Review: 48 Days to the Work You Love

Every Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book or other book of interest.

4848 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller keeps getting recommended to me over and over again by readers. Initially, I had filed it right next to Margin in my mind as a “great career advice book with heavy Christian overtones,” but so many readers clamored for me to read and review 48 Days that I had to give it a reading.

I’m glad I did. 48 Days to the Work You Love does a great job of laying out the full case for seeking a job that you’re passionate about as opposed to one that merely pays the bills.

48 Days to the Work You Love has some significant Christian themes running through it, often using Biblical quotes and stories as part of the motivation and reasoning behind some of the principles. I believe that most of the ideas in this book can stand completely on their own without any faith-based backing, but for some Christians, the religious material will be a boon and for some non-Christians it will be a hindrance. It doesn’t overwhelm the book, but it is certainly a theme throughout.

If that’s not an issue for you, then 48 Days to the Work You Love is an extremely worthwhile read. Let’s dig in.

1 | What Is Work?
Why do we work? Most people answer with reasons related to paying the bills. They’re either working at or seeking jobs that are secure or are in demand because these things create or secure a healthy income. Yet such jobs are often the source of deep unhappiness because it ignores the natural gifts and drives each of us has. We all love doing certain things (though it’s different for each person) and we all have things that we’re very good at (again, different for each person). Yet in that chase for money, we shoehorn ourselves into jobs that don’t utilize the things we love to do or the things we’re good at, and that (unsurprisingly) leaves us unhappy or at least less fulfilled than we might otherwise be.

2 | The Challenge of Change: React, Respond, or Get Trampled
The world is always changing. In order to succeed, you have to be strongly on board with that change. Seek out areas of change that fascinate and enthrall you. Focus on them, learn about them, and bring every transferable skill (yes, my old hobby horse) to the table with you. The more you toss yourself into areas of change that match your skills and passions, the more valuable you become very quickly.

3 | Creating a Life Plan
Your work is not your life. It is simply part of a well-rounded and successful life. What elements do you want in your ideal life? Most of those elements probably won’t involve work – they’ll involve leisure, play, community, relationships with others, and so on. Work you love fills in the gaps between “work” and those other areas so seamlessly that it all flows together and makes you whole.

4 | Wheels, Goals, and Clear Action
What is your overall mission in life? Do you have one? Spending the time to figure one out really helps put everything else in context. Me? I’m a writer who simply wants to help others grow. That’s my mission. Within that mission, Miller identifies seven areas of achievement: financial, physical, personal development, family, spiritual, social, and career. These should roughly be in balance and they should all help you achieve your overall mission in life.

5 | Am I an Eagle or an Owl?
What are your gifts? Quite often, for expediency or convenience, people are stuck in roles that do not match their gifts at all. They’re uncomfortable in those roles and their required skills are far from their strengths. I was once in this position; I had to travel and meet with lots of different groups. Not only was I uncomfortable with the meetings, I often felt that the topic area was outside of my expertise.

6 | 6 Job Offers in 10 Days
How do you get this job? This chapter covers resumes, cover letters, and “elevator pitches” – but mostly resumes. There’s a ton of great advice on here, but the key to all of it is that you need to be assertive. People don’t owe you a job. Don’t believe that a great resume will win you the job alone – it’s just the first step. You have to follow up. Call them. Chase the job you want or else someone else will be the one who chases it down.

7 | Finding Your Unique Path
So, self-promotion is one key to finding the job of your dreams. What other keys are there? One big key is finding out where the jobs are in the field that you’re interested in. What basic things are required to get your foot in the door in those fields? Another big element is deciding when the right time to switch career paths is, and that requires some significant introspection.

8 | Do They Like Me? Do I Like Them?
Here, Miller talks about interviews – and again, the key to getting the job you’ve dreamed of is selling yourself. Can you describe your strongest area of expertise? Another interesting part: it’s often useful to ask about the company during the interview – in effect, you’re interviewing each other to make sure the match is right. This not only helps you figure out if this is right for you, but also puts more confidence in your pocket.

9 | Show Me the Money
Almost every salary is negotiable. Miller spends this chapter talking about salary negotiation – and also the value of sometimes jumping ship to a similar job at another firm for a lot more pay than you’re getting now. The key (as before) is self-confidence and communication skills – you have to be willing to stand up for what you want.

10 | Do You Have What It Takes?
Another avenue many people take (and I’m in this group) is entrepreneurship – in effect, creating your own dream job. This is obviously a harder path starting out because there’s no guarantees, but once you get it going, you really do get to define your job however you like. This usually requires a ton of self-motivation.

11 | Skunks, Rags, and Candy Bars
Here, Miller collects several thoughts together under one umbrella. The big one (for me) was an emphasis on taking the time to think about what you’re doing, because almost every task can be done far more efficiently with some careful thought. Also, don’t get trapped in your past. Everyone fails – a failure in your past doesn’t mean a thing about whether you can succeed now.

Is 48 Days to the Work You Love Worth Reading?
This is the best all around book I’ve read on job hunting, bar none. I genuinely believe it eclipses What Color Is Your Paracute? (my previous pick for “best career book”) unless you’re completely alienated by a small amount of Christian theme to the book.

So, read this if you’re thinking at all about the next professional step in your life. If that statement doesn’t apply to you, then you’re probably not going to get much value from 48 Days to the Work You Love.

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