Take it from a twenty-something: Careers don’t happen overnight

etc_underemployed43__01__630x420(source)

In my introduction to this series, I mentioned how the reality of my twenties didn’t quite match up to my glamorized expectations. After a lifetime of going from year to year with little responsibilities outside of a part time job, keeping my living space sanitary and turning in my assignments on time, I guess you could say adulthood was a bit of a shocker. I did the life after college scramble, frantically trying to figure out how I was going to afford the lifestyle I was living without the blessing of my monthly student loan check (which, I might add, immediately turned to a curse post-college). Most importantly, I needed to find a job.

Most of you who have been reading this blog since it first started know that my passion in life is photography. You also know that I’ve come clean on the fact that I haven’t yet pursued it as my career and have instead been bouncing from corporate job to corporate job. For a long time, I thought this meant that I was a failure. I felt like I had let down a lot of the people in my life that supported my pursuit of art because I wasn’t actively working in the field. It turns out I was looking at everything backwards and that’s something I wish I had learned sooner.

I’ve always had a problem being stuck in the “big picture” instead of being able to break things down into small steps. I expected to graduate college and jump right into my field with a full time photography position. Instead I ended up taking a full time corporate job in merchandising which paid the bills but definitely didn’t make me happy. I now understand how valuable that job really was. Everyday I came to work with an inbox overflowing with emails, yet I was able to complete my mile long to do list everyday because from that position I learned time management. I gained experience leading a team, and working as part of one, which is something I may or may not have been able to learn as a photographer running my own business. When I moved to Florida I obtained a position in Marketing (which I am still at now) and through this job I have learned how to market small businesses through a variety of platforms. Because of this job, I now have an incredible skill set that will enable me to market myself.

I remember a conversation with my grandma not too long ago in which she described a career as a process. As a result of the time spent not making a living off of my photography, I have actually gained important skills that will assist me in running a much more successful photography business. Sure, those jobs may not have anything to do with photography, but they have all taught me something that I can bring into my own business.

It’s finally clicked for me that big things, like careers, simply don’t happen overnight. A successful career takes a lot of time, dedication, and patience and we may have to go through several jobs that we don’t like to end up with one we love. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, taking jobs that don’t relate to your field don’t make you a failure. There’s something to be learned at even the most mundane office job.

How have the jobs you’ve had since college helped you work towards your ultimate career goals?
signature

34 thoughts on “Take it from a twenty-something: Careers don’t happen overnight

    1. twenty-something Post author

      I definitely feel the same way Lauren! Sometimes when you’re at a job you dislike or one that seems like it’s only leading to a dead-end, it’s hard to pick up anything positive from it. But then you have days at that same job where you ARE able to realize that there is some good to it….and once you move to a new job you realize all you learned even more.

      Reply
  1. albucco10

    This is so true, Steph. I think it’s important to remember that no matter how much you love or hate the job you’re currently at, there is always something to be learned from your time spent there. I know when I started the job I have now, I thought I knew all there was so know about being a magazine editor–and boy was I wrong. Looking back on my past year (I can’t believe it’s been a year!), I realized recently just how much I’ve learned and grown since I started. No matter how frustrated or stressed I get at the end of the day, I try to remember that the experiences I’m having are only making me a stronger candidate for my next job (and next job, and next job). It’s a growing experience! xx

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Totally agree! I’ve grown so much from the multiple positions I’ve had since entering the working world and I’m even more excited to know that I’m able to apply everything I’ve learned from those jobs to my own photography business. I think in life you’re never done learning. There’s always a new skill to acquire and master, it’s a lifelong process.

      Reply
  2. Rachel

    I don’t think anyone finds their “perfect job” right out of college (and those who say they do are lying to make themselves seem better than the rest of us). Even the people who work at glamorous jobs meeting celebrities or having parties at work still have things that are crappy about their job- long hours, crappy pay, etc.

    The position I’m in now isn’t 100% what I went to school for or what I want to do in the future, but I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to have my work published in catalogs, on websites and blogs. It’s so rewarding knowing thousands of people read things I wrote. So even when I get down on myself for something about my job, I just realize that it’s just the first step in my life-long career. Great post!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      That’s such a good point – I think that even if you are doing your “dream” job there are still going to be little things you don’t particularly enjoy. For me, I’m really excited to start growing my photography business towards a full time career but the whole business aspect and taxes/permits is such a headache! And I feel the same as you, I’m not in my dream job either but through this marketing position I’ve not only acquired marketing skills but I’ve also learned a lot about HTML, CSS, SEO and a whole bunch of other stuff I was clueless about before. I think it’s awesome that you’re able to realize all the GOOD about your job now and value it, even if it isn’t your dream job.

