going to yell at me for screwing something up or email me in the middle of the night to do some work (seriously, the ding sound on my phone whenever I got an email made my heart skip, every, single time). Not really sure how “stable” it was, hence the quotation marks. Lawyer’s are pretty much a dime a dozen, so I could easily be replaced.

    The key is understanding the purpose of the job. I needed to pay off my student loans. So having a job that was high paying was key. It’s easy to be miserable for a little bit if you’ve got a goal in mind.

    I’ve since gone to a more stable, government job. Not sure how “fun” it is per se, but it’s definitely more stable and has better hours.

    Getting FI though is really where it’s at and hoping to get to that point one day. Just do any job you want once you get there.

    1. Exactly. The purpose of a career is to earn a living. That’s it. Anyone trying to hit more than that goal is going to get creamed.

  2. I love this! Finally someone gets it. Too many people out there searching for their dream (work less for more pay) jobs and bitch and moan about their lives. Forget about what you want for once and put in the hard work. Have some grit. People don’t realize DOING the work brings the fulfillment and happiness and not the work itself. Do all that, save your hard earned cash, and in the end you will end up in that tiny font in the middle. Great article!

    1. Hoo yeah. FI is something you can control. The job is something you can’t. Relying on a job to be stable, fun, and high-paying for 30 years is a losing bet.

  3. Sounds like Ben is nostalgic for the “good old days” when jobs like working on an auto assembly line was “stable, low stress and high paying”. All you had to do was graduate grade 12, stroll on over and apply…and voila!…a great job for life!! Well those days are long gone. Globalization took care of that. Ben and those like him had better come to grips with the reality of today…this is a knowledge based economy now…if you want to make $$$$ then you better be prepared to sell your know how. Don’t have any special know how?…..then you better get yourself some. Find a skill in demand, find an unfilled need and then work your ass off to become qualified to meet that need. Nothing good comes easy in life. This is a competitive world Ben and you might as well find that out now. The harsh reality is…if you are not motivated, driven and able to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps then be prepared to step aside while others take the cake….

    Man…I sound like a grumpy old coot…and I do feel sorry for Ben and his ilk (somewhat)…because I do not think our education system is preparing these kids for our economy today. They are finishing school and are then “shocked” that their degree in art, or english, or history or (insert “bird course”) cannot get them a good paying job. What a waste of time and money….

    1. Yup, times have changed. I think it’s irresponsible for schools to offer these degrees, causing students to go into massive debt, and then never be able to find a high-paying enough job to pay it off.

      If schools aren’t going to educate us about this, we need to educate ourselves.

    2. I’d hazard that those jobs NEVER existed…we’re just sold the rose-coloured glasses nostalgia that they did at one point and time. Case in point, the auto assembly line is extremely stressful too. I remember quite vividly my friend in university telling me that the BEST incentive for going back to university was the time spent on an assembly line to pay for said university. Fine for the first few weeks…then the endless repetition starts to get to you….and get to you…and get to you…until you want to stick a fork in your eye just to make it stop…but you’re only on week 4 of the job for cripes sake!
      And, of course, good paying, secure jobs were never available for women. My mom was told she was “extremely lucky” to go back to work mere weeks after having me. Women were “supposed” to quit their jobs at that point.

      1. Good point! It’s easy to put on the rose-coloured glasses when looking back at “the good old days”, but job weren’t perfect back then either. It was just easier to get one.

  4. Fun, stable and high paying does actually exist in the tech industry, but it definitely depends on making it yourself and not living hand to mouth. Once that goes away you can get off the treadmill and focus on enjoying it – ie: you might just find that fighting your way up the corporate ladder is no longer interesting.

    1. “making it yourself”…that’s they key. Work will only become enjoyable if you enough control to step away and not be forced to do something just because you need the money.

  5. I thought I had the perfect job until I became financially dependent. Once I had enough money saved I realized there were some changes I wanted to make (less shifts, more free time.) Now I have the perfect job again. Especially since I am financially free to leave when I want. I think that control over your life makes you enjoy everything so much more.

    1. “I think that control over your life makes you enjoy everything so much more.”

