Hi y’all! Today I’m taking a step away from purely lettering related content to tell you how I ended up at my dream job. I’ve also included 8 tips that can help you find yours.
If you’ve followed me on Instagram for any length of time, you’ve probably seen me post countless times about how I #lovemyjob – and, well, it’s because I do. I am so incredibly passionate about what I’m doing these days that I look forward to going to work every day, and I want the same for you!
First things first, you need to know that I had to kiss a few career frogs before I landed my dream job. So if you’re not currently working your dream job, or if you’re in a job that makes you miserable, know that it’s okay and you can turn things around! Second, it took a lot of hard work, determination and a willingness to go the extra mile. You have to be willing to put in the work in order to reap the rewards.
A little about my background: I graduated from the University of Georgia in 2009 with a degree in Publication Management, which is a hybrid degree that combines journalism and business. Immediately after graduation I moved from Athens, GA to Chattanooga, TN for a reporting internship at The Chattanooga Times Free Press. I had so much fun as a recent college grad turned newspaper reporter. I’ve always been shy, so it’s very strange that I went into a profession that required me to walk up to strangers on the street and ask them how they felt about the snow falling around us (literally this was my first assignment, and I was terrified to do it).
Tip 1: Push yourself out of your comfort zone
Working as a newspaper reporter forced me out of my shell. My stomach turned at the thought of finding sources, walking up to strangers, or pitching ideas that might get shot down. But, I did it anyway. I put on a brave face and faked it. I faked being outgoing and fearless so much that after awhile I actually became outgoing and fearless (okay, so not completely outgoing or completely fearless, but night and day compared to where I started!) When my six-month internship was coming to a close, the newspaper hired me as a business reporter. I’d never written about business before, but this new outgoing and fearless (ish) version of me said “sure, I’ll accept that challenge!”
Tip 2: Embrace new challenges and dive in head first
Sure, I had never read an earnings report in my life before I became a business reporter, but where there’s a will there’s a way. I’ve always been more creatively inclined, so I ended up steering myself toward creative business stories. I wrote about people who had been laid off in the economic downturn and started businesses they’d been dreaming of running their entire lives. I followed two local “coupon queens” around grocery stores as they shared their tips for cutting grocery bills in half. I sat in a 50-year-old hair salon and chatted with women who had been coming there since it opened. I made it my goal to turn what could have been a boring article into a story people wanted to read, and I loved doing it. But, it wasn’t my dream job. My then-boyfriend/now-husband and I started a long distance relationship and soon the fact that I knew I wasn’t working my dream job and that I wanted to be closer to him led me to my next role.
Tip 3: You’re going to make some mistakes, but they are worth making
I know you’re thinking I’m going to say it was a mistake to leave my job to be closer to my boyfriend. But no, friends, that wasn’t my mistake (I mean, you guys, we got married and have a son now – that was a great decision on my part!) My mistake was the job I ended up taking when I moved. It was a natural transition for me to go from working as a newspaper reporter to a publicist, even though I joked about “going over to the dark side.” I was really good at being a publicist because I understood the other side of things. What I wasn’t really good at was handling the work atmosphere I was thrown into. PR isn’t an easy field – and it can sometimes attract people who aren’t easy to work with or for. It was not the right field for me. I thought I had built up a thick skin as a reporter, but it was nothing compared to what I needed for the PR agency I worked for. At the end of the day, my personal work style and motivators didn’t line up with the management’s philosophy.
Tip 4: Recognize when it’s time to get out of a miserable work situation, before you let it get the best of you
I was terrified of being seen as a job hopper, so even though I knew pretty quickly that I’d made a terrible career decision, I stuck it out for much longer than I really should have. I’m a generally happy person but I was miserable during this time in my life, and I was becoming miserable to be around. I had to get out. So when I found a new job opening in an administrative/marketing role for a construction consulting firm, I jumped at the chance. I took a week off between jobs to reset my batteries and start with a refreshed mindset. It made all the difference.