      Reply
  3. Sharon

    I can totally relate. After grad school, I was fortunate to find a job in my field. But when I got engaged and moved to another state, I had to quit my job. I wound up working retail for a few months till I finally got my current job. It’s not my dream job and I don’t want to work here forever, but it’s in my field.

    -Sharon
    The Tiny Heart
    Earrings Giveaway!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      I know how that feels too — I had a full time position but then moved to another state and had to quit. But I love the job I’m at much more now and it’s more relevant to where I want my career to be headed in the future so I am thankful for that. I’m glad you are fortunate enough to be working in your field, that’s the first step! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Always Maylee

    It’s true, every job can be a great learning experience. When I was a teen, I worked in retail at the mall. I definitely wasn’t planning on making it a career and I really just wanted to make some extra spending money. But looking back, it really helped establish a foundation for my customer service skills!

    xo, Yi-chia
    Always Maylee

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      That’s such a good point Yi-chia! I worked in retail all throughout high school and college and it gave me great people experience. No matter what job you’re at, people skills and customer service will almost ALWAYS be important so retail jobs are a great foundation. It’s funny how a job can seem so pointless and boring but when you look back you actually see how much you learned from it.

      Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      HI Corbynn, thanks so much for stopping by!! I’m glad you could relate. By writing about all of these things I’m experiencing as a twenty-something I’ve been able to find a lot of comfort in knowing I’m not alone. Thanks for reading. xo 🙂

      Reply
  5. Pearls & Lace

    You know I love when you write posts like this because I feel the same way! I finished my undergrad and though I would come out and get a decent job in my field, instead I’m working a job that almost has nothing to do with what I studied. I feel even more lost sometimes because my actual career requires me to go back to school and do my masters so I feel almost farther away from my end goal. I really like what your grandma said, she sounds very wise! I’m going to try to remember that throughout this process!

    xo jen

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Somedays it’s hard to remember and keep things positive but it’s so important in the long run. I’m actually glad to have not gone 100% into my field yet because I feel a lot more prepared to tackle it as a whole NOW than I did when I got out of college. I’ve learned so much and picked up a lot of things on the way and now I’m in a place where I finally feel ready. I’m sure you will get there too. 🙂

      Reply
  6. jennacwest

    Amen Sister! I totally agree with you, I went to school for journalism to be honest I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. Now my full time job deals with websites, system issues, DNS, blah blah blah. I went from journalist to computer geek. When I was going to school and people would ask what I was majoring in they would response “oh cool maybe I’ll see you on the news” but when I am asked the question of what I am doing now people respond rather impressed. So my random job has actually made me more marketable and writing has been incorporated into my job by writing repositories on how to reinstate websites and all that junk!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      That’s awesome Jenna! Sometimes jobs turn into things you never expected them to. From my marketing job I’ve learned a whole new skill set (some relating to websites and DNS too!) in marketing and I feel like it’s going to be incredibly helpful for me in ANY job venture in the future.

      Reply
  7. xo Michelle

    Right on! I can relate to this entire post. I too am passionate about photography and marketing. When I graduated college I was fortunate to find a job that pays well and has allowed me to learn SO MUCH and grow into a leader that I never thought possible. My job has allowed me whatever vacation time I need & the ability to transfer across the country which I am forever thankful for. It does however come with long hours, working some weekends, and some everyday stress. However, looking back at the past 2.5 years, my jobs has allowed me to grow up, support my shopping sprees, and learn how to lead a team/communicate effectively/and market myself. Can’t wait to see what I can learn and see what opportunities life may throw my way. Love this series! Can’t wait to see your next post!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Twins again! Your journey sounds pretty much identical to mine. I’m not the leader type and have never considered myself to be, but through my past two jobs I’ve been able to realize my full potential through leading teams. Every job is an opportunity to pick up a new skill or improve on something. I’m so glad to hear your positive outlook about the future and being excited to see what life throws at you next. I’m positive it will be something fabulous 🙂 Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  8. Kaylyn @ the weir house

    I swear this post was a God send. This is something i’ve been struggling with lately. I’m 22, graduated college this past August, and I’ve been frantically searching for that perfect job. I guess that’s what all twenty something’s do, like you said. We think we will find this grand job right out of college. Unfortunately, we all realize that we have to settle. I love my job, but I don’t get paid hourly or salary. I am a contract post production editor for a wedding videographer. The perks- i work from home and on my time. The downfalls – somedays I get work. Or, I can go weeks without a single pay check. It’s been stressful. My dream is to make my blog my career. Oh, how I adore blogging. I only hope that one day, that will come true for me. And I hope the same for you and your photography business. I know you can do it, girl :).