      Yup. Exactly. People underestimate how much of the stresses and unhappiness in their lives are caused by lack of control. Having the ability to choose makes everything better.

  6. So I like you guys and I like generally the message you are trying to share. I even agree with you most of the time! But I find the tone of this article a little negative?

    Saying that it is impossible to have a job that is fun, stable and high paying, I guess, depends on your definition of “fun”, “stable” and “high-paying”. Those terms obviously mean a certain thing to you, and in your worldview they are incompatible. Not arguing there – you are who you are – but I’m not sure those are universal truths.

    Call me naive, but I have a job that I like a lot (okay, not sure I’d call it rockstar-level “fun”, but I enjoy my work, and am almost never hesitant to come in in the morning), is reasonably stable (depends on your definition, but I’ve been at the same company 11yrs), and pays me pretty well (again depends on your personal definition, but I’m certainly top quintile of Canadian salaries).

    And I’m not deluding myself either! Sure, there’s the odd unpleasantry at work. But I’d imagine that even you, travelling the world, are subject to a periodic unpleasantry or two? And sure, I don’t wake up on a beach every morning, but conversely, I honestly think that if I did, I’d miss the skill-building, learning, and personal development I get from my experiences at work.

    So anyway, I get your point. I’m just not sold that it’s as hopeless as you suggest.

    1. Fair enough. But you are the exception rather than the norm. Considering how 75% of people don’t like their jobs, the chances of finding a perfect one and having it STAY like that for 30 years until retirement is next to nil.

  7. People now have this sense of entitlement/delusion that their jobs need to ‘fulfil’ them as a person. It’s not enough that it just pays the bills etc. Seriously, that’s what hobbies and interests outside of work are for.

    We had interns who complained that the work we gave them was boring. Um, you’re being paid $35 to simply photocopy some bits of paper. Be grateful or f*** off. Urgh!

    1. Wait, there are jobs out there paying interns $35/hour to photocopy stuff? What field is that? If they don’t want it, I’m sure there are 100s of people lined up to take that job.

      I get that you can’t do a job that isn’t challenging or full-filling forever, but I it’s always boring in the beginning…no one’s going to trust an intern with the most important tasks. I would’ve never trusted myself with anything important when I first started co-op.

  8. This. Is. Perfect. I’ve had 6 jobs in 6 years mostly because I kept thinking something better was out there and while that was true for “there’s more money out there” it wasn’t true for the rest of it – every job was the same. A combination of high-paying and fun (I worked at ad agencies). I was looking for my job to fulfill a big part of my life and then I found FI. I think I have a better understanding of what a job should be now: a means to an end, not my entire life’s meaning and I’m a lot happier now. You articulated this a lot better than I could have. Thank you. I’ve already sent this to everyone I know.

    1. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

      And yes, a job is a means to an end. Once you stop making it your entire life’s meaning and create your own perfect job from becoming FI, it makes everything better.

  9. Love what your saying FIRECracker,

    My name is Gary,

    Love what you guys are doing,

    I’ll tell my story short and sweet, I’m working on selling my house for 2million walk away 1.5M debt free, invest money 12-15%, trade the Forex markets and travel the world just like you guys and have a ball.

    That to me is the best self made Job I’ve created.
    cheers
    Gary

    1. Thanks, Gary! Congrats on becoming FI and escaping the rat race!

      The Forex markets scares the hell out of me (because it’s a zero sum game) but hey, if you’re willing to take on that level of risk, then hopefully it works out for you!

  10. We quit a few years ago and started a new business. Four years living just on savings was scary until money started to slowly trickle in last year. Still, no guarantees, but we can survive without that income if need be. I hear a lot of people around me say: “I wish I could work for myself.”

    Then why don’t you? Or why don’t you try to set something up while you are working for someone else? Why are people resigned to the idea of forever toiling for a corporate master?

    1. I think it’s mostly due to fear. Our brains tend to go towards “worse case scenarios” when faced with the unknown. But when we’re actually in that “scary” situation, we realize it’s really not so scary after all. Like how you survived 4 years on savings until your business starting making money. It takes a lot of guts to do that so kudos to you!

