"The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life." -Jessica Hische
Aside from delicious vegan food, there isn’t a topic I enjoy discussing more than career happiness. It’s something I’m deeply passionate about and thrilled when I can throw ideas around with other people.
I could talk about it until I’m blue in the face. But, I guess that is pretty evident below.
Keep in mind, I really have no idea what I’m doing most days and I’m not here to give you advice on your unique academic or career situation. I can offer insight from my own experiences and lessons learned along the way. My goal for this post is to create a place for discussion so everyone can join in and offer their input, stories, and insight. That’s when the magic happens!
My story in short:
I graduated in October 2006 with a BAH degree in Psychology and minor in Family and Child Studies. In October 2008, I graduated with a Master’s Degree w/ Honours in Social Psychology. Prior to graduating, I interviewed for a full-time research position during Spring 2008. It was offered to me and I took it even though my gut told me that the timing wasn’t right. I was already a full-time grad student and part-time teaching assistant which kept me very busy.
But I took the job anyways even though every instinct I had was saying DON’T DO IT.
Lesson #1: Listen to your gut.
Eric and I were also planning our wedding to be held on Aug. 31, 2008. Stress was at an all-time high as I juggled courses, my thesis, a new demanding job, and wedding planning. My eating disorder got bad during this time and I often starved myself or over-exercised to deal with my emotions.
In October 2008, I was happy to be graduating, but I still wasn’t enjoying my career as a researcher like I thought I should be. While the money flowed, it didn’t matter.
On October 31, 2008 I started Oh She Glows as a hobby in an effort to add some joy back into my life.
Oh, and joy it brought!
This blog was in essence, ‘the work I did while I procrastinated’, as the opening quote mentions above. I blogged at breakfast, during my lunch break, and after dinner, for months. It was a lot of work, but looking back, it was the best positive escape I could’ve had to get me through that time.
This blog gave me the courage to pursue my passions full-time so I planned my actual escape and in early 2009, I quit.
It was the scariest, yet best thing I could have done.
Below are some of your career change questions that you posed on facebook last week.
How did you find your passion?
1. Get rid of life toxins
Until I was about 24-25 years old, my hobbies were calorie counting, the scale, and exercising. I didn’t have any real hobbies aside from playing sports throughout school and if you asked me what my passions were I would have stared at you blankly. To find my passions, I had to get rid of life toxins that weighed me down. Once I entered recovery for my eating disorder, I was able to add positivity back into my life such as finding new hobbies and activities. We need to get rid of things weighing us down to make room for inspiration, creativity, and authenticity.
2. Give yourself Me Time
It’s easy to say ‘I don’t have time right now’, but this is when it’s especially important to take time out for yourself. I gave myself permission to do things I enjoyed whether it be hanging out with friends, baking, reading, or spending time with Eric. Even if it was only 30 minutes a day, it was my time to do what I wanted and slowly discover activities that I enjoyed. ‘Me time’ allows us to figure out what it is that makes us happy.
3. Allow creativity to flow
Shortly after graduating, I started my blog which turned out to be the real gateway to discovering my passions. What better creative outlet than having a blank slate each day to write whatever inspires me? As a creative person, I consider my blog a virtual vision board. I can write about whatever I want which was a stark contrast to my role as a researcher. Overtime, I discovered that I had tapped into a huge passion in my life. (Another creative outlet I love is Pinterest). If there’s a voice inside you that suggests you try something out, give it a shot because it could be your hidden passion!
4. Look to your childhood
Look back to your childhood and ask yourself what activities you enjoyed. The passions we have as children are clues to what we might enjoy as adults.
As a child I loved:
- Playing house and school with all kinds of characters, names, and story-telling
- Playing with Barbie’s & Lego and creating stories about the ‘people’
- Polaroid, disposable, and film cameras !!!
- Writing Fiction stories
- Drawing, painting, crafting
- Baking & easy-bake ovens
- Playing with friends and animals
- The outdoors, playing outside for hours, skipping, building snow forts
- Track & Field, softball
My passions today seem to have the same underlying characteristics, albeit through different forms and expressions!
How did you know that your career was the right choice long-term?
Nothing in life is a sure bet, but my instincts told me I was on the right path. Sometimes hope, a good feeling, and a positive outlook are the only things we have. If I told myself I couldn’t do it, I would probably still be at my old job. Oh She Glows started out as a hobby while I did my ‘real work’. It turned out that I not only enjoyed blogging, but I fell in love with it. The blog and bakery brought together my passions like inspirational writing, healthy food, cooking/baking, fitness, and helping others.
When I couldn’t imagine myself not doing it, I knew I had found something special. It’s sort of like knowing you’ve met the person you want to spend your life with. I knew Eric was the one for me because I couldn’t imagine us apart. I felt the same way with my new career.
