smooth sailingAs I’m sailing toward finals week in school, I figured this is a good time to wrap up my Bliss Chronicles series. Soon I’ll have lots of time on my hands during the summer break to think about where my career is going. Heck, I’m already thinking about it now, even though I should be focused on finals.

I’ve found that it’s easy to get caught up in distracting thoughts of the future when you’re in the thick of a career transition. At least when I was an undergrad many years ago, my anxiety about life after college actually helped me focus on my schoolwork. Studying kept me from dreading about what I will do after graduation.

Now I’m older. All my friends are moving along in their careers; those annoying alumni reception newsletters I get in my inbox make me wonder how I’m doing compared to everyone else I graduated with; my mom and dad always find some way to communicate their worry that they failed me in life because I’m 30 and don’t have an official job. It’s easy to feel behind in these shoes.

However, I feel surprisingly patient and more in control of my career than ever before. What gives?

I think the following few things have helped:

1. I call it reverse engineering. Paula calls it life planning. Whatever you call it, planning with the end in mind has worked for me. Money magazine has a great article you can read here. The upshot is:

Life planning posits that to find satisfaction, you should do two things: put in the effort to figure out what you really want your money to allow you to do in life and examine how the attitudes you picked up about money decades ago may stand in the way of your reaching those goals. Take on those assignments and you’re more likely to stick to the numbers part of a financial plan.

Career isn’t something I ever took seriously, partly because I listened to many negative influences that said it’s impossible to make a decent living as a creative person. After years of suffering through mind-numbing jobs, I finally did the legwork to figure out what kinds of creative careers exist. Once I found a field that complemented my writing interests, I was able to come up with a clearer, detailed “big picture” of what I want from not just my job, but from life in general. Having that clearer picture inspired further action to move forward.

2. Again, a plan was involved, this time thinking in short term. I created a Relationship Action Plan (RAP) as suggested in the book “Never Eat Alone.” I first got the idea of going back to school by sitting down and figuring out where I want to be in three years. Then I reverse engineered goals in 90-day intervals after that. I spoke to friends and mentors about my goals, continuously refined my RAP per their feedback, and I finally got to the place where I am now: achieving my career goals with specific short-term goals in mind.

3. Internal feeback. Even with the ups and downs of school, I’m picking up skills to accomplish more output of the creative ideas I’m always carrying around. Turns out that my instructors and fellow students like what I’m churning out. More importantly, I’m fully engaged in my projects. I actually have the patience to learn and deal with tedious tasks — a far cry from how I dealt with my previous boring jobs. Dare I say, I’m having fun in school.

Yes, I am excited about getting back to work, but not really just for the money. I mean it. Money is a nice thing to have, but if I end up having to take an entry level position once I’m done with school, I’ll be happy if I’m just making enough to survive paycheck-to-paycheck, as long as I’m doing what I love.

Well, the other thing is that I don’t expect to be poor for too long. Like I said, I have plans in mind, which include business relationships and short-term goals. I have a good idea of where I’m headed because as of now, I’m still on target with my goals, and in a few years I expect to financially comfortable. (I just need to ease up on daydreaming about how much I’ll love my job and the money…)

And that concludes my Bliss Chronicles series. Hopefully I’ve demonstrated that anyone can make a career transition with the right preparation. I’ve learned that your success depends on how badly you want to make that transition. If you want something bad enough, nothing seems impossible. Not even a blissful career.

Good luck should you decide to take the journey too!