      Setting up something while working for something else is definitely the way to go. But I think most people are too tired after work to think about starting a business, or have kids to take care of, etc. It’s do-able but definitely not easy.

  11. Love the article, however I wouldn’t consider $40,000/year as high paying!
    Yes you can do FI with that level of income, but I don’t think it qualifies for the middle spot in your diagram.

    1. It is for the following reasons:

      1) Since I only work 2 hours a day, 4 days a week, or sometimes none at all, that’s a salary of $96/hour.

      2) And since I have so much free time, I can build businesses to supplement the income and drive it up over time. Since I don’t need the income, I’m not focusing on this, but other FI people like Financial Samurai (WAY bigger hustler than me) and MMM, have managed to make $200K-400K/year outside their investments, and that’s all because FI free them up to build their own business. You can’t do that if you are tied to a 9 to 5 job.

      1. We’ll have to agree to disagree : )

        1) only makes sense if you could easily increase your hours worked (ie. you decide you want to make an extra $10,000 for a trip to the arctic and pull a 52 hour work week x2). My view is the total income per year (not hour) makes a job well paid. Could you do something as a contractor? Maybe, but that is precarious and therefore again not in the centre as not stable.

        2) To those of us that aren’t business-inclined, this is not an option. The stress of a business start up does not qualify as fun. Yes less personally risky if you have other income coming in from investments, but still stressful imo.

  12. Love his article. It really hits it spot on for most people.

    On another note, I believe even if you are not at FI stage, having money let’s you enjoy your job more. The reason being is you have more control and power. You’ll naturally be less scared to voice your opinion when something doesn’t jive. Perhaps even quit if you hate/dislike the job enough because you know you have the cushion. Very few who would stay at a job they hate when they saved up 2+ years of living expenses.

    1. That’s true. Even if you’re not FI, having F-U money helps you have more control over your job and that makes a big difference.

  13. Hah. I’m actually a librarian! Like certain other fields, I think our work is paid less well than it would be in a world where either a) it weren’t traditionally a female profession, or b) women’s work weren’t traditionally undervalued.

    My early-twenties self did subscribe to the “find a job you’re passionate about” idea, so this is where I’ve ended up, master’s degree in librarianship and all. And I don’t regret it, though I’m not sure I’d make the same choices now – I have a more realistic outlook on the workplace these days.

    Anyway, this field might not get the freaky high salaries some do, but it’s enough to reach FI if you make good choices. I don’t have much patience for the “you have to be a super high earner to have any hope of early retirement” complainers. It’s perfectly feasible at normal middle class salary levels; people just can’t math, or don’t want to change their behaviours. At lower salaries than that, I will concede it gets harder.

    (I’d say my job is fun some of the time, reasonably stable, and reasonably well paid. I’m planning to trade some stability for a possibly more fun AND better paid job soon, in the Middle East. Everything’s a tradeoff, like you said.)

    1. “I don’t have much patience for the “you have to be a super high earner to have any hope of early retirement” complainers. ”

      Me either. Those are the usually the people who, as you say, “can’t math”.

      Best of the luck with the job hunt! As long as your expectations are realistic (trading off stability for more fun and more pay), the trade off will be worth it.

  14. Get a job in government! I know plenty of women with policy and law degrees, getting a cushy “policy advisor” (or [insert] advisor) role…start out making $70K and making 4% increases year over year. (This is in Toronto.)

    Oh, you get benefits (dental, health pckg – also can have spouse and kids milk off that), all courtesy of the public. Not to mention a defined benefit plan.

    Is it sustainable?

    Maybe…

    Nice to know Firecracker is an accomplished engineer instead of the prototypical SJW with a useless arts degree…wait, those useless degrees get you a cushy govt job!

    1. I’m not sure the “cushy” government jobs are that easy to get into. My brother-in-law’s been trying to get a teaching job for the past 10 years…no luck. And my friend’s been trying to get a gov’t job in Ottawa…there are thousands of applicants for 2 openings. Odds aren’t good.

