When I look at the beginning of 2018 versus the beginning days of 2019, many life changes have occurred. One, in particular, my work circumstances, really stands out. At this time last year, I was working at what I thought would be an amazing agency. I thought the job was what I wanted, the location was where I was supposed to be, and I kept telling myself it would get better. But it didn’t. I was pretty miserable working in the conditions where I was at and knew my clock there was ticking down.
Flash forward one year and I’m seriously working my dream job (for now at least)! When I was in college, there was one company I really wanted to work for- a small business that helped other small businesses. A group of likeminded individuals who made their own company and had so much knowledge to share. When I graduated college I remember thinking, I want to work there. And to some degree I did. I worked with the company throughout my college years on a freelance basis. That experience made me sure I wanted to be there full time.
1.) Align yourself with people who are working where/in positions that you one day want to be in. Not only is this super important from a networking stance, but having friends in that field allows you a wealth of free knowledge and advice. You get to see what these people do day in and day out (not just your expectations of the glamorous side of what they do) and you can ask questions about how they got where they are now. These people will (hopefully) one day be your peers so treat them with respect and take their advice to heart, even if it’s not necessarily applicable to you.
2.) Say yes to opportunities. You really never know where a volunteer opportunity or freelance position will take you or who you will meet. Whether this is an unpaid internship, helping a friend out with their business, or taking a leap of faith and starting something yourself, say yes. If it aligns with your career path and provides you real-world experience, there are few things more valuable.
3.) Know when to say no. On the contrast to saying yes, know when to say no. Say no to opportunities that don’t fit with your goals and plans, say no to overextending yourself and taking on more than you can handle, and say no to toxic situations. When I was at the agency job last year, I had to say no for my own mental health. I wasn’t sure what was waiting for me on the other side of unemployment, but I fully believe had I stayed, it wouldn’t have been healthy for me or my relationships. I was a seriously unhappy human. Say no.
4.) Market yourself when appropriate. Now, this may not apply for all fields, but this really boils down to giving yourself the credit and value you deserve. When I first started freelance, it was hard to say pay me this much money or value me at this. I took on a lot of jobs and opportunities for much less than I should have. They ultimately got me to where I am today, but I know I sold myself short at times. Be confident in what you do and know. Don’t take advantage of others, but if you deserve compensation in your work, be sure to get it.
5.) Set goals and evaluate your progress. I need to get better at this one, but evaluating where you are and where you want to be is so, so crucial to your own success, whatever that may look like. If your goals today are the same in 5 years, you may not be allowing yourself the opportunity to grow or develop in your field. This is one I must recognize even in writing this blog. My dream job today shouldn’t look the same in 5 years. I love my company and the things I do day in and day out, but if I didn’t have more responsibility in 5 years of work, I would feel something was wrong. It’s important to put yourself on a trajectory of growth. That may look like starting your own business, maying making a certain amount of money (on top of other things), moving to your dream city, or a variety of other circumstances.
6.) Network the heck out of everyone. You never know who will open what door. I met the owner of the company I work for at a Starbucks 3 years ago. With a dying laptop and matching chargers, he asked to borrow mine. I never thought that stranger would become a mentor to me, but by not saying no and being open to conversation (and ultimately networking), I am where I am today. You never know the possibilities or the power of connections until you make them.
Whatever your dream job, go out and get it. Setting yourself up for success is right in front of you. Work hard, have courage, believe in yourself, and enjoy the ride.