Aligning Your Career and Interests
Whether you’re years into your career or just graduated from college last month, it may seem like there’s a lot of space between you and where you ideally want to be. Worse still, it may seem like there’s no discernable path from where you’re standing at this very moment to where you want to be. But don’t fear - enough successful people have sworn that anything is possible for me to believe it.
Imagine the job of your dreams. Think sky-high. Shoot for the moon. Don’t hold back. If you want Anna Wintour’s job, all you have to do is say it. The thing about dreams is that no one can help you get closer to them if you keep them to yourself. Telling people also makes it easier for your support network to encourage you when you need it. As Jay-Z says, closed mouths don’t get fed! So get out of your own head, put words to it, and start talking about what it is you really want.
That’s when you can begin to work backwards to plan how you’re going to get there. Believe it or not, this works even if there’s no official title for the job or if you only have a vague idea of what that is.
Abstract ideas work just fine as goals. For example, Richard Branson may have known that he loved music and wanted to help make it more accessible to young people before he opened his first Virgin Music store. He may have dreamed of getting into the travel industry when he was young. He may have even just known he wanted to be a businessman someday. The Virgin empire didn’t exist until he created it - he just pursued his passions and steered toward the things that interested him and sparked his curiousity. But he knew what he liked, and that’s the best place to start.
By giving yourself a goal, even if it’s vague, you’re giving yourself a destination to draw a map to. There’s a good chance you may just end up creating your own job- who knows! Whatever your goal, break it down into smaller goals that you can then work into your daily life.
Think of how your interests can be applicable in a professional setting.
If you have an artistic side but feel that you could never make a living as an artist, consider graphic design. If you love meeting new people, this could translate into some rockstar sales skills.
For me, it was writing. I knew every company needed a PR/Communications person and journalism was getting harder and harder to survive in, so I’d have to tweak my skill set to land a job.
Interests are still worth pursuing even if they don’t seem like they’d be useful at the office. When I graduated, social media marketing wasn’t really a thing yet...but it sure is now! And my odd knowledge of movie quotes and song lyrics has a use. Same goes for those witty ladies who write the email subject lines for The Skimm.
Figure out who you admire.
Make up a list of entrepreneurs, brands and companies you admire. Try to zero in on what it is they have in common that you like. What aspects of their personalities would you like to integrate into your work style? What are they known for? What would you like to be known for? Having something to look up to can help you sift through what’s most important about your goals.
Keep an eye out for opportunities.
Get on mailing lists for your favorite companies and organizations that support them, like the Council of Fashion Designers of America if you love Tory Burch.
Don’t be afraid to send out cold emails to people who you think might be able to dispense great advice to you based on their experiences. Look for conferences in your industry. You may just find that paying a few hundred dollars for invaluable contacts are worth it. For example, if you’d like to work for a travel company, look at travel conferences like the Women in Travel Summit.
Put yourself out there.
On the flipside of looking for opportunities is the option to let opportunities find you - by putting yourself out there. There seems to be a new social media channel popping up every year or so, and it’s easier than ever to get a website. You never know who will be up at 3 AM wandering the internet, so get yourself a presence there!
Showcase past work that’s relevant to what you’re looking to achieve and write a killer “About Me” section. Blog if you have the time. It’ll show that you’re driven and can be your own project manager. Guests posts are a wonderful way to make new connections and get your voice heard.
Check in regularly.
Act like your own career coach. Sit down and assess yourself once or twice a year and think about how far you’ve come. This will help you stay pumped for the journey ahead despite any setbacks you may experience along the way.
If you feel yourself starting to deviate from mini-goals you’ve set, or just feel your overall goal slipping further from your reach, give yourself an honest assessment and think of what you can do to get back on track. Remember the phrase all roads lead to Rome - some detours can be good for you! What matters most is if the effects of a decision feel good for you.
Knowing what you want out of your career and, on a larger scale, your life, will give you a huge advantage over those who’ve never seriously considered it. Think of it as a way of adjusting your sails rather than letting the wind blow you in whatever direction it chooses.