What journey are you on? Whatever your beliefs, life is a series of journeys. We’re all trying to find who we are, what career we should be in, our soul mate, where we belong, etc.
Often, one of the most difficult journeys for any person is their career. “What is right for me?” And while the typical “successful” climb up the ladder is what everyone seems to want, most of us have incredibly atypical careers.
The only thing I’ve always known about my career is that I would be a writer. In college, I started out majoring in journalism, convinced I’d be a great reporter like Woodward and Bernstein. But as time went by, I realized the place for me was in the English department, sifting through the power of the pen and how it has changed our lives and our world over and over again.
Words are my passion. So I made the switch and convinced myself that a career as an English professor was my new journey. I planned to graduate then go immediately into grad school for my masters. Little did I know just how much my college debt would change that. I changed my mind, decided I’d get a job, work incredibly hard to pay my debt down, and then go to grad school.
But with our 2012 economy, that’s not how it worked. It took me from that May until October to get a job as a news clerk, the lowest position in our local paper’s newsroom.
So I did what I do everywhere: I worked hard. Within less than seven months, I got promoted. I became a “reporter.” This is the type of moving-up-the-ladder, “successful” job people want. I got invited to come back to my university for an alumni event. People were proud of me.
But I didn’t want it. My heart wasn’t in journalism. And the newspaper industry, the way it folds you in, then spits you out like a wad of tobacco, wasn’t for me. I didn’t want that life. So I took a huge step. I left.
At the time, I had nothing lined up. But God had a plan I didn’t know about. Within two weeks, I got a job doing freelance resume writing. They liked my background in news and English. A few months later, I took a part time position as an administrative assistant, a role that has since expanded to include social media, marketing and a ton of other stuff. Then last week, I got another part time position, as a social media manager for a manufacturer.
So my career journey? It’s ongoing. I don’t know what the end result is. But I do know a few things now about how the world works and I want to share them with you. Because I know how hard it can be to be jobless or underemployed. I have friends right now who are trying so hard to break into their field. So I want to encourage you. Here are six things that may help you out while in college, after college or while you’re searching for a job.
- If possible, get internships and make a lot of connections before you graduate. I was so busy working (paying for college) that I didn’t have time for this. But I should have made time. Especially if you know what field you want to break into, this is essential. Connections are often what gets you the job these days. Don’t forget that.
- Be willing to take a smaller job and work your way up. Today job searching is a catch-22. People want you to have experience, but you can’t get experience without getting a job. So you have to be creative with how you get that experience. My social media management experience came from me really tackling social media as a reporter for nearly two years. I started and still manage two Facebook pages – for my church and my admin assistant job. I dove into Twitter to learn what makes it work, and how to make my tweets better. Think of every opportunity as a way to learn a skill or get experience that you can put on your resume to help you later on.
- Listen. Listen to your heart and who you are. It took a lot of guts to listen to what my body and my heart were telling me: newspapers are exhausting you. You should get out. So I did. Trust yourself – you know what you love. You know what makes you tick, what makes you get up in the morning. Find a way to do or incorporate that into your life.
- Don’t be afraid. Be bold. When you write your resume or cover letter, whatever you’re applying to, be honest about your skills, but don’t downplay yourself! Be brave. You know you’re great at x-thing. Tell them you are!
- Never give up. Keep applying. It can get exhausting applying to jobs. It’s a full time job honestly, just applying to jobs. But it can take hundreds of applications before you find the right one where the door opens. Trust me, it’s worth it. Just keep swimming.
- Finally: have faith in your journey. You’re going to get where you need to be eventually, as long as you’re working hard and doing your best. If you’re a person of faith, have faith in God. If you believe in karma, realize that good things will come back around to you. The more positive you are, the better. I’ve applied to jobs with a sense of negativity before. I believe that negativity shows through in your tone, your words, even your voice when you interview. Strive to be positive. Believe in your abilities and your power. Have faith.
My career journey, and I’d venture to say yours, too, is far from over. I don’t know why it’s taking the path that it is. But each morning when I go to my admin assistant job, I take time to enjoy being near the mountains, to listen to the birds outside, to love the quiet office I have. At my social media job, I take time to listen to my coworkers, their joys, their knowledge, their successes and learn from them.
When I write my resumes in the mornings, I take time to think about the fact that I’m helping people. People who desperately need jobs. My writing, editing and grammar skills (though often underappreciated in today’s world) are exactly what they need – to say what they can’t say, to create a solid, polished, well-written resume that shows who they are and doesn’t downplay their strengths.
So right now, think about where you are and appreciate it. It may not be a full time job, a corporate ladder success, an office on the top floor in New York City. But it’s where you’re supposed to be. It’s a part of your journey, a place to grow. Use it.