Owning Your Choices

For over a year now, I’ve tried to earn a living as a writer.  When I began this journey, I imagined that I could always return to the 9-to-5 workforce lifestyle if the writing thing didn’t take off right away.  Now that I’m trying to find a job to supplement my writing income, I’m starting to wonder if I made some bad choices.

As you may already know, I’ve resigned to the fact that I cannot live off of my blog earnings alone.  In 2007, LifeReboot earned only ~$3500 for the entire year.  In order to cover my living expenses, I have been using savings from my previous day jobs.  Tapping into these funds for the past year has caused them to dwindle.  As I continue to watch them lessen, I become more and more anxious to find a job.

Currently, my “full time job” is to find a job.  I spend my days searching through as many job postings as possible.  I submit my resume along with a cover letter tailored to the specific position and cross my fingers.  As I’ve previously written, this “shotgun” approach to job hunting (i.e., spreading out your applications just hoping to hit something) is often ineffective.

If a particular position really appeals to me — because of location, starting salary, or other incentive — I’ll go the extra mile to make an impression on the employer.  I’ll fax my cover letter and resume to their HR department, so that my application is not just another unread message in their overflowing inbox.  I’ll ask my references to submit a letter of recommendation to the HR department on my behalf.

I’ve learned that the process for applying for jobs is extremely delicate.  I don’t want to come off as a job beggar — I want to demonstrate that I’m a resource person.  I believe that submitting too little information (for instance: no cover letter) makes it appear as though I’m not serious about the position.  On the other hand, submitting too much information (for instance: a cover letter, 3-page resume, 2-page letter of recommendation, and samples of my work) makes it difficult for a hiring manager to quickly assess how well-suited I am for the position.

Furthermore, any application strategy is subject to misinterpretation.  In the past I would often skip the step of customizing a cover letter for the position, under the belief that my resume had all the information the employers needed.  The 2007 edition of “What Color Is Your Parachute?” says that most Hiring Managers view someone’s application as a representation of their work ethic, meaning “no cover letter = lazy applicant.”

In other words, what I imagined could save the recipient time may have actually caused them to trash my application.  This potential for misinterpretation is present no matter what you do:  Provide too little, be interpreted as lazy.  Provide too much, be interpreted as an overeager job beggar.  When you’re blindly submitting your information to strangers, how can you know what is the best approach?

Since I have had so much difficulty even getting an interview for a job, I recently swallowed my pride and asked for help.  I approached my girlfriend’s father, who had offered me an entry-level position at his office when I moved to the area, and asked if there were any open positions at his firm.  He could only offer me a part-time position  with no set schedule — an “as needed” position where I would be called if “something came up.”  I understood his offer as a gentle suggestion that it would be a better option to look elsewhere for work.

So I continue looking, hoping that I’ll find something before my savings runs out.  I worry about the future, wondering how it’s possible for someone like myself to experience so much trouble finding a job.  I’m pretty sharp guy.  I did well in school.  I went to college under full scholarship.  I earned a computer science degree with honors.  I have seven years of experience working in the computer industry as a consultant, technician, or analyst — and yet I can’t find a job that pays above minimum wage.

I could place the blame on a lot of external circumstances:  the rate of unemployment in Michigan, the declining dollar, or the tanking economy.  I know, however, that I’ve had several jobs that could have been lifetime careers if I wanted them to be.  I could have settled for what I was doing, what I was earning, and continued living repetitiously for 40 years in a job that was “safe” — but I didn’t.  It was my own choice to leave those positions, and I left them on my own free will.

I made a choice to pursue my dream career as a writer because all of those other jobs left me feeling unfulfilled.  I imagine that even if I successfully find a job to help me through this rough spot in my life, the job will still leave me wanting more.

I want to do something significant.  I want to do something challenging.  I want to do something impressive…

…and I want to believe that every choice I’ve made has been my own.

If you've found this website helpful, please click the PayPal button. You will be helping me pursue my dream career as a writer. Thanks for your support!

30 Responses to “Owning Your Choices”

#1 bibi on 25, Mar, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Hi Shaun, when I tried to click on your two links, sample cover letter etc. I never seem to be able to get through. I have used four different computers now, and it still does not work. The only way it seems to work is to cut and paste the .com into the URL and then I can get it. Is everyone else having this problem too. Good luck on finding a job, it is difficult in your area.

#2 GadgetPig on 25, Mar, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Hi Shaun,

Try Craigslist for jobs in your area. There is a jobs>technical support section, and also stuff under “gigs>computer”.

I would also recommend a “headhunter”, they seem to find jobs that some companies never advertise. The headhunter will get you interviews, and if you get hired for 90 days, the company that hired you pays the headhunter. There is no out of pocket expenses paid by you.

