For most people, staying above the breadline means spending 8 hours a day performing tasks for money.
Many of these people experience genuine dread at the thought of pushing through that revolving door at 8:55 a.m., latte shaking in hand. (To translate for 2020: Going downstairs, making yourself a cup o’ Joe, and slumping over the kitchen counter with your head buried in your arms.)
I haunted this swamp for a long time. Here are a few ways to recognize that your job is bringing you down.
Many of my years becoming a professional writer were spent selling credit card terminals, administering insurance, and standing in shops handing out discount cards on behalf of a lawyer.
Many people justify having a job that fills them with rage by distancing themselves from it.
“It’s just 9-to-5. I can cram my life with enriching things like friends and hobbies and the fact that the new Dora the Explorer movie isn’t terrible.”
But, for most people, a job eats up 33 percent of your day. You might find that to be a prolonged enough period of misery to eat away at the things that genuinely make you happy, like relationships and having the goddamn energy to do anything.
Taking proactive steps to make money doing what inspires happiness has completely transformed the way I approach life. I thought I might share what I learned to help you spring out of bed for work.
This piece breaks down the steps I took to avoid meeting my work alarm with an agitated Nicolas Cage impersonation every morning.
Your career is directly linked to your lifestyle, in terms of how well they cover your basics and how drained you feel after work for your relationships and passions.
The best way to start out thinking about your career ambitions is to think of the lifestyle you want and work backward.
Do you want to get paid for your hobby and do it non-stop? Are you trying to live the high life? Would you prefer stability for your family? Would you rather dedicate your life to fighting for causes you believe in?
There’s no right answer, but it will shape how you approach building your ideal career.
1. Start with self-awareness
You need to understand who you are, your lifestyle priorities, and what gets you out of bed every morning before you can lean into one career over another.
The sad truth is that so many people have stomached an awful job for so long that they don’t remember what they wanted from work in the first place.
While sitting down and asking yourself these questions is a good start, it can be overwhelming to start digging solo. There are tons of resources that can help you ease the burden while developing your self-understanding.
Meditation may give you a leg up when it comes to being aware of your mental and physical needs. A classic book called “What Color Is Your Parachute?” is a great place to start. It provides information and exercises that help you learn about yourself while matching career paths.
Also, it might be a good call to consider taking a personality test, such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This test also recommends certain careers based on your results.
These guides shouldn’t become your new Bible. However, they give you a new window into corners of yourself that you didn’t realize were there.
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2. Get a mentor
It really helps to feel like there’s someone on your team. Eminem had Dr. Dre, and Dora the Explorer has her talking map and backpack. (Look, it really wasn’t that bad, alright?)
Pick a person in your network who knows you and can act as your champion, such as a former manager, coach, or professor. I’ve had several guardian angels throughout my time as a stereotypical struggling writer, and they weren’t all from within the field.
People who care about your output, who push you, and inspire you are those you should hold close during times of proactive growth. They needn’t be a recognized figure from your ideal industry. They just need to provide advice and help you uncover your interests.
This person can potentially help you gain insight into your desired career, serve as a reference for you, look over your resume, or help you expand your network of opportunities.
Plus, they’re great to vent at in those lower moments.
If you’re in your twenties and struggling to find a suitable mentor, we’ve got you covered.
3. Mingle like the pro you are
This doesn’t mean diving into people’s DMs asking about openings. But you should talk to as many people as you can on LinkedIn about the best ways to get into their industry.
Before you begin applying for jobs, educate yourself about different career paths by talking to as many people as possible.
Use LinkedIn to seek out people who have your dream job and ask for an informational meeting. Find out more about their current role and the path that got them there — everyone’s journey is different, and people love to tell their story (case in point!).
Treat these interactions as interviews — your contact may be hiring or can provide a referral. However, keep the conversation casual and curious. You’re trying to learn the ins and outs, not crowbar your way into a job.
If you make a lasting impression, people may start letting you know about openings. On a site like LinkedIn, being part of the discussion is your way in. You only get one first impression, so it’s crucial to nail it.
Before these interactions, prepare an elevator pitch that succinctly tells people who you are, why you’re looking for a change, and your career aspirations in the long run.
Getting fired might give you a chance to delve into this world more. We explored why it might be 🔥 to be fired.
4. Gain real-world experience and qualifications
You’re likely going to have to graft outside your current working hours if you’re planning to switch careers.
Volunteer or intern for organizations where you can offer your time and expertise in exchange for an opportunity to learn more about an industry. Alternatively, many qualifications can help improve your standing in a particular field.
A night school or online course would be great options for getting a leg up.
If you are pressed for time or don’t know where to start, check out relevant Meetups on Meetup.com (once we’re all allowed to meet up again).
This site offers tons of different niche groups where you can meet and connect with like-minded individuals. Another route to further insight is to attend industry events or webinars.
There’s also plenty of sites like Udemy that have an amazing roster of courses to try.
However you absorb relevant experience or skills, it’s always helpful to start dipping toes into relevant networks of people and stay current in the industry.
A word of warning: Learning more about a particular career path might steer you away from a job or industry you thought you wanted to pursue. This is a good thing in the long run, but adjusting your ambitions always feels weird.
And your career isn’t everything. We looked at how to keep your identity separate from your work.
5. Get your personal brand out there
This is the final step after learning about yourself, your aspirations, and the industry in which you thought you wanted to work.