      I had to look up “SJW” because I honesty hadn’t heard of that term until now (and I call myself a Millennial. *hangs head in shame*).

      1. Please don’t become a SJW!

        You are doing just fine with your blog without becoming an SJW 🙂

        I hear of nepotism in govt hiring…some ppl get lucky…

        And I do know entitled me-llenials who land a job in Ontario govt, make $80k at 27-28 but want more…

        …nice to know you and the husband actually put in time, effort, sweat and tears… others do not and expect the lavish life without the requisite inputs.

        1. LOL. No worries, I have no idea how to be a SJW, so couldn’t be one if I tried.

          As for the nepotism in hiring, that could happen anywhere, government or private sector, but I think it’s the exception rather than the norm (or maybe I’m just being naive). And thanks for the kind words!

        2. I read plenty of words here, but all I hear is “waah, waah, I want those benefits!” Well, since you clearly are better than any govt drone you just have to apply to get them.
          The hiring practices are regulated to ensure fairness and weed out resume fraud (there are exams to pass).
          Just get off your whiny ass and start applying or STFU.

          Or put on your adult pants and ask your boss for those benefits you are jealous about.

      2. Public service announcement: SJW is a term thrown around a lot by the anti-feminist / anti-gay-rights / etc crowd. I don’t think they’re the only ones using it, but there’s a strong correlation, in my experience. I’d be careful of using it in internet circles unless you really do identify with those groups. It certainly makes me side-eye internet commenters a bit and wonder what it says about their other views.

          1. SJW is a deserved name. Sure, there are [insert identity political group here] that are not crazy, but then you have the few who are. Of course, anyone who criticizes feminists is a misogynist, etc etc etc. (It’s a nice way to try and quell your critics.)

            Then again, look at Ontario… this prof is getting in hot water because he refuses to recognize “other” gender pronouns (apparently there are more she and he):

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEbC5Py1qoI

            Then you have Ontario wasting money on things like this (and wonder why they are in debt):

            https://news.ontario.ca/owd/en/2015/10/artists-and-advocates-to-join-in-challenging-attitudes-on-sexual-violence-and-harassment.html

            And finally, here’s what an SJW looks like:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFrZsGbO6N0

    1. I was a history major, and I’m all for the humanities. Your field of study does influence your career path and salary levels though. You make choices, and whether they’re informed choices or not, you live with the consequences.

      Anyway, it’s not as if early retirement is impossible for us humanities types; just might take us a bit longer. And I don’t think I’d trade my path for working 80-100 hour weeks at a soul crushing job to reach FI a few years sooner. I’d rather take a longer, more scenic route. 🙂

      Not everyone can or should have careers in STEM, but you know, it’s also true that not everyone needs to – or even should – retire early. Hardly a tragedy if they can’t. I have family members whose lives fall apart if they’re unemployed, because they NEED the externally imposed structure a job gives them. Early retirement is not a universal good. I think it’s probably best that it’s a bit of a niche interest, pursued by people who are strongly motivated to reach it; the kind of person who can make early retirement happen is likely the kind of person who can handle it when they get there. (That said, it’s good the concept is getting more visibility these days, so people who’d be interested are more aware it even exists as an option.)

      1. This is why arts organizations rely on public funding (grants, etc.).

        I am jealous of Wanderer and FireCracker for being so tax efficient…instead of working the 9-to-whenever and giving half your income to subjective projects:

        https://news.ontario.ca/owd/en/2015/10/artists-and-advocates-to-join-in-challenging-attitudes-on-sexual-violence-and-harassment.html

        I am not saying sexual violence is a non-issue, but when it comes to art…

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANA8SI_KvqI

  15. If you know you want a new job make a list of why you want to make a change and all the qualities of your dream job. Don’t just think about the salary – although that will probably be a deciding factor if you’re choosing between two job offers.

    1. Wish that were the case, but salary is a big determining factor for most people. It’s only easy to ignore if people have F-U money.

  16. I love this website but I have to disagree with you that the perfect job doesn’t exist, because I have the perfect job and everyday I feel grateful for having it.

    It’s called Firefighter.

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