Finding my passion and letting my career bloom... a journey in bullet points [list after the jump]
- Felt stuck at my day job. I was working as a personal assistant to two orthopedic surgeons, and even though I was making decent money and I liked my coworkers, I didn't love my work (in fact it made me anxious). I felt stagnated and unsure of what to do. My boyfriend pressured me into looking at the classifieds and sending in resumes, but I didn't want to leave the company high and dry.
- Thought about looking for a new job. I wanted to advance my career (though at the time I was still struggling with what that career would be), but I felt like I owed my employers something. I felt compelled to stay. After all, they had hired me within a few weeks of first moving to San Francisco, and I saw no reason to leave other than the fact that I was not impassioned for my work.
- Got laid off. After nearly two years of working there, however, I was told by my boss that I only had a month left and that I should look into filing for unemployment. The office specialized in Workers' Compensation claims and with fewer and fewer people working, fewer and fewer people were getting injured on the job. To cut costs, I was made redundant. Really, it was the best thing that could have happened to me, complete blessing in disguise.
- Filed for unemployment. I was scared at first about filing for unemployment, but when I went in for my first interview I realized that there were so many other people just like me there for the same reason. I vowed to use my time off from work wisely, to try to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life and how to make it happen. I also decided that in addition to applying for jobs I would read as much as I could, write as much as I could, and make my blog outstanding.
- Started applying for internships. After reading How To Become A Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore I realized what I already should have known: I want to be a writer. Figuring I should start at the bottom and work my way up, I began applying for internships at various publications, including Mother Jones magazine. I fleshed out my writing portfolio and submitted a piece for Examiner.com as a way to get more exposure and show that I was skilled at writing in different formats.
- Got rejected. When employment figures are low it means more competition. More competition means you have to be more creative than the other people applying for the job you want, in order to stand out. The internships I had applied for rejected me, noting in the e-mail reply that there had been so many applicants and only so many available positions and to try again next time.
- Got serious about networking and social media. I realized I would have to start focusing more on networking, on my blog and in other internet realms. I was blogging consistently, several times a week, on diverse subject matter. I followed blogs and left relevant and sincere comments. I took to Twitter, Facebook, and a few networking sites geared around blogging and writing, and got involved in the community.
Twitter is just like any public forum, and it is most useful when you're adding meaningful discussion to the arena. I listened in on what the leaders and trend-setters of the bloggosphere were saying and took notice of the techniques they used. I read dozens of articles by blog gurus about how they steered their conversations. My studying paid off and I started seeing results in my base of readers and followers.
- Started self-publishing. I started my own publication, a zine called Be About It, which I paid for out of my own pocket in order to get my writing, and the work of my friends, out there. Having my own zine has been a dream of mine since high-school and I finally had the time to put it together and the resources to make it work. Owning a blog that people regularly read really helped in getting the word out.
- Sold myself on Craigslist. I had a crazy idea about posting an ad in the jobs wanted section of Craigslist listing my credentials and offering my writing services up for free. I got a lot of spam in response, but I did get a real offer to help an start-up company with their website and white papers. I soon realized that the company was quite disorganized and when none of my work was being used I resigned. It was an experience and a lesson learned. Don't work for free.
- Applied for any old job. Even though I was blogging regularly and had all the time in the world to take long walks and photograph the beautiful works of street art in my neighborhood and read all the books I could take out from the library and basically do whatever I wanted to all day, and even though I had already set my heart on developing my writing career, I got bored and started applying for whichever jobs I saw on Craigslist that I felt capable of doing.
These jobs were mostly administrative positions, and Ben and my parents told me that I should aim higher, but I wanted to get back to work. It was certainly a step in the wrong direction, but I think I needed to realize that the hard way. Luckily, the paper-based law office where I had interviewed to be a file clerk didn't want me, and neither did some other personal assistant job which I interviewed for (and bombed) over the phone. Apparently interviewers don't want to hear that the job you're applying for is only a temporary solution and not a life-long dream. But seriously, is it anyone's life-long dream to be a secretary? (If I just crapped all over your dream, I'm truly sorry, I'm only speaking from experience. Being a secretary, for me, was exhausting and unrewarding).
- Temp work. I wanted to get my work groove back without committing to a job I wasn't crazy about, so I sent my resume to a few staffing agencies. I interviewed and was called later that day and to fill an assignment. It was a last-minute fill, but I showed my flexibility and willingness to help out in a pinch. Doing temp work was a catalyst to getting really serious about putting my career on the right track. I continued looking for work in my desired field.
- Newsletters. The internet is a wonderful resource to finding people who are experts in their field, and who want to share their wealth of knowledge with the rest of the world. Somehow, I stumbled upon a website and newsletter called One Day, One Internship which features a different company or organization every day with open internship opportunities (also, One Day, One Job which features a new entry-level position at a company daily). I applied for a few positions with some of the San Francisco-based companies that were featured, and although I didn't hear back it was good to write cover letters, work on my resume and put myself out there. I knew I was at least trying.
- Responded quick enough. This June I got an email from a moderator of a community of which I am a member about a unique internship opportunity, a chance to be a part of a "community manager bootcamp." The moment I had finished reading the email I applied for the job. I wasn't expecting anything in return, but it sounded like an awesome job, a great addition to my resume and a stepping-stone in my developing career. A few days later I got a call informing me that I had been chosen for the location-independent internship, acting as community manager for a new professional networking application called BeKnown. I was ecstatic (and still am). Even though it's a contract assignment, it is very good experience and should help me in my future pursuits.
- Still looking, advancing. I continue to research hiring companies in my city and apply for jobs that interest me and are enriching. I don't want to be stagnant, so I'm not. I'm advancing.
What about you? How are you dealing in these uncertain times? Did you get out of a rut and find your passion? Tell me about it.