Yet another place to try is hospitals. There’s usually job postings by the lunchroom, and you can easily find “no prior experience” jobs like radiology/file clerk or patient transporter, or better paying jobs like computer room operator or support technician.

#3 Kate on 25, Mar, 2008 at 6:33 pm

hi, well good luck. Don’t give up on your blog.

#4 Shaun Boyd on 25, Mar, 2008 at 7:25 pm

I’m already using the Detroit Metro Craigslist to search for local jobs, but I still appreciate the suggestion.

As for headhunters, I actually tend to hear back from them more often than actual employers! (I’m certain this is true because of how they earn money from matching job candidates with job openings. Unfortunately for me, I do one preliminary phone screening and then never hear from them again.)

The hospital suggestion is one I’ve never heard before. I do check the “announcements board” at my local library for job postings, but I have never tried this method at my local hospital. I’ll definitely give it a go.

Thanks for the suggestions!

#5 Sean on 25, Mar, 2008 at 8:29 pm


While this may seem like taking a step back – did you consider taking a job you could like, though only pays minimum wage?

As an employer myself, I would rather promote from within and reward my hard-working employees who started at the bottom of the barrel than to hire middle management from outside. The company I now operate came from the networking and experience I earned from my other crappier paying job. Someone who I had worked with recommended my name to my current employer, and the rest is history. I’m now making more than double what I was making at my other job, and they’re even giving me the opportunity to return to school.

I realize that it will feel like you’re giving up the experience (and a little ego) you’ve worked so hard to achieve by taking a lower paying job- but from what I’ve read in your blogs, now that you’re living in a different city and don’t have the same connections that you did before, maybe just getting your face out there and networking by working that minimum wage job might be your ticket to success. Stay in the profession you enjoy doing and plan on making a career out of in the future. Plus, who’s to stop you from looking casually while employed?

#6 J. Arthur on 25, Mar, 2008 at 9:17 pm

Just wanted to offer some encouraging words. Things will work out. They always do. Don’t get discouraged. = ) Keep up the excellent blogging.

#7 Ben on 25, Mar, 2008 at 9:32 pm

Are you looking for computer jobs or writing jobs? If you’re looking for computer jobs; sorry, I’d have to say I’m a little disappointed in you Shaun. You’ve written numerous posts about following your passion and demonstrated it in your own life, and taking a job you’ve admittedly wanted to get out of seems like a step backward.

In addition, what else are you doing to make a living as a writer other than your blog? Other than your few posts about you writing fiction, I’ve not heard about anything else. You need to produce an actual product…with over 1200 readers, just on your blog, I’m sure a few would be interested to read what you have to say and pay for it…I’m one of them! I would just like to see you continue on your mission of becoming a writer…at whatever cost. It gives others like myself and your readers hope.

Good luck with whatever ventures you encounter!

#8 allen on 26, Mar, 2008 at 1:18 am

I constantly, question whether I made the right decision by quitting my corporate gig to finish my bachelors. I went from making money and being a good taxpaying citizen to living the life of a poor college student again. The more I think about it being the wrong decision the crappier I feel. I’m not saying that you should ignore your situation, but it’s tough going back on decisions (or reflecting negatively on your past choices) you’ve already made, so try and just keep looking forward. Good luck, man, and never give up.

#9 allen on 26, Mar, 2008 at 1:22 am

oh one more thing, be proud that you were able to make the choice you did. a lot of people don’t have the guts step away from what is comfortable, but completely unfulfilling.

#10 Paul on 26, Mar, 2008 at 9:40 am

Shaun, you’ve just demonstrated the pitfalls of following your dreams. Most of us would love to make a career out of something we’re passionate about, but the reality is that doesn’t always pay the bills.

After reading your blog for awhile I feel I’m very similar to you; I work in the computer industry and have no love for my work. And like you I’d love to write for a living, or at least do something creative, but as long as I have a family to support I have to put practicality over passion.

I admire you for your courage and wish you luck on your job search. Just be thankful that you have the freedom to take that risk and follow your passion.

#11 GadgetPig on 26, Mar, 2008 at 10:43 am

Hi Shaun,

Don’t be afraid to try something new, even if the pay is not so good. As long as the job sounds fun and doesn’t involve checking tons of “work” email everyday, it’s still a good way to earn income. And you can continue your passion of writing.

For me personally, I’d rather not work in IT again (until one day when it’s unionized), other than a side or part-time gig. The thought of checking tons of email, writing tons of email, reading new corporate directives, maintaining IT SLA agreements, working weekends or staying late after hours “for free”, fixing networks and computers because “it’s slow”, the whole corporate IT career is not fun (unless you’re your own boss). In IT , overtime is always “expected” but never of course paid. At least with hourly jobs, if you work overtime, it’s paid. And they don’t bother you when you’re on vacation.

