I've dealt with a lot of bullsh*t in my life – illness, loss, family problems, relationship drama.. As we all do. I'm not crying about it (well, right now).
But you know, until a few years ago, I didn't realize that there was a completely new way of feeling bad about myself – as a "young adult" in the "real world," disillusioned while looking for a "legitimate job / career path" and not knowing what the hell I'm doing.
It sucks having your self-worth based around what your friends and family think, how much your boyfriend or girlfriend loves you, what your GPA indicates, etc., but when it comes to jobs...
Putting a price tag on your skills and potential opens up a whole new realm of rejection, doubt, and anxiety for your future. It's not just your ego at stake, it's your survival, both financially and mentally (i.e. sense of fulfillment – but we'll get into that later.)
Once upon a time, not long ago~
I graduated from UCSD, an awesome "up-there" (ooh~) school that (could've) opened a lot of professional doors for me – but my mistake had been being too present in my "college experience" and not thinking about the practicalities of my future. I'd been blessed (or cursed?!) enough to have my 4 years of education mapped out for me, that I didn't THINK TO THINK beyond that.
But the more I talk to my peers, the more I’m realizing that I’m not alone. A lot of post-grads, or just people, regardless of educational backgrounds, **NEWSFLASH** don't know what they're doing!
It makes me laugh out loud (*Side note: isn't "LOL" kind of redundant? Isn't a defining characteristic of "laughter" that it's "out loud"? Laughter without noise is like a smirk or smile or an exhale that’s a little stronger than normal, no? So yeah. It makes me laugh) when people tell me that they admire what I'm doing.
"Aw thanks. Wait wat. What am I doing?"
#1: MOST IMPORTANT THING – TRUST DA GUT
If you thrive under structure and guidelines, you probably dug being a student. There is a clear definition of what’s expected of you in that role. As flawed as the system is, it gives us something tangible to work with.
After that, or if you never went to school, it’s almost entirely up to you to think about what makes you feel happy and fulfilled, and define what “success” means in your book.
But the hard part is figuring out which way to go.
I felt stuck for the longest time, not being able to take a step forward, because I didn’t know which direction was the right one. There were so many different routes, that I didn’t didn’t feel empowered by the possibilities. Instead, I was intimidated by the risk of making the wrong decisions.
But one thing, I knew for certain.
I loved writing.
I never pursued Journalism or English Lit as my major because I didn’t see it as being practical for my future (but then again, I wasn’t about to pursue anything with Psychology degree, either. So what the eff, 18 year old Jessie, why did you make such a flawed life decision?? <- Being facetious)
Dabbling in a lot of random jobs in a lot of different fields, I realized that you really can’t control or dictate what you're meant to do. And even if you’re not quite sure what that is, it’ll become clearer the more you “date around” with other kinds of jobs.
You’ll be awakened to it, or end up craving it, like you do “the one that got away” who dumped you 5 years ago but still secretly holds a place in your heart (not personal experience I swear. Hmph.)
You can choose to act on it now, or later, or never, but I believe that what you are meant to do will always resound in you.
And if you chase what you love with enough vigor, you will find the right opportunities.
‘'Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
#2: BYE BYE TO CONSTRUCTS.
Go to school. Get good grades. Get a job. Get married. Buy a house. Have a kid. Yadayadaydal;djsa;l
There are a lot of constructs and expectations laid out by the rest of the world – society, parents, your peers, things that you think are “normal.” Sure, take the guidance, but
in reality, careers, or really ANYTHING in life, is not guaranteed to move linearly.
I’ve met so many older friends who, after decades, ditch their lucrative, corporate careers to pursue something totally bizarre or unconventional. Lawyers turned tattoo artists and engineers turned DJs galore.
Conversely, I’ve met a lot of people who took “time off” to figure out what they want, nurture it, and delve into it when they feel ready.
I fall into the former group –
Last year, I was just starting to educate myself as a writer. I knew that realistically, I didn’t have the background or experience to find a place in the job market, so I freelanced as a Copywriter for an ad agency, while becoming a student again as an Editorial Intern for a print magazine, and feeding my creative energy writing for STEEZY.
Long story short, now – I don’t have any of those anymore. Besides STEEZY, I left or lost the other opportunities.
(See Related Piece: “The Learning Curve Of Letting Go”)
From making really great money, to having virtually no source of income, I was upset and stressed – naturally.
But this situation, like all situations, is temporary.
I accepted the place I am in at the moment, and took a serving job at a restaurant, paying my rent in minimum wage and tips by day, and typing away at my computer ‘til the wee hours of the night.
