Don’t Quit Your Day Job, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mayor McCheese

by J. Michael DeAngelis

Have you ever stopped by my desk at Career Services? If you have, I bet you’ve said to yourself: “Man, that guy has it made. He’s got a nice desk with lots of little toys on it, a zillion electronic gizmos plugged into his computer and nice comfy chair with more adjustable levers than I can identify. Yes, that Michael DeAngelis must have the greatest job in the world.” It’s true – I have a really great job, one I enjoy coming to every day. Yet, unlike many of my colleagues I consider Career Services to merely be my “day job.”

Yes, much like Bruce Wayne/Batman, I lead a double life. By day, I’m your friendly neighborhood Career Services staff member, but by night, I’m an actor and a playwright. My degree and my training is in the theater arts, and I consider that to be my true career path. As many students in the arts know, it’s not an easy field to break in to, let alone support yourself in. Like many theater grads, I knew I would do whatever it took to stay afloat, even if that meant taking a non-theater day job.

But just because you’ve decided to take a day job, it doesn’t mean you have to end up working for this guy:

"Do you want fries with that?"

Here are a few tips that might help you, if you are considering taking a part time or full time job outside of your ultimate career path that doesn’t involve anthropomorphised hamburgers:

1. Try and find a job where your skills and training can be applied in a different way. For example, though I don’t typically write plays as part of my career services job, I do get to have a lot of fun writing these blog entries! This is what we refer to as a transferable skill. Your liberal arts education has given you lots of them – think about what you can bring to the table in a unique way.

2. Look for a job that will allow you to pursue your ultimate career goals. For me, Career Services is a steady 9-5 job on weekdays, which gives me my evenings and weekends to take theater jobs. Leaving work and heading right to a rehearsal or performance can lead to very long days, but also very exciting ones.

3. Be honest and up front about your goals. I don’t mean you should walk around looking like you’re going to quit the minute Hollywood calls, but let people you work with know about your “other life.” First and foremost, it’s the polite thing to do. Second, you never know what opportunities it will open up to you. Perhaps you’re in the fine arts. When it comes time to design a new company logo, you could be the first person they call! My colleagues have become not only supporters of my goals, but also my fan base!

4. Remember that your day job is still your JOB. If you are lucky enough to work someplace where you can pursue other goals on the side, it is your responsibility to be a productive and valued employee. It can sometimes be tricky, but I never allow my theater work to interfere with my day job. If you have a job with flex time and vacation days, use them to your advantage when juggling your second career. If it becomes too difficult managing a day job and a “night” job, it might be time to reevaluate. This is something we can help you with in Career Services.

There is a vast array of opportunities out there waiting for someone like you. Don’t rule out job possibilities just because they don’t fit squarely into your planned career. Stick to your goals, but don’t be afraid to explore jobs that are outside your set career plans. One day, as you’re accepting your Oscar, Grammy or Pulitzer, your colleagues will shout “We knew you when” and your blog posts will become instant collectibles! (The Collected Career Services Blogs of J. Michael DeAngelis out this fall in bookshops!)

And you’ll never have to say “Do you want fries with that?”

Career Decisions: What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s that time of year when many people– graduating seniors in the post-grad job search, sophomores getting ready to choose a major or concentration, juniors trying to decide what type of internship to choose, and even alumni who realize it’s time for a change– come to Career Services asking some version of the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

While there is no single correct answer to this question because there are a gazillion career possibilities out there, there are some basic considerations people should make to increase the likelihood that they’ll actually be happy in their chosen career. And in my opinion, since most of us spend so many of the waking hours of our adult life at work, we can’t afford not to be happy in our career.

To put it simply, your career path should be a good fit with your interests (activities you like to do or issues you care about), skills (your abilities and strengths), and values (your ideals and the lifestyle choices that are most important to you.) Once you’ve “self-assessed” your interests, skills, and values, the next step is to explore the job and career opportunities that may be a good fit for you.

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For current students trying to find some career direction, Career Services and CAPS are partnering to offer the Career Exploration Seminar: Exploring your Potential, Finding Your Fit to assist students in the career discovery process. This seminar will lead students through a guided exploration of their values, skill sets, and interests. Participants will also take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which is an assessment that helps students understand work and personality fit, and the Strong Interest Inventory (SII), which matches students’ interests to various career options. While assessments aren’t tests that “tell you what to do,” they can provide a great starting point for successful career exploration.

For more information about the Career Exploration seminars, seminar dates and to register, visit the CAPS website. The first session is this Wednesday, January 27th.

You can find additional resources on Career Services Career Discovery page, and from the Career Services Career Exploration page for College Students you can view this short video on Career Exploration.

Career Exploration from Penn Career Services on Vimeo.