How did you deal with a severe pay cut?
Not getting a regular pay check in the bank every two weeks was difficult to deal with. I struggled with an identity-crisis (who was I now that I didn’t have a full-time job and steady income?) and insecurity (what would others think of me?). I had to make financial cutbacks in every aspect of my life. I only spent money on essentials like food and bills. I didn’t spend money on entertainment, eating out, clothing, or anything that I didn’t think was a necessity at the time. I got used to the cutbacks after a couple months and many of my money-saving habits stuck with me.
Do you think you would have taken that leap if it was just you taking care of you? I admire what you do and would give a kidney to be in your shoes, but just don’t feel that it’s possible for me. I’m not pessimistic–I am proud and satisfied with what I’ve done–but I’m realistic.
I would’ve left my research position eventually, but probably not as quickly had I been single. I saved consistently for almost a year before I left my research position so I could cover my share of the bills for the first while, but if I was single I probably would’ve stayed in the field for another 2-3 years so I could save up enough to feel stable financially. I knew in my heart that I wasn’t meant to be a researcher so I would’ve done what was necessary to change my career path even if it wasn’t as soon as I wanted. I’m a firm believer that planning and preparation is crucial if you are serious about making a career change. If you think it will never happen, you are probably right.
How did you take the leap with a career change?
Quitting my job was not an impulsive decision even though it may seem that way. It was a calculated decision that I planned for months before actually quitting. I flip flopped back and forth all the time, but ultimately, I knew in my heart that I had to go through with it. The day that I quit was not planned though. It just happened to be a really bad day that fueled my fire. :)
How do I know what my strengths are?
Growing up, I never really considered myself good at much. In my late teens, when I was trying to figure out what career I would enjoy, I asked Eric what I was good at because I had no clue. If you are lost about your own strengths, ask your family members or your partner. Most people can identify strengths in other people much easier than they can in themselves. Also, think about things that you do well. Are you an expert Sudoku player? Maybe you have a strength in problem solving. Are you great at knitting? Maybe you have a strong attention to detail and lots of patience. Do you love making lists and hosting parties? Maybe you have strengths in event planning. Do you love to bake? Maybe you have a sweet tooth like me. heheh…
Oddly enough, I went to see a Career Counselor during my first year of university because I was having doubts about my career path. After answering a battery of tests, I was told that I was suited for a creative field, such as teaching, writing, culinary arts, fashion design, or photography. A test could detect my strengths when I couldn’t detect them in myself. I highly recommend seeing a Career Counselor if you can.
I want to change careers, but my fear of other family members judging me is paralyzing. How did you get over worrying about what others thought?
This was my biggest hurdle of all. I think most of us care deeply about what our loved ones think, whether we like to admit it or not. I had so much anxiety to tell my friends and family that I quit. It almost kept me from quitting at all.
Ultimately, I realized that I couldn’t live my life for other people. We lost a friend suddenly to cancer in 2008 and it really made me change the way I live my life. I stopped beating myself up and worrying about what others thought. I don’t know how long my life will be, but I do know that I’m now living it authentically rather than putting off happiness for another day.
I would love to hear how it felt to walk away from a career you had invested so much time and money in!
The day I quit was a mix of negative and positive emotions. I felt shame, guilt, relief, anxiety, happiness, worry…you name it (see my I Quit post).
Do I regret the 7 years I spent in university? Not a chance. I now know what will make me happy in a career and what won’t. I may have figured it out the hard way, but I’m happy I did at all. An education is invaluable, even if not used in the traditional way that its intended (is it ever these days?). I still feel like I’m fulfilling my goal of helping other people (which is what drew me to psychology), but perhaps not in the way I initially imagined. The twists and turns of life are often the greatest.
How do you deal with isolation when making the change even though you know it’s an unhealthy career for you?
Losing contact with my coworkers was very isolating, especially during the first few months when I was feeling a gamut of negative emotions and questioning my path in life. In the workplace, coworkers are great for venting about problems, forming friendships, and leaning on when you need some support or advice. When I quit my job, I was on my own during workday hours. No one could figure it out but me and that was really scary.
Whether you are having a baby, moving, or taking on another big adjustment, surrounding yourself with supportive people helps so much. I talked to Eric, close family, friends, and on the blog. My mom always tells me that there is no greater joy than knowing your child is happy. If you can wake up each day and feel happy about where you’re going, you’re already a success.
“It isn’t necessary to know exactly how your ideal life will look; you only have to know what feels better and what feels worse…Begin making choices based on what makes you feel freer and happier, rather than on how you think an ideal life should look. It’s the process of feeling our way toward happiness, not the realization of the Platonic ideal, that creates our best lives.” ~Martha Beck
What she said. :)
For a recap of how I changed careers and my full story, check out my ‘A Year Can Change A Lot’ Series: