Continue to follow Allah Jesus, Lisi, Tiffany and Shala’s stories.
In January, Millennial-focused TV network pivot aired “Generation Job: The Search to Find Better®,” a documentary sponsored by Monster that followed the story of four Millennials as they hit the job market.
Allah Jesus Ali, Lisi Howell, Shala Graham and Tiffany Jones continued their job seeking long after the documentary finished filming. They each took some time out of their busy schedules to answer some questions about where they are now.
How is the ‘Jesus for Hire’ campaign going since filming?
It’s going OK, but moving slow. There’s a lot to produce and I’m running into several challenges putting the systems and disciplines in place to be consistent alongside the work necessary to define my career path and maintain my everyday life. I’m getting good feedback overall, though, and my site traffic, email subscriptions and podcast downloads/listens are increasing.
Sounds like you got some great help from the police during your ‘picket’; were you concerned or surprised when they showed up?
I was slightly concerned when the police showed up, but then I remembered that I did a lot of research on when permits are needed and when they are not. After I remembered the rules, I wasn’t overly concerned anymore, because we weren’t breaking any. I was happy that they turned out to be so great and helpful. Sometimes enforcement officers, like the security chief who called the police in the first place, aren’t as warm.
What have you been surprised about during your search?
I’m surprised that I haven’t yet come across as many places as I thought I would that reward entrepreneurial thinking and “unorthodox” problem solving. A lot of companies and leaders may say “we want to hire talent that takes initiative,” but the culture of the organization isn’t really designed in a way that nurtures that sort of thing.
I realize that this is one of the major reasons that I’m not very keen on starting at the bottom vs. being hired as an executive where I have some creative autonomy and ability to take risks.
What’s the biggest thing that you wish you had known months or years ago?
The thing that I wish I knew prior to going in — and still that I wish I can discover now — is how to culture match myself to organizations to find the best places to work that are aligned with the way I think. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over a decade, so I think very differently than someone who is a career employee. I don’t see the same limitations, or fear the same risks. My ideas of acceptable results are different and my level of resourcefulness is usually higher. Getting leads on which companies reward people like me (other than the super-well-known ones, like Google and Apple, etc.) has been difficult.
My campaign name has been somewhat helpful though. “Jesus for Hire” is polarizing. Some people are shocked by and/or feel like it’s blasphemy, others get a giggle, and one CEO even asked why I haven’t just built it into a company and stopped looking for a job.
You have a very positive outlook, despite some setbacks in the search. What’s your advice to others who are having similar struggles?
First, I’d say it’s OK to dream. Often, the pressures of life will stifle your dreams, but it’s those ideas, visions, and dreams that will keep you excited and going when you need it the most.
Next, get really clear about what you want, and the experience that you want when you get it. When I’m clear about what I’m actually looking for, the things that I don’t get kind of just seem like part of the sorting process — and it’s not personal, it’s just the universe sorting out what doesn’t match.
Finally, believe. If you personally don’t believe it’s ever going to happen … it’s probably never going to happen. But, if you believe it will happen, then it will — maybe not right away, but it will happen if you keep at it and believe.
How’s India so far?
India is fascinating. One minute I’m running across the maze and cacophony of traffic getting frustrated out of my mind, the next moment I’m staring up at huge beautiful African Tulip poplars. I see trash everywhere and wonder how can you live with this? I see lights everywhere on temples and ride in an auto rickshaw shwooshing past people on streets and my driver is sweet to me. Everything is new and everything is old. Even if you look at something with Western eyes, it is sure to be looked at differently with Indian eyes.
Was there a tipping point that pushed you to want to leave your stable job in San Francisco to go to India?
Age. I’m 31 and didn’t have anything holding me to one place. I have had a dream of living outside the U.S. for a bit and I figured it was now or never. You never know who you’re going to meet and when, and I wouldn’t want this dream to be abandoned.
You turned a couple negative moments quickly into a positive, and you seemed very poised throughout the documentary. How were able to maintain that in the face of two difficult rejections?
You have to be rejected to know the gratitude of being accepted. I will fail a couple times, but I’ve learned throughout my life that if I persevere and work hard throughout my life toward certain goals, then they will come true in some way, shape or form. It’s not about getting exactly what we want, but working our way toward it, and along the way we learn truly what we need.
What would you say to other job seekers in similar positions, especially those who might be weighing a pay cut to take their better job.
I took the pay cut because I had been saving money for years and am financially secure with retirement and savings. I know that I appreciate exploration and adventure beyond cars and clothes, so I make my financial decisions based off of that. If it means being homeless, then no, I probably wouldn’t take that chance. But I would make a point to save for a year or until I felt comfortable being able to live off my savings for a bit. If you have a skill that you can make money from, then you will always be able to make money. It comes and goes in different ways (medical, travel, financial fallout, children, business) throughout a person’s life. You will be able to make it back at some point.
I love life so much and I can’t wait to experience more of it. Everyday is a chance to learn and grow to be a better person. I want to look back when I’m 80 and think this was the coolest life I could have possibly had. I try to make every day count toward that. If it wasn’t the coolest, then at least I’m building the foundation to jump off for it to be the coolest.
TIFFANY & SHALA
So where do things stand today? And what challenges still lie ahead for your business?
As of today, we are working through the buildout of our new space in downtown Silver Spring: purchasing furniture, creating space plans, communicating with the project manager about wall color choices, counter color for the kitchen, etc. We are also working on bringing in members ahead of time, planning a launch party, creating a new website, figuring out how to deal with membership online through an app called Cobot, etc. The list goes on and on.
The biggest challenge is the unknown. Neither of us have ever done this kind of thing before, so we’re just trying to learn from other space owners and think logically about things. We’re also trying to be careful about speculating too much, as some things will just need to work themselves out. We can’t get too bogged down with what might happen and not focus on the here and now.
How do you plan to confront those challenges?
We have established a very open and honest form of communication — we are both very smart women who can accomplish a lot, but we have to have great communication in order to make it happen.
Given what you’ve learned so far, is there something you might have done differently now than you would have before you started this experience?
I don’t think so — it’s been a great learning experience for us. I suppose we would have been more educated on the commercial real estate market beforehand so that we didn’t waste so much time looking at space that we weren’t going to be able to afford in the end. But other than that, it’s been a fun, challenging journey!
You also experienced first-hand that when one door closes, another can open. And though a deal didn’t happen with the Azerbaijan connection, you made contacts and learned from the experience. What would you say to other Millennials who are discouraged when rejected?
Life is all about rolling with the punches. You never know why a door closes or why something doesn’t work out. All that you do know is that it just wasn’t meant to be, and that’s OK. You simply have to keep moving forward, keep working hard, and stay focused. It’s also great to identify some mentors in your life — people who are older, have business experience, and can offer you some advice before making any huge decisions.
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