You inspired me to follow my dream, don’t ever give up on yours 🙂

some job or business ideas which don’t require checking ton’s of email:

-manager or assistant manager at GameStop
-radiology file clerk
-hospital patient transporter
-work at whole foods or crate and barrel or even Best Buy (appliances is best section to work)
-day camp counselor
-open a dog walker or dog sitter business
-garbage man (they really do make decent money 🙂
-work at UPS (union job)
-work as a concierge at a hotel
-open a dollar store business
-open a dog haircut or dogwash business
-open a lawn care business
-Bartending (my brother in law loved this when he did it part time)
-Data Cable Technician or DSL technician

best wishes Shaun! fight the urge to work back in IT!!

#12 GadgetPig on 26, Mar, 2008 at 11:01 am

Shaun just dawned on me of a job career you may also consider:

-working in a public or university library as a librarian


go for it! 🙂

#13 Alan on 26, Mar, 2008 at 11:14 am

Have you considered doing temp. work to tide you over until you get a full-time job? It might only pay minimum wage, but the benefits are 1) cash, 2) short-term jobs or only as long as you want, and 3) easy (usually they just need a body). I liked doing temp. work because I could avoid taking low-paying jobs and quitting which is a disservice to the employer.

There are several national and local temporary worker companies like, Kelly, Adecco, and ManPower. They like it when you call in the morning to check for available jobs. Sometimes the temp. jobs lead to full-time work. Good luck.

#14 NotLovingIT on 26, Mar, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Hey Shaun. I’m almost 45 years old with nearly 25 years experience in the IT field. I have a wonderful family and a lifestyle that my level of income is needed to support. I hate what I do with a passion. I am thoroughly shackeled with the golden handcuffs. Many days I drive to work and I’m just not sure if I can do it another day. I often wonder if this is the day I’m just going to not go to work, quit my job, and hope I can manage to find a way to at least put food on the table. Don’t let yourself get there by getting back into a field you are not passionate about UNLESS you set your mind to it being temporary and you continue pursuing your passion with everything you have. I had a wake up call 3 years ago and am diligently pursuing my passion with every spare moment I have. Very tough and discouraging at times, but I do know that I cannot continue doing what I’m doing until retirement age just because it’s “safe” (no job or career field is safe in this day and age) and pays well. I wish I had begun to pursue my passion at all costs a decade ago when I began to realize that I do not like working in the IT field. Good luck. Hang in there!

#15 AntonioCS on 26, Mar, 2008 at 8:36 pm

On a happier note. The Css seems to be corrected for ff2 🙂

Good luck!

#16 Dan on 27, Mar, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Since you like writing perhaps earn extra income as a freelance writer writing tons of articles for other people’s sites?

#17 Alex on 28, Mar, 2008 at 11:50 am

Hey man, why not get a job substitute teaching? You can work only when you want to and quit anytime. I’m pretty sure they are in demand.

Or why not apply working for a job at a newspaper? My mom used to write for the Press of Atlantic City.

If all else fails, study some Japanese and I can get you a job in Japan 🙂


#18 James on 29, Mar, 2008 at 11:07 am


Don’t forget that allowing others to choose for you is a choice in itself.

~ James

#19 Foundajob on 29, Mar, 2008 at 4:50 pm

I had to reply to “Owning your choices” as I have been looking for a “job” AND it got so bad I became a JOB BEGGAR! I got a job and it’s way out of my area of expertise and constantly feeling under qualified is not something I want to feel everyday … however I am learning a whole new job so the confidence will come as time goes on. I had to let go of “all my experience” and become a student! Not easy!

I just finished my first week and even though I recieved great reveiws from management I still feel “Your Fired” is going to happen! As I simply do not have the skills this job requires however they new this and hired me any ways. So I have a lot to prove not just to them but to myself.

#20 Shaun Boyd on 30, Mar, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Thanks for the huge response to this article. I appreciate all of the different perspectives and thoughtful suggestions.

I have definitely considered starting over completely in order to gain a new skills set. I’ve thought about getting a part-time job or apprenticeship in a local music store where they move, tune, rebuild and sell pianos. I’ve thought about applying to be a waiter at a nearby restaurant that’s hiring. I’ve even had a phone interview with a Realtor who wanted to hire me as her Personal Assistant that occasionally had to handle computer problems.

I predict that if I were to re-enter the computer industry doing Tech Support, I would be disappointing many people — including myself. That doesn’t stop me from looking to see what computer jobs are currently out there. In my experiences, the people you work with can make an astounding difference in the level of job satisfaction. If I worked for an organization where I was among people whose computer skills dwarfed my own, I would enjoy myself because I enjoy the process of learning from others. I know that you want to see me continue to pursue my dream career as a writer — and don’t get me wrong, I definitely plan to — but at the moment, I’m terrified about the future. The best next step for me would be to get involved in a job that can help to ease my financial worries.