Perhaps this was a lesson in disguise, because I learned that no matter how awesome your paycheck or office is, job opportunities will come and go. Just like people, just like sadness, just like happiness, all things in life come and go. Life itself comes and goes. (Went 0-100 lol)
But I know.. that I have a lot to offer. I know that I’m a competent writer, and have more than enough hunger to learn.
that traditional construct of what your career “should” look like – it doesn’t quite hold in practice. Not only are opportunities in flux, so are you.
People aren’t one-dimensional, thus most aren’t satisfied with just one same thing for their entire lives, nor do they find it right away.
You’re changing, growing, discovering – so whatever you have or don’t have, celebrate it.
#3: RESOURCES ARE EVERYWHERE – EX: USE THE INTERNET AS A CLASSROOM
I talk about chasing what you love, but what does that even mean??
Employers value experience – so even if you have a degree that’s related or not related, you have to ask yourself: “What do I know how to DO?”
The majority of the stuff I do now is self-taught, or learned during a job training, or through friends and mentors. Not from the lecture hall.
It’s a matter of putting yourself out there, whether it’s an environment, or a group of people, or doing your research online, sending in applications, etc. This helped me to find what I want to do, and then try and DO that thing.
But without much experience,
you have to take initiative to make yourself marketable! Take free online seminars and listen to podcasts. iTunes University is a great resource for many. Watch YouTube tutorials. Mess around with Excel or Photoshop or whatever it is that would make you more marketable for a job you want.
After all, it matters less where you are, but where you are going.
(See Related Piece: “I'm A "Creative," And I Work Pretty Damn Hard”)
#4: GET TO KNOW THE STRATEGY IN THE APPLICATION / INTERVIEW / HIRING PROCESS
I don't have much, but I know what I’m working on, and what I’m working towards.
This giant world of random chaotic possibilities funneled down to something a bit more manageable, and although I still have so far to go, I’m so thankful to be where I am right now.
What I wanted to do became more clear to me, but I still see the job application and hiring process as being very disappointing. But what I need to keep in mind is that it’s not like, a chance thing. As if, by some miracle that some lucky ones get hired and the cursed rest don’t – It’s actually a transparent process – you really have to make yourself stand out as a professional and valuable asset to the company.
When people apply to certain schools or programs, there are prerequisites to fulfill to even get you through that first filter. This way, your range of reach is realistic (alliterations!). And if you haven’t quite met those requirements yet, you have to put in the work. Consider supplementary classes or internships or entry level positions.
And when it comes to interviews, know that you’re interviewing a company just as much as they’re interviewing you.
Keep in mind your top 3 priorities for a position.
For me, the most important requirement is to be in a place where I can learn. That was my biggest problem with my old job, that I felt suffocated with the feeling of stagnancy.
2) is the work culture. I want to be surrounded by like minded people who embody the same general goals and visions as I do, and that I can collaborate and share with.
3) is the location. I moved to Downtown LA to live and work here.
#5: TAKE SOLACE IN THE FACT THAT THIS IS A NEVER-ENDING PROCESS AND LIKE LITERALLY ALMOST EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS IN THE SAME BOAT OK
The main thing I’d want anyone to take away is that you shouldn’t pigeonhole yourself into one idea of success.
It’s detrimental both to your mental health and to whatever realistic progress you could be making.
All of us have such special and valuable things to offer the world, and having tunnel vision is going to cheat yourself out of the chance to use it to its max potential.
My own roommate recently told me that she admires what I'm doing (as mentioned earlier) – and I was shocked, because 1) Maybe our apartment walls are thicker than I presumed, muffling my nightly sob sessions and 2) How could it possibly look like I have anything together?
But what she was commenting on, was the fact that I'm pursuing, vigilantly, something I love and want. And perhaps the energy that I'm putting out, truly loving and appreciating my journey – perhaps that's what she admires. (Thanks Michelle lol<3)
So yeah. PSA. I feel lost. And at times, dejected. But I'm lucky enough to have found love for something and the motivation to foster it. I have but a faint idea of where I'm going next, but that's okay.
YOU'RE NOT UNIQUELY HOPELESS
and as cheesy as it sounds, I have endless hope, support, and prayers for anyone who feels a bit lost.
After all, we're all in this together.
*I made this video last year, which some of the ideas in this piece are based around. It's not completey relevant to where I am, currently, but it might be of some value to you. Watch/listen! Especially if you're more of a listener than a reader, haha.