Earlier this year, I hit the jackpot and got the job I had previously only ever dreamed of. But it’s safe to say it wasn’t always plain sailing.
Early on in my career, I was frustrated. I was frustrated by the kind of projects I worked on, and frustrated by how others seemed to be doing infinitely better than I was. I wasn’t working at a fancy startup, I didn’t go to conferences, and it seemed like everyone around me had better opportunities than I did.
The country I lived in at the time was going through tough economic times, and whenever I expressed negative remarks about my place of work I was met with the infamous “you’re lucky to have a job.”
Well actually, no. That’s the cop-out answer that people will give you when they themselves are miserable.
You’re not lucky to have a job — they’re lucky to have you.
And you’re not even lucky to have your dream job — luck has nothing to do with it.
Getting your dream job takes introspection, strategic thinking and hard work. People usually don’t “fall” into their dream jobs, they’ve thought about what they want and have chased it with laser-focus. Today, I’m going to talk about changing careers, and how it’s possible to get the job you want.
I wasn’t always in my dream job. I didn’t even always know I wanted to be a designer — even though now it seems like it should have been an obvious. At one time — at least to me — it was not obvious. At one point, I used to dread Monday morning. Many of the projects that I worked on I would spend a few days relishing the design phase, followed by a few weeks and sometimes months on the development phase. I didn’t want to be a developer anymore. I enjoyed the design side.
The breaking point came when simply “dreading Monday” evolved into “coming home crying”.
I felt stuck. I wasn’t getting interviews because I didn’t have a portfolio of great work. I didn’t have a portfolio of great work because I was relying on other people to give me great projects. I was in a rut, and had no idea how to get out.
Life’s too short to dread Mondays.
When I look back, this was all a learning process. Today, I wanted to share with you how I was able to get my career out of a rut.
1. Evaluate The Current Situation
If you’re dreading every Monday morning, something is wrong. It’s not enough for people around you to shrug, say “that’s life” or “just look forward to the weekend”. The truth is that everyone deserves to have a job they like. Most people don’t take time to pause, take stock and think critically about where they are and where they want to be. So many people never stop to ask themselves some important questions.
You don’t need to back-pack across Asia to figure this out, just take out a notebook and write down all the things you want out of your job. Some of the things that you should ask yourself are the following:
- Do you want flexible working hours? Or are you more happy with routine?
- Do you like working at a desk? Or would you prefer to work on different locations?
- Do you want to be your own boss? Or do you like working in a team?
- Do you prefer creative roles? Do you prefer chaos over organisation?
- What do you like to do for fun?
- What did you enjoy doing as a child?
- Do you want to work with clients, or would you prefer to work alone?
2. Figure out Where You Want To Be
As soon as I figured out that I wanted to be a designer at an internet company, I was able to put together a plan on how to achieve this. So take the ideas from step 1 and start thinking about what sort of jobs would offer you those qualities.
If you’re interested in being your own boss and you’re not afraid of long and irregular working hours, then having your own business might be something to check out. If you like routine and you’re the sort of person who naturally enjoys organising nights out with friends, then maybe management or leadership is more your thing.
Just because you’re creative doesn’t mean you have to be a starving artist. Marketing, branding and advertising are all creative fields. Just because you love making videos doesn’t mean you have to be a film director — you might want to teach film editing in an evening class or online. For a long time, I believed that having a degree in art would only lead to a job teaching art, or having a psychology degree meant you would be a psychologist.
Think beyond the archetypes.
3. Take the Class or Courses, Buy the Books and Network!
If you’re interested in interior design, start by buying the best selling books on interior design. Then see if there are any local night classes or online courses that you can take on interior design. Learn the terminology, figure out what exactly it is about this area that you love, and follow that. It might not be that you want to be an interior designer, you might enjoy being a visual merchandiser for a department store — creating beautiful window displays. Explore the topic and figure out what exactly it is about that area that draws you in.
Finally — network.
Get around other people who are doing what it is you think you would like to do. Email them and ask if they would be generous enough to give you 10 minutes to answer your questions in an informational interview. Find out if this would be the career you would like by asking what they love about their roles, and what is challenging. And find out how they got there! This can take years off your journey if you find out how others got to where they are today.
Just a word of warning — not every class will be useful, so take your time and do your research. The good courses will have social proof on their website, so track down someone who has done it also and ask them for their review.
4. Support Your Ideal Career from a Hobby
When I was transitioning in to being a designer, I made websites in my spare time for friends and family. I started my blog to talk about design-related things. Every weekend I dedicated hours to building side-projects because I knew I needed design work to show on my portfolio.
Start small. If you want to be a writer, start a free blog on WordPress. If you want to be an interior decorator or stylist, start an Instagram account. If you want to be an illustrator, set up a Behance or Pinterest and upload what you have. If you love making short films, start a Youtube or Vimeo channel.
Start small, but here’s the kicker: start now.
Start small, but don’t wait. Start now.
No one else is going to come along and tell you to do it. We are raised in a system that has conditioned us to tell us to do stuff at a certain time. Get up for school, finish your homework, choose a college, graduate… No one is going to tell you to start your dream job – so I’m going to do it. The first step is the hardest, so just go ahead and take it.
5. And Finally, Do Something Every Day
Being able to work on my side-projects used to give me something to look forward to every evening. After work I would be excited to sit down for an hour or two and do what I loved, knowing it was taking me closer to my dream.
When you know what you want, and you make a start to achieve it — don’t break the momentum. Instead of browsing facebook every night after dinner, dedicate 10 minutes each day to working towards your dream job.
Why 10 minutes? Because everyone has 10 minutes to spare. And often after spending 10 minutes doing something you like, you’ll keep going.
When you are doing something you love for a living, you look forward to Monday. You can wake up before the alarm goes off and enthusiastically start the week. When you are doing something you love for a living, you want to be the best. You will gladly attend courses and conference, happily network and meet people in your field, and be motivated to be the best. When you do something you love for a living, it stops feeling like ‘work’ and just something you would naturally do.
These are the things I did to get myself out of a rut, I hope you found them useful. Are you in a rut? Or have you ever found yourself struggling to climb the ladder?
If so, why not share in the comments. I would love to hear how it worked out.
Thanks again for reading. If this topic interests you, here are some more posts that you might like.
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Go Team! Improve Teamwork Skills with These 10 Tips
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