“I thought you went to college so you could get a ‘real’ job.”
I received this sentiment from a well-meaning friend a few months after I graduated with a writing degree. During my post-college job search, I continued to work as a nanny to pay the bills. Though I was slowly building a professional portfolio, people kept asking me, “Why don’t you just do [insert non-writing job here] full-time until something comes up?”
My stubborn refusal not to settle eventually paid off. My dream would become a reality because I’d do whatever it took to make it so. Having a real connection to my career was something I highly valued. Many of my peers would agree.
If a personal connection to your career is important to you, then get to work!
1. Seek advice from the person you aspire to be
A mentor can help you sort out your goals and make smart choices. Until you find your mentor, you can seek out online professional advice through articles or social media. Better yet, take some advice from my mentor, Lisa Brock.
Lisa runs her own public relations firm, Brock Communications. She’s also a published author and champion of young professionals. We met when she was my professor at the University of Tampa, and she has continued to be my mentor and chief source of inspiration.
“Resist the urge to just take a job,” says Brock. “The first job is about opportunity, and no job should ever be taken for money.” (Click to Tweet!)
She advises young professionals to hold out for a mentor, the right culture fit or a job they would do for free.
2. Pay attention to your emotions
Emotional intelligence is a crucial skill for emerging leaders. Understanding your emotions can help you communicate with your coworkers and work well in groups. And it can help you reach your real career goals, even when you’re feeling confused or stressed about them.
Listening to yourself is important. There may be times when you have to face major career decisions or balance work during difficult family situations. Working with a mentor can help improve your emotional intelligence and make it easier to transition through hard times.
3. Do it on your own time
It may not be possible to stop everything to pursue the career you want, but you don’t have to quit your day job. Your full-time work doesn’t have to be the entire source of your career fulfillment. You can pursue freelance opportunities or volunteer in your field of interest.
Sometimes you have to be flexible with your career timeline. When I was working as a nanny, every freelance writing job I found brought me one step closer to writing for a living. I also used every personal connection I had to bring me closer to my goals.
Listen to your mentors, and don’t get discouraged if things take longer than you hoped.
“Life is real, and it can take a while to get the footing or foundation to follow one’s bliss,” says Brock.
I’m not a millionaire, but I pay my bills doing something I’d do for free. I’ve done unpaid writing assignments for nonprofits and for projects I really care about.
Paychecks are wonderful, but feeling fulfilled is even better.
Erin Palmer is a digital content specialist who happily spends her days writing, editing and helping college students figure it all out. She has been published in The Chicago Tribune and The Huffington Post, yet she still gets excited every time she sees her byline. Interaction with readers makes her day, so reach out to her on Twitter @Erin_E_Palmer.