I’ve been offered a freelance writer type of position before. I’d be able to submit articles to the editor, and if my article was published, I’d receive $50. Like anything else, there are ups and downs to that arrangement — but it’s definitely a possibility.

I agree wholeheartedly: Allowing others to choose for you is a choice, the same way that doing nothing is a choice. What I mean when I say “I want to believe that every choice I’ve made has been my own,” is that I never want to play “the blame game.” There have been times in my life where I’ve taken someone else’s advice while making an important decision. In hindsight, listening to them caused me to make some choices that have led me somewhere I’d rather not be. That being said, I will still refuse to blame them for my problems. It was always my choice, and I made the choice to ignore my thoughts and buy into theirs. You live, and you learn.

#21 Josh on 31, Mar, 2008 at 11:59 am

Nice site.

Shaihalud rules the desert!

#22 Jeff on 31, Mar, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Have you tried getting a job that is writing-related? Perhaps a columnist or editor or something along those lines. Your website would be a really good example of your work for employers to look at.

#23 Miranda on 31, Mar, 2008 at 11:51 pm

Shotgun approach definitely won’t work. Went to an employment fair and at a workshop, HR execs mentioned how they hired people with the most creative ‘package.’ These people researched the company, knew what the company needed, knew who was in charge, spoke with these people, and finally presented not just a resume and cover letter, but an entire package.

This included personal biography too, and everything was packaged under a theme: baseball theme “I’ll pitch you an idea!”
Handbag company – resume in handbag shaped folder

Getting your name heard requires a lot more than just faxing (in fact that may be futile and only waste paper). Make sure you know what you’re looking for. Go for a company you really want to work for, research it well, and make yourself as relevant to them as possible.

#24 Matt on 02, Apr, 2008 at 1:59 pm

A little in the mean time strategy for you if you haven’t checked it out yet:

Look into constantcontent.com and associatedcontent.com You can submit articles to those (either as exclusive or non-exclusive depending on your desires) and make a little extra income from your writting to help tide you over while in the job search process. They also make for nice suplemental income in addition to a full-time job. It lets you practice your craft, get your name out there more, and makes a bit of extra money.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you Shaun. Whatever company gets you is going to be very lucky

#25 Fleeter on 03, Apr, 2008 at 3:02 pm

This site though controversial as far as employment goes is a good “portfolio piece” in the instance you attempt to get a online or even offline writing gig somewhere.

#26 Melinda Gordon on 03, Apr, 2008 at 11:30 pm

I was looking for another ( person same name) You are way to introspective. Yes sir,,, you need to get tougher. Your time is far more valuable than you’ve been spending. I have been self employed all my life Employers admire how much you “get down” there is a million an one that will talk & talk about what needs to happen.

People pay me all the time (and well) for which they “can’t bear to do”

I laugh all the way to my vacation.

PS You ae probably toughter than what you have drawn on.


#27 Christopher Calvi on 09, Apr, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Come on, sir… let’s see some posts up in here!

#28 Taufik on 13, Apr, 2008 at 4:36 am

Hey Shaun, everything in life is a risk so don’t feel bad that things aren’t working out (maybe just yet…). As others had mentioned before, u had the HUGE guts to take a chance, and believe me u’re like 1 in every 1000. ..See thing is, and I think others here can agree, when things don’t work out, those 999 will be all “WE TOLD U SO…” and it’s especially hard when those close to u are one of em. But if things had gone a different direction, well they’d shut up.

What u should feel bad is when u don’t give yourself the opportunity to try. Maybe right now with the situation u’re in u think it’s not the case – u tried…and it seems u failed. But believe me Shaun, there are few things worse than realising that u’ve never allowed urself a chance, a chance that may never present itself again ever. U constantly live feeling a like a three-legged stool, nothing ever seems to fit despite trying to convince urself otherwise. …and that’s a bigger and worse risk, being lfe’s drifter.

Maybe u don’t realise it but u have succeeded to a degree. Perhaps not the way u’d expect but ppl are reading ur blogs and they empathize. Maybe it’s not much but it’s a really big deal for some. By all means, do get a job cos u still must face reality. And times will be getting a little rough for all of us.. consider the kind suggestions some have given and take this as a learning curve.

BUT PLEASE, don’t give up!

#29 Larry Borsato on 13, Apr, 2008 at 6:05 pm

Shaun, I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been through those dark times more than I care to remember. But I can promise you that it does get better. You will find something.

#30 Foo Thoughts » Live Life to The Fullest on 16, Apr, 2008 at 10:32 pm

[…] Nike’s motto? Just do it. It’s about owning your choices. It’s about knowing that life is short, you want to make full use of what time you have left […]

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