After spending most my life in the school system — which is very linear — I expected post-grad life would be the same. Step one: graduate. Step two: begin an internship. Step three: become a junior copywriter, then copywriter, then senior copywriter, etcetera. I had always enjoyed writing, so this path made sense to me.
My career actually did begin to develop as planned. I was dealt an incredibly lucky hand of cards and began a copywriting internship at a company I loved just two days after graduation.
The infinite list of lines!!
The brainstorming sessions!!!
The excitement felt exponential.
But as a year passed, I started to realize that writing for a living is different than writing for the love of it. Although writing was an interest, it wasn’t a passion, and I had a hard time picturing myself still doing it in ten years. Realizing this was difficult, but I needed to do what was best for me in the long-run, instead of worrying about the work I had already put in as a writer, or leaving the team I had built relationships with.
What’s great about life, and especially early in our careers, is that we can explore — even if it doesn’t always feel that way. Even though I felt writing was something I’d always carry with me, I wanted to tap into other skills. A few weeks later I left my job for an associate account manager position, at a small agency and in a new city.
Quite the plot twist, right?
Finding this new position didn’t happen overnight. Some hiring managers openly wondered why I was switching to account management. Others seemed to think I had gotten lost while applying and deferred my resume to the creative recruiter. I heard a lot of radio silence during my application process, but each rejection helped me better articulate why I wanted to switch to account management. With a bit of work, the right position fell into place.
The first few months of my new role felt as if I had taken my lucky hand of cards and threw it up in the air, creating a mess. I had no idea how to read a production summary and had definitely never drafted an estimate. But now, eight months in, learning these skills has led to an Ariana-post-Pete level of growth.
Experiencing a lot of change — switching from creative to account, large company to a small agency, Portland to San Francisco — has been challenging but left me feeling more capable and aligned with my interests than before.
Don’t panic if you find yourself second-guessing the path you decided to follow. It’s human nature to evolve (and keep evolving). That’s why trends, the stock market, and moods change.
Start by looking at the big picture. Ask yourself:
- What about your situation isn’t working for you?
- What are you drawn to during your free time?
- What do you hope to accomplish in ten years?
Remember that people explore different careers based off more than a change of personal interest. Work environment and pace may also play a role in feeling like your current career may not be the right fit.
Sometimes a little trial and error are necessary to find out what you want to do, and that’s okay! The most important thing is to listen to yourself. Use your intuition as a compass to lead you to a career that will make you excited to tackle project after project. Some people find journaling or post-workout endorphins helpful while reaching these epiphanies.
For fellow ~visual learners~ out there, try visual goal setting. I recently saw Patti Dobrowlski, a three-time TEDx speaker, present on this topic and she proposes that physically drawing your goals helps your brain map how to achieve them.
For example, start by drawing visual icons for current realities you face right now — good or bad. These could be things that frustrate, challenge or excite you. Then draw visual icons for goals you hope to accomplish to the right of your current realities. Next, write three actions you can make to bridge the gap between your realities and goals. Ta-da! Your goals are already within reach.
There are plenty of other resources to guide you during a transition, which means you shouldn’t be afraid to make a leap if you know you want to. Reading articles, talking to peers, and listening to podcasts on people (particularly women!) who’ve found passion in their careers were helpful for me.
It’s so easy to slip into the rabbit hole of envisioning what our careers should look like, but try not to be too hard on yourself. Finding the right career is a process.
As long as you keep pushing forward, there are no wrong turns.
Looking for resources? Here are a few that helped me:
- This video by Patti Dobrowolski
- This video by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Read articles from Forbes Magazine, The Economist, The New York Times, and Refinery29. These are mostly-free resources that provide windows into different careers, people, and cultures. There’s a lot to absorb.
- Listen to the “Girlboss Radio” podcast with Sophia Amoruso. No matter your opinions of Sophia Amoruso, give this a chance — she interviews some great people.
- Create a social media account for your passion. This could be a great outlet for your interests if your nine to five isn’t helping. Mine is an Instagram to document the skincare obsessions of friends (@tiny.speak).
- Truth is, if you’ve read this far you’re taking all the right steps and it’ll all work out!