Rebrand yourself by revising your resume, cover letter, and social media profiles to reflect your updated career goals and to highlight new and relevant skills.
Maybe even have a few headshots like a hungry actor ram-raiding agents around LA. The slicker your image, the clearer your level of investment in your new career becomes. And companies like invested people.
Make sure your personal brand is authentic, consistent, and tailored to each specific position for which you apply. Your brand should just be you. Because you, my friend, are totally worth selling to the world.
I truly appreciate where my path to a rewarding career led me. However, most of it was about as fun as a vinegar enema.
Many of my non-editorial jobs have been grinding, miserable experiences. On top of these, writing in my spare time meant that I was often working 15-hour days just to fit everything in.
But there was no balance whatsoever. My friends didn’t hear a peep from me. My wife found me excruciating to live with. I comfort ate like a hyena, reaching obesity within months.
If you’re in the same situation, you don’t need telling that it can suuuuuuuuuck. Boy, did those 8 hours a day stretch. As they warped and extended, so too did my spiraling depression and anxiety.
I’ve lost jobs I hated and still felt crushed and worthless after. Bouncing back after a knockdown is all part of the challenge, and handling rejection is a painful but necessary part of reshaping your life.
However, it’s important to know that not all crappy jobs are on the same level. I’ve had terrible jobs and terrible jobs. You can find yourself getting comfortable and even enjoying parts of a job that doesn’t suit you.
That steam will run out.
I took pretty much every job that made me miserable out of necessity, and going into any long-term situation without a strategy is a recipe for disaster. Doing so without knowing what you want can have even worse consequences.
Even if you’re not interested in a particular type of role, there might be a field you’d enjoy working in.
I was lucky. I’ve known I wanted to write since I was first able to. But even with that certainty, what did I want to do with words? Editing? Writing? Proofreading? Marketing? Communications? News?
It’s very easy to get hit by option paralysis when you’re digging to find work you’d love, even for people like myself who already thought they knew. Here’s how I paved my own road to career contentment.
Unless you’re willing to take an internship of some kind, plunging headlong into your preferred industry without experience is going to take either a lot of extracurricular work or a small miracle.
Finding the perfect job takes work, but it also takes time, patience, and a lot of blagging.
That doesn’t mean crowing about achievements that haven’t happened or lying about your qualifications. Every single job has elements that you may enjoy or that allow you to surprise yourself with how good you become at them.
If you’ve no idea what your ideal job looks like, slowly build a FrankenJob. Taking an example from my own life, I sold ad space for a food industry publication for 2 months and got fired for… well, being sh*t at ad sales.
However, I knew that I didn’t want my next job to involve outbound calls and convincing people to buy stuff they didn’t need. That landed me in insurance, and the job met those requirements.
During my 3 years in medical insurance, I started writing whimsical Christmas e-mails and took over the newsletter. I also grew to love the world of medicine and the notion of helping people feel better.
It wasn’t journalism, but it was something I could say I did in an interview. With this said, the job was brutal and the public unforgiving. It was the final straw, but it wasn’t for nothing.
I stayed there until I saw a role come up at Medical News Today, one of Greatist’s sister sites. I managed to combine just enough clinical knowledge and just enough freelance writing experience to warrant an interview.
Three years later, I’m still there and haven’t dreaded waking up once since starting. It took 7 years and nearly as many roles to filter out what didn’t bring me joy.
It may also make each day easier to get through. (These 34 ways to bust a bad mood could help too.)
A job can make you happy for many reasons. It might afford you a lifestyle you like. The task itself might fill you with warmth and inspiration. You might love the effect the role has on the world, or you may just be fascinated by a particular industry.
Whatever your reasoning, there can be stark differences between what you think you want at 15 years old and what you know you’re happy doing after solid time in the workplace.
Applying for jobs is not only about getting the job.
The feeling a person gets when they’re carrying out a task they want to do is markedly different from that which comes from performing obligations when they CBA.
Apply for as many jobs as you can, and not only for practice. You should take full stock of your emotions while you apply. Does it feel like a chore? Are you just applying for the sake of it? Complete the whole thing. Does it feel good afterward?
If you have these doubts and hang-ups during the application, imagine what 5 days of this every week would feel like. And then throw it in your bulging sack marked “Nope” and set it on fire.
Applying for a job, especially if you already have one you despise, should feel like an opportunity. You should want to get the application to the employer with the eagerness of a toddler showing off a finger painting, just to be able to start in the role sooner.
People often protect themselves from this excitement to temper expectations and cushion against fear of rejection and disappointment. However, it’s important to really feel that excitement.
It’s a taste of what a job you love feels like. Your gut will know what you’re after, you just have to listen to it at the right point in the application process.
Work might feel horrible right now, but it won’t always.
The main reason I recommend planning and being proactive about building your career is that it makes your current employment feel way more bearable.
Being able to file your job under “stepping stone” rather than “all I’ll ever know before death” will help you feel a little less suffocated. That’ll give you a clearer headspace for career hunting.
It also shows the company to which you’d like to commit that you don’t always flit about between jobs and can return the investment they put into developing your skills.
The journey never ends. But you’ll enjoy it a heck of a lot more once you sort out a job that makes you proud and content.
Finding balance takes time and planning. A job you’re passionate about can go some way to supporting the overall balance of your life and contribute to real, ongoing wellness. I know mine has.
Do what you can to find satisfaction and meaning in the activies in which you spend your days. If you can get paid for them too, all the better.