Skip navigation

How to Get and Keep Your Dream Job, Part 2

Stretch Your Comfort Zones and Volunteer

The worst advice I ever received from someone that was older than me at age 18 was, “never volunteer for anything.” In my experience, we all need to do the exact opposite. The question I have asked and answered for the last 20 years is, “how can I increase the quality and quantity of my service to others?” I often write that question down in my journal. Some days I come up with 20 answers, others days just a few. Most people are in a rut. A rut is a coffin with the ends kicked out. Say yes to requests, especially when you’re new to a job. Go the extra mile with a smile. You’ll learn so much.

Keep track of what you learn in a journal. Take something from the day, don’t just try to get through it. Take something valuable away from the project. Keep stretching yourself in lots of little ways. Drive a different way home. Eat left handed. Let someone else choose the movie. Read a different magazine. If you read novels, pick up a biography.

Update Your Goals On Your Birthday

“Why my birthday?”, you ask. It’s easy to remember. If you don’t update your goals, you run the risk of flattening out, and losing your drive and energy. In high school, my magnificent obsession was basketball. When someone asked me what I planned to do after graduation, I said with confidence and naiveté, “Play college basketball!” Guess what? I accomplished that goal. After one year of junior college, I flattened out, lost all my drive and energy and left. I joined the Air Force by default. If you asked me what happened at 19 years of age, I answered, “Beats me.” You see, I goal set to and not through. I didn’t think past one year. Most people don’t.

In 1971, the Miami Dolphins lost to the Dallas Cowboys in the Superbowl. When a reporter asked All-Pro linebacker Nick Buoniconti (who was told he was “too small” to play in the NFL at 5’-11”, 220 pounds) why his Dolphins lost the Superbowl he replied, “I don’t know, we set a goal all year long to get to the Superbowl.” The reporter replied, “You mean you didn’t set a goal to win it?” Stunned, the former Notre Dame grad said, “My gosh, no....” The next year, in 1972, the Miami Dolphins went 17-0 and won the Superbowl. You see, if we don’t update our goals each year, we run the risk of flattening out. Update your goals on your birthday.

Become a Lifelong Learner

The word commencement is a middle English word meaning, a beginning, a start. Upon graduation, shortly after you toss your hat in the air, peel off your gown, and celebrate by all means. The next day, get back to work studying, learning, growing. Going to school should have taught you how to learn. It’s simply the beginning, a start. Become a lifelong learner. Read books, listen to audio programs on your i-pod, keep a journal, read trade magazines, attend seminars, find and develop relationships with mentors. Swen Nater chose legendary Coach John Wooden over a dozen other coaches and backed up Bill Walton for three years at UCLA. They won back to back NCAA titles. He was drafted in the first round 1973 by the Milwaukie Bucks yet never started a college game! He simply outworked everyone else. When coach Wooden asked Swen to shoot 100 hook shots with each hand over the summer, Swen replied, “I shot 300 with each hand!” He was so teachable. He still is. He was and still is the consumate student. Become a sponge. Soak in as much as you can....for the rest of your life.

Ask Questions and Dominate the Listening

When I was young, I thought speaking up and offering my opinion was the way to go. I was anxious to make a favorable impression. The best boss I ever worked for pulled me aside and said to me with compassion and tough love, “You’re a smart guy. You have a lot of energy. However, you’re large, loud and demanding. We’re moving you into the air conditioning department to work alone.” You see, what I should have done was listen. What I should have done was ask questions and shut my mouth.

When I was a kid in England, my Auntie Laura used to buy me a bag of candy. She called them “Gob-Stoppers”, they were huge. They barely fit in my mouth and lasted for hours. A giant round ball of sugar. I thought she was being kind. What she was really doing was teaching me to be quiet and listen. Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem to teach his 12-year old son the wisdom of asking open-ended questions: There are six honest serving men; they taught me all I knew; their names were what, where, when, how, why and who! I have learned the secret of success in getting along with others. Ask open-ended questions and dominate the listening. I never learn anything when I’m talking.

It’s Not About You

I interviewed superstar salesman and author of the terrific book “The Nordstrom Way” Pat McCarthy in 1998. “Why do you think you’re so successful in sales?”, I asked. He paused and said simply, “I think it’s because I am other-centered.” You see the opposite of that is self-centered. It really is true, it’s not about you! Become a Go-Giver. Find ways to serve others. Remember the Window and the Mirror. When it comes time to take the credit, look out the window and give it to your teammates. When it comes to take the blame, look in the mirror. It’s counter-intuitive. Our ego says “No!” A dying of self is required. No worries. If you do it long enough, everyone will know. Eliminate “I, Me, Mine” and shift your focus to “We and Us”; better still, “You and Yours”; people will want to spend more time with you but they won’t know why!

Hey, Wait A Minute

You haven’t told us how to get that dream job! You’re right. Instead, I will tell you story from David Halberstam’s fine book “The Education of a Coach” the biography of Bill Belechick, the successful NFL Coach. In 1976, he asked the Baltimore Colts if he could volunteer. They said “Certainly but we can’t pay you.” Belechick smiled and went to work. He put in long days, picking up dirty towels, studying film, 12-14 hours a day of the worst kind of drudgery. Most nights he slept in the locker room, grateful for the chance to be in the coaching game. After a month, the owners felt guilty and began paying him $25 a week. He got bigger than his job each month. All these years later, perhaps the best coach in the NFL earns over $4,000,000 a year.

If you can incorporate these things into your life, you won’t have to worry about finding or keeping a job. It will find you! You will get bigger than your job quickly. No one ever got promoted. They got bigger than their job and lifted up. So, get to work.

Mark Matteson is the founder and President of Pinnacle Service Group, Inc., Lynnwood, WA. He is author of three books and four e-books, including the International Best Seller, Freedom from Fear; with over 100,000 copies sold worldwide, it has been translated into Japanese & French. Mark’s newest book, A Simple Choice was released in November, 2009. Mark will be the Keynote speaker at the Friday morning session at Comfortech 2010 in Baltimore, MD. To reach Mark call 206/697-0454 or email at [email protected].

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.