Tip 5: Pay your dues and learn everything you can while you do it
When I started that administrative/marketing position I wasn’t super excited about answering phones or making coffee or buying supplies for the office kitchen. I went to college! I graduated magna cum laude from one of the top universities in Georgia! I shouldn’t have to do these things! Ha. Wrong. Most of us have to pay our dues. Do it with grace and respect for the people who have already paid theirs. Be as helpful as you possibly can be, and while you’re doing that be so good at what you want to be doing, that they can’t ignore you. Work hard. Hustle.
I taught myself how to use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign by watching countless YouTube videos, reading articles, and signing up for classes that I paid for myself. I was eager to prove my worth, and willing to put in the work necessary to do so. Eventually, the administrative duties fell away from my position and I was promoted. I continued to work hard, be as helpful as possible, respectful of those who were ahead of me in age/tenure, and look for new things I could learn. DO THIS. I wasn’t working my dream job, but I was learning all of the skills I needed to eventually land it. I don’t even know how it happened, but eventually I was managing a couple social media accounts for the company, performing back-end website maintenance, designing all of the graphics, and developed a company iPad app. Let me take a second to remind you guys that my degree is in journalism – not graphic design, web development or anything remotely technical. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Tip 6: Make the big career move, even if you’re terrified
I’d been working at the construction consulting firm for about 3-3.5 years when I was starting to feel like it was time to move on to something closer to my dream job. I’d tapped into my creativity and developed a deep love for design. I had recently taken my first handlettering class and was practicing daily. I’d been introduced to Tombow pens in that class, and enjoyed using them. I didn’t know anything else about the company at that point – just that my lettering instructor had recommended them, I bought them, and I liked them. One day a job listing for Social Media Specialist at Tombow USA popped up on my LinkedIn feed and I gasped. I looked at the website and was shocked that the company was only 15 minutes from my house! (Side note: at that point I was commuting 1-2 hours each way to my job, so the fact that Tombow was closeby was icing on the cake.) I immediately knew I’d be perfect for this position, but I didn’t really have much social media experience. I thought about that job opportunity non-stop for 2 weeks, talking myself in and out of applying over and over. Finally, the fearless(ish) side of me won out and I pulled together a resume, cover letter, and hit send. What’s the worst that could happen?
Tip 7: Learn how to sell yourself along with your experience
Did I mention that I had very little social media experience when I applied for the Social Media Specialist position? Yeah. I had been managing a couple of accounts, but I didn’t know a whole lot about social media. What I did know about was talking to people, building a brand presence, crafting stories, and designing eye-catching graphics. I was able to parlay that experience and sell my enthusiasm for the position in order to land the role. I felt like a crazy person during my interview because I smiled so big, but I was incredibly excited to even be sitting in the Tombow building, much less interviewing for a position there. When I was offered the job, I was shocked and excited and terrified. I was leaving a place where I was comfortable. I knew I could do the work I’d been doing, and do it well. This, on the other hand, was a new challenge and it was time to put my money where my mouth was.
Tip 8: Deliver. Provide value. Never stop learning.
I started working at Tombow in February 2015 as the Social Media Specialist and was promoted to Social Media & Content Manager less than a year later. It wasn’t by accident. I came into the role and delivered. I consumed every possible article on social media management that I could, I suggested new ways to do things, and I had the freedom to do many things by trial and error. I also focused on building relationships and creating the feeling that you’re interacting with a person, not a brand. People respond really well to that, it turns out. The Tombow USA Instagram alone has grown from 2k followers when I started to 102k today. That’s 100k new followers in about 16 months. Since taking on this role, I have turned my social media position into one where I not only manage all of the social media accounts, but also design 90% of our graphics, create most of our content, and I get to craft and handletter every day. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had at work. It’s also the most work I’ve ever been doing at once. But it didn’t happen by accident – it’s all possible because of the work I put in for years before I came across this opportunity and took a leap into an entirely new course for my career.
This is all to tell you that you CAN find your dream job. You can find a completely new job or you can turn your current position into your dream job. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not easy, but you can do it if you keep these 8 tips in mind as you navigate your career:
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone
- Embrace new challenges and dive in head first
- You’re going to make some mistakes, but they are worth making
- Recognize when it’s time to get out of a miserable work situation, before you let it get the best of you
- Pay your dues and learn everything you can while you do it
- Make the big career move, even if you’re terrified
- Learn how to sell yourself along with your experience
- Deliver. Provide value. Never stop learning.