An interview with Rachel Ahrnsen, by Jen Dziura. Goat pics courtesy Rachel Ahrnsen.
Hi Rachel, I read your fabulous piece, 5 Moderately Difficult Steps to Creating Your Own Position, on the Billfold.
This piece was in response to an interview I did with The Billfold, Talking With Jen Dziura About When to Quit Your Job, so the fact that we’re doing this interview now is really coming full circle! If you write about this post somewhere, pretty soon we’re gonna divide by zero.
Anyway, I love your title – most worthwhile things are, in fact, moderately difficult. But not impossible.
Honestly, when I first started reading your piece, I thought this might be a parody article, like “Sure, you can just make your own position, now I’m QUEEN OF RACHELBURG, IT PAYS ONE MILLION FAKE DOLLARS.” Specifically, you wrote:
Now, I’m in the midst of creating three full-time job opportunities for myself. The three positions I created were: head of a cancer non-profit, a position I can best describe as “goat coordinator,” and a traffic coordinator at a trendy ad agency (yes, I do contain multitudes).
Please tell me about these jobs! Are they real? Are goats real? Are there real goats? Did you create a nonprofit?
Yes, these positions were all legitimate, with real companies that exist outside of myself. Though it is tempting to title myself “Empress of Everything” and be done with it, there wouldn’t be much cash flow in that position.
I’ve learned the most important part of job creation is being painfully clear about what you want in a position. In my case, I reflected on the jobs where I had been happiest, and made a list of traits they had in common. My list was: passionate coworkers, flexibility, helping people, ability to work outside, creativity encouraged, working with animals, and working with the public.
Once I got into the mindset of creating my own position, there was an opportunity explosion! I unexpectedly found myself juggling three job creation opportunities at the same time. Below I’ll go into more detail how each position was created, and what the end result was.
The cancer nonprofit came about when I was introduced to someone who had cancer and wanted to create a cancer nonprofit. They wanted someone to co-create and run this nonprofit for them. It was ideal because I could create my own job description, design a nonprofit, and have a lot of freedom while helping others. I was paid a tidy sum to create a detailed business plan and job description. Unfortunately, they postponed creating the nonprofit due to their health. However, I still might work on this in the future in a lesser role.
The trendy ad agency job came about when I was recommended to a local ad agency by a former coworker. The company didn’t have a specific position in mind, they just wanted a good person. So I told them my qualifications, and I was a match to help fill some of the holes in their company. Together we designed and created a job description based on my skills and their needs. However, they “moved in a different direction” with that one (maybe I shouldn’t have compared myself to a golden retreiver who tears up carpet when bored in one of my interviews?) But I learned more about advertising and got a couple of free lunches, so it’s all good.
This brings us to the real, live goats. Which was an eerie case of “ask and ye shall receive.” During my job creation storm, I had written down what I thought was an absurd dream job: work with goats. This was my dream job because I cared for a goat herd for three summers in my hometown and I loved it. However, this dream seemed a tad impractical. There were no herds of goats nearby. How many goat herds are there really in modern day America? Goat herding is an 1800s game.
However, a few weeks later an organization brought a herd of over 100 goats to my city to eradicate invasive plants. And then I really had no excuse. I sent them an email detailing my enthusiasm and experience with goats. They were receptive, and thought it likely that they would soon need someone to help grow the program. I created a job proposal, worked a couple of weekends with the goats, and I was super persistent. After several months, I was offered a position! My job entails ensuring the goats have enough to browse, doing PR, and hopefully creating events with the goats. Thus far, it’s been an amazing experience.
Throughout this process, I’ve had a lot of revelations about finding a job that is fulfilling and fun. In fact, while I was writing this I pulled a tick off of my ear and had a huge revelation: I knew all the downsides of creating my dream job. I knew I would be pulling ticks off of myself, working in the sun on 100+ degree days, and constantly smell like manure. And I think knowing the cons of your dream job and being fine with them is KEY in finding a job you love. I’ve seen a lot of my friends disappointed by jobs because they didn’t realize the reality of them. For example, working for a fancy magazine means late nights and your job is mostly to write descriptions of Youtube videos. And becoming a hotshot chef means you work insane hours and don’t have time to cook for yourself. I think you must truly know what a position entails before declaring it your dream job.