Sometimes you’re taking steps towards a more satisfying career without really knowing. At least, that’s what happened to me, and momentum built up from there.
Nearly a year and a half ago I started blogging for Queercents because I had just completed a class on finance, and I wanted to apply what to I learned. Although I was working as a paralegal in financial institution litigation, my job had nothing to do with money on the personal level. I thought, Heck, I’ll do this blogging stuff for fun.
Much to my surprise, I found that it came rather easy to me, although of course there were nights my fist would pound the desk and I’d curse the very idea of writing. But once I finished a post, I forgot all about the momentary misery and loved blogging as a creative outlet again.
Then a strange series of events happened after the first few months of blogging. I started reading a lot of books about freelance writing. I lined up my Google Reader with niche sites about the topic too, as well with Internet commerce and entrepreneurship sites. I basically immersed myself in those subjects. I wasn’t entirely aware of it at the time, but I was crawling towards some kind of tipping point.
The real tipping point came when I lost my job, and I had to decide whether to stay in a line of work I didn’t like or become what’s now a cliché: guy gets fired and finds his career bliss.
Call me campy, because I wanted to be that cliché.
Luckily I had plenty of time on my hands to read through career guides and learn what I talked about last week — that in order to achieve career bliss, I’d have to take extensive inventory of myself, get advice, make plans, execute them, and keep refining plans.
I wish I could say the process is fun and games, but it’s hard work that requires solid dedication.
When you’re making a career transition, sometimes you have to start off at an entry-level position. Or in my case, you have to go school and then try to find an internship or something entry-level.
I’ve always loved learning, so I didn’t mind that all the legwork I put into refining my career goals indicated that a year of school for multimedia training would help me find rewarding work.
Having stamina and enduring the process of learning is perhaps the trickiest part. I find myself getting tripped up by some old habits. I’ll let ambition get the best of me sometimes, and I try to tackle tough projects. I sometimes get frustrated because I’m in a new field, and my output doesn’t quite come out the way I had hoped. But that’s the process of learning and improving.
That axiom about how you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is wrong: some old dogs are stubborn and don’t want to learn.
The most important lesson I’ve learned about making a career transition into something I truly care about is learning to pace myself. I’m quite passionate about having found a field where I get to create things. When a project moves along according to plan, I’m elated. When I hit a roadblock (like I did this past week), I’m furious.
Trying new things, experimenting, pushing yourself to reach higher levels in a field that’s new can make you aware that you have very delicate feelings about the decision you’ve made to make a career transition.
To me, that’s the essence of the early phase of a career transition. You’re like a newborn for a while. You’re blind at first, you start learning the basics, then you start specializing, and eventually, you gain confidence. You just have to keep growing, even if there’s struggle.
There’s an amazing line Tony Kushner wrote in his musical “Caroline or Change” that I’m going to close with because I’m gay and I believe all life lessons are in theater and “The Golden Girls.”
The character Dotty sings to Caroline:
“But folk can’t just surrender to their fears / I know it hurt to change / It actually hurts learning something new / and when you’re full grown, it’s harder, that’s true — / it feel like you have got to break yourself apart / it feel like you got to break your own heart / but folk do it. They do / Every day, all the time”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Next week: Why I’m glad I took the steps to find my career bliss.