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Kaylyn, sorry this response is coming late but I LOVED what you had to say. I think you’re right that we all exit college expecting our phones to suddenly ring off the hook with job offers, but what we don’t realize is that building a career takes WORK! I don’t necessarily think that we have to settle, but I do think we quickly realize that we have to work from the ground up. We may have to take jobs that stink, are unpredictable, don’t pay well or jobs that simply seem like they’re leading us nowhere, but in the end there is always some lesson to be learned. I truly believe that we can do anything we set our minds to. I wish you the best of luck with blogging and know you can do it!

      Reply
  9. champydreamsboxedwinebudget

    I feel like you are speaking to me right now. I completely understand. I thought I would be working in my dream job making tons of money, getting drinks every night my obnoxiously model-pretty best friends and super hot boyfriend. And here we are hahaha. But then I realize I am only 22 and building a career DOES take time and energy and a lot of hard work. Blogging has been such an amazing creative escape though! xo

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Right?! Sometimes I have these panic moments where I freak out about the fact I’m not doing photography professionally. Then I remember I’m 23 and that these things don’t just happen without serious time, effort and work. Blogging has been an amazing outlet for me as well, and it’s been a great way for me to keep taking photos and growing as a photographer even though I’m not doing it full time. 🙂

      Reply
  10. how bout some cake

    You are so wise, especially for being an EARLY 20-something! In my opinion, as long as you’re learning and working towards something greater, you’re not failing! Failing settling. It’s saying, “I hate this dead end job but I’m comfortable here so why try for anything more?”

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Thanks girl 🙂 I agree 100% and I’ve only realized those things recently. I let myself be down for SO long about not pursuing photography and I allowed myself to completely shut photography out of my life as a result. Once I started blogging and taking photos it kind of re-lit the fire in me and brought back so much inspiration. Now I’ve realized all the great things I’ve learned and can apply to my photo career along the way.

      Reply
      1. how bout some cake

        That’s great to hear! You’re a really talented photographer. You posted one earlier this week that made me think “Geez, I want her to photograph my wedding!”… and that was just an instagram!

        Reply
  11. Laura

    I could not agree more. I have written about my similar experience as well (http://www.theconversation.tv/career-finances/college-graduation/) and it’s something I am still struggling to come to terms with. One thing that I have realized about myself and other young adults is that we seem to have a sense of urgency. We feel that we are almost in a race against the clock to get all of our ducks in a row especially when it comes to our careers. This may be because we have high expectations of ourselves which is not a bad thing, but we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we’re not exactly where we thought we would be.

    I have finally learned what true hard work really means. In school hard work meant studying well so you are rewarded with an A. In part-time jobs it meant being a good worker so you were rewarded with a possible raise or at least respect from your co-workers. But now because of our dreams (for you it’s photography and for me it’s writing) it means doing what you love every day even though there doesn’t seem to be any reward. No money, no praise. You do it because you love it and the hard work will eventually pay off.

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Laura, I loved that post! I felt the exact same way after graduating and struggled for a while to keep my head above water. Then, when I moved to FL in March and was jobless I did the same thing (searching for jobs for hours, refreshing the page so that there wasn’t a single job posting I didn’t miss, all while eating ice cream in sweatpants) and I felt like I’d never make it.

      I completely agree with what you mentioned about a sense of urgency – somedays I wake up and feel like I’m running out of time and I have to make my whole career happen NOW, but then I come to my senses and realize how silly of an expectation that is to have for myself. The best thing I can do for myself is stay connected with my camera and keep being passionate about photography and eventually all of that passion and hard work will develop into a career, just like you said. It’s hard to see it that way since at this point I’m just doing it for myself, no actual clients or jobs, but like you said you just do what you love and eventually things will fall into place. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your own personal experience, I loved reading about it.!

      Reply
  12. Maria

    You’re so on-point in this post. Sure, I am working exactly in the industry I want to be in doing exactly what I want to be doing, but an entry-level position in publishing isn’t as glamorous as I thought. I may be positioned to be gaining footing in my career, but it isn’t going to happen overnight. If things went the way I wanted them to, I’d be dictating the content that goes into my site instead of listening to someone else tell me what to write, which is why KCH is such a great outlet for me. Keep your chin up, it will absolutely happen. People like us don’t usually fail.

    xx
    M

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      It’s interesting to hear your point Maria because you ARE in a great place doing something you love already and still can relate to this. I feel like even once we get to the point in our careers where we are doing what we love and working in the field we want to be in, we still have to face the same challenges we did to get there in the first place. There are positives and negatives to every job and it’s always a process, even when you get to the top!

      Reply
  13. jeansandateacup

    True dat! I’m almost 30 and still don’t have a career. At least you have goals and a passion! The artistic careers are often the hardest to get off the ground. But keep at it!
    ~Jessica

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *