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“Go to college,” they said. “You will learn a lot and be able to get a good job,” they said.
Well, “they” were right—I did learn a lot. And I did get a high-paying job I love….eventually. After I made that job myself eight years after graduating.
I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to do things the “right” way to succeed in life. Because the “right” way wasn’t right for me.
There Are No Guarantees in Life
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications at the worst possible time, right in the midst of the financial crisis of 2008. People were losing their homes. They were out of work. No one was hiring. And I was a nobody fresh out of college. Finding that dream career didn’t feel within my reach.
I wasn’t asking for much. During college, I decided I wanted to start my own writing business. But that’s as far as the dream went. I didn’t know what that business would look like. Blogging and content marketing were just starting to bud and definitely weren’t on my radar at that time.
I thought that before I could set out on my own, I needed to work for someone else. I wanted to make low-risk mistakes while I built on my college education. I could see how other people work, discover their processes and tools, make connections, and get paid for it. And later, when I felt the time was right, I could start my writing business.
It sounded good at the time. But life had other plans.
When I graduated to the tune of crickets, I felt discouraged. All I wanted was to work. I was on my own. I had bills to pay. I had no real plan to speak of. And I struggled to find work in a related field.
So I grabbed for the low-hanging fruit with bartending, cocktail waitressing, and other basic jobs. I wasn’t using my degree, but I was keeping a roof over my head.
After having my first child in 2013, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom for a while. I used that time to refresh and restart, hoping the right opportunity would come along. When a writing job became available in the town I lived in, I didn’t hesitate to apply. I thought, “This is it! This is how I start a writing career.”
And I was right…sort of.
I landed the job, but come to find out, there wasn’t much writing to it. I estimate it was 99 percent customer service and 1 percent writing. What’s more, after a few months, my employer decided to shorten the lunch hour, extend the workday, and take away several paid holidays. On top of that, he purchased an online content marketing course with the hopes I could take on some additional marketing duties (even though there was no mention of increasing my salary).
I felt disheartened. Lied to. Unimportant. But more than ever, I was determined to get the job I’d envisioned. And with the help of the content marketing course I’d just completed at work, I had a much better idea of what that job would look like.
Lesson Learned: Create Your Own Opportunities
After completing the course, I started looking for freelance writing jobs. I’d peeked behind the content marketing door and had a much better idea of how I could make money as a writer. I didn’t have to work for a magazine or newspaper. I didn’t have to write technical manuals. Just about every brand with an online presence needs content, and there seemed to be plenty of work to go around.
I got my first freelance client within two weeks of searching. No experience, no portfolio, just a strong writing sample and I was in. By the end of the month, I was working with four clients during the evening after I put my kids to bed. And in less than a year, I had enough clients to replace my full-time income with writing. So, I revenge-quit.
Fast forward six years and I’m happier than ever. I tripled my income compared to working for my last employer. I only work four days a week and can pick and choose the clients and projects I work with.
All this to say, I crafted my career from the ground up. I was never happy working for someone else because I was never meant to do so. I couldn’t find what I wanted in a career because working for someone else meant working on their terms, not my own.
But they didn’t teach me that in college.
I wish someone had told me that I didn’t need experience to be successful. Once I learned that I had the power to shape my own career—from hours to salary to the environment to the actual work I do—I ran with it. It felt natural and authentic. And it actually came easier to me than any other job I’ve ever had under someone else.
My advice: find another way. Your path doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s path.
When you stay true to yourself, your values, and your dreams, you can gain more clarity on what your ideal career looks like—and if you can’t find it, create it.