Glassdoor is proud to partner with the incredible storytelling organization The Moth to bring you stories of work, self, and perseverance. The following is one of the stories we will share over the next few weeks that we hope will inspire you to know your worth and reach for what you deserve.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Kids often have ambitious responses: pro athlete, filmmaker, hip-hop artist, president. By the time you’re an adult, you realize how hard it is to achieve these lofty goals. But Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika actually achieved his dream career when he became a hip-hop star.
Fast forward to two years after a life of international travel, private jets, and screaming fans, Chenjerai found himself lying about his Excel spreadsheet skills to land a mundane temp job. The industry he had staked his entire career on had chewed him up and spit him out without so much as a qualifying résumé.
The dissolution of a dream career can be rough on anyone's psyche, leaving you questioning your self-worth. This is especially true in situations when, like Chenjerai, we have a tendency to define our value with fame and financial success.
Suddenly Chenjerai found himself caught between two career extremes, trying to figure out who he was and where to go next. It’s a struggle a lot of professionals can relate to: How do we redefine ourselves when our so-called dream jobs seem like they’ve hit a dead-end?
The link between self-worth and job satisfaction
Finding satisfaction in your job can be hard to do if you set narrow expectations for what success looks like. It also doesn’t help if you feel like you aren’t truly leveraging our skills, talents, and passions.
For Chenjerai, his career turning point came when he heard his song come on over the speakers while he was waiting to interview for an admin job. He’d considered his music career a failure until then, but hearing his song made him realize that, “Maybe I have more to offer the world than Excel spreadsheets.”
Even though his musical career didn’t work out how he’d imagined, he realized at that moment that he still had the chops to pursue a career in music. But he didn’t need a brand new career, just a mindset shift and a new approach. Perhaps fame wasn’t the name of the game. “What I always loved about making music was that you didn’t have to be some big important person to make compelling songs that reach out and touch somebody,” he says. After redefining his career expectations, Chenjerai took his love of music and redefined his "dream job" by putting his efforts into running a nonprofit music studio. Eventually, he earned a Ph.D. and became a professor of media studies.
“When we don’t find satisfaction in the work we expected to enjoy, it signifies that we must let go of our ‘expectations’ and bring in creativity, curiosity, and reflection,” explains Alejandra Hernandez, Founder and Career Coach with EmpowHer Change. “If we get stuck in the ‘expectation,’ we find ourselves going deeper into feeling frustrated instead of learning and moving forward.”
Find your third door
It’s easy to get caught up in a vision of how things are supposed to pan out. But in times when you’re feeling stuck or thrown off course, the thing you need the most is your imagination. Chenjerai broke out of the standard definition of music success by finding what he calls, “the third door.”
“I was looking for a third door where I could do what I wanted and at the same time I could make opportunities for other people to make music,” he said. For Chenjerai, that meant running a nonprofit studio for marginalized young people.
This is a great approach when job hunting. Rather than pouring over listings for specific skills that you have or could acquire, write yourself a mission statement for what kind of higher purpose you’d like to serve. Then find a role that gets you as close to that as possible.
How to love your job
It takes time and a bit of soul searching, but finding work that satisfies you starts with knowing and being true to yourself. Like Chenjerai’s story teaches us, there are plenty of jobs out there that you can do, but how do you land the ones you want, especially if you don't really know or have lost sight of what that is?
First, do your due diligence in getting a reality check on how much you’re worth.. Take stock of your years of experience, your knowledge of the industry, and any other skills or expertise that you have on your side. Taking the time to put this down on paper can help level out any feelings of imposter syndrome. It’s hard to deny your worth when it’s captured clearly in front of you.
As for Chenjerai, his path led him to get his doctorate and a career in academia. And while he still looks back on both his hip-hop royalty and administrative assistant days with fondness, Chenjerai shows us that finding a job you love takes a little bit of thinking outside the box.
“Sometimes you’ve got to figure out who you’re not, so you can become who you are.”