I've been thinking about careers and study a fair amount lately, especially because I have finally saved up enough money to be able to go on holiday - largely thanks to my few years of working and saving up money.
Last week a lovely person who is a reader of The Residents approached me about wanting to change careers. We ended up organising a coffee and talking about her feelings regarding making a jump into something new (which actually happened to be wanting to be a policy advisor). While I studied all the way through high school and then went straight to university, things in my own career have often been less straight forward. Similarly, I was talking to a younger friend who was thinking about what she would do when she finished her film degree and was nervous about the future.
Here's a few tips you should keep in mind whenever you get worried about what the future may hold.
1. School and university is linear. Life is not.
Growing up, I worked hard at school and strived in my study. As a result, I always had feedback saying I'd do okay. I also have friends who didn't do that well in their grades at school, but are killing it in the real world now. Some other people I know were very promising at school but have done less.
Some people will know what they want to do from a young age, study it and then go on to work in that field. Some of those people will love what they do and live happily ever after. The rest will end up working in a career that they now know is not what they want to do and suddenly may be faced with the terrifying prospect of having 'arrived' and realising you no longer want to be there.
My philosophy on life and careers has changed hugely as I have aged. In my teens, I was all about having a plan and sticking to it, come hell or high water. As an adult, I know that a plan shouldn't be made into a rod for ones own back. I have had to learn this the hard way.
The person you are when you make these grand decisions about your career and life path is not the person you will become. I am not the girl I was when I was 17, but I resemble her in very many ways. I was a great deal more anxious at 17, and through my twenties I have made many mistakes that have humbled me, and made me realise that maybe I shouldn't do everything. Doing things for other people is a real danger, and while I love my Mum and Dad, it took great courage for me to leave a career in the law and find something else.
It is okay to pivot your career in your twenties. Do it now, before you have kids and a mortgage (and if you do have kids and a mortgage, work out how you can incorporate aspects of change into your life gradually). We should never be embaressed to admit that we no longer like where we are, that we want to make more of a difference in peoples lives, and that its time to go back to the drawing board.
2. Don't worry about money (unless you have to). It will come.
With the rise of Instagram and other social media forms that enable us to compare ourselves to others, it can be confusing how some people can afford to go to Coachella, and you can't. Fact: it is getting more expensive to pay for the basic these days. Inflation of costs is not in sync with wage increases. As a result, paying for your power in Winter might be something which wipes you out.
I am very fortunate to now feel comfortable in what I earn. However, this comes with a few major caveats. My mum and dad helped me with my rent while I studied. I came out of university, having worked 10 - 14 hours a week each year of my five years of study, with a large student loan and no savings. I was paid, but not much, for the first three years of my working, but even that pay was better than what some families are getting by on. I couldn't afford to do anything especially fancy, like save up for a holiday. In fact, for most of the time up until last year, I had no savings at all.
In my fourth year of working I was able to save a little bit better and I also started to earn a little bit of income from this blog. It wasn't much, but enough to be able to buy coffee for my interviewees, fly myself to Auckland for the Social Media Awards and pay my Facebook bill. Monetizing this blog has allowed me to do meaningful things (and some fun things as well, like splashing out at the Aesop launch on product to review).
Be kind to yourself with money. Don't beat yourself up if you are still finding your feet. Equally, don't be afraid to quit or take a better offer if you aren't getting anywhere. In one job, I failed to move up to the next stage I needed to for a promotion twice. At that stage, I really did need the money to progress, and so I was quite devastated when it didn't work out. Fortunately, a recruiter contacted me on LinkedIn just a few days later (so keep your social media FRESH).
I now know that most of the young people who were moving to Europe at 22 probably had a fair amount of family help to support them. Now that I am going on my own European adventure, I am proud to have achieved it on my own terms from my hard work as a policy advisor in the financial sector, and that I don't owe anyone a penny. That to me is true wealth - to be able to do all the things you want to do, and have enough to buy food and pay your bills at the end. This also matches with the theory that after a certain amount of money (around $70,000) you're mean happiness doesn't increase with salary. Food for thought.
3. Side-hustles can grow into big things
We're told we need to pick and choose what we do and niche down to make an impact in the world. While that may have been the old model, I am a big believer in the power of the side-hustle, what Emma Gannon has termed 'The Multi-Hyphen Method'. The internet has changed everything and while once, in the old world, you might have needed to just pick one career path, these days people are picking multiple career paths all at the same time. Take Shirley of Wellington from Yoga With Me. She's a project manager for a major government agency but also runs a successful personal brand and teaches yoga on the side. Similarly, Sam Spacey from Float Well started a business with her husband, Kevin but chooses to keep teaching yoga. Kevin is actually an engineer on the side who contracts when needed.
If there is one thing I've learnt form interviewing nearly 150 people for The Residents it is that life is rarely straightforward and our needs as humans are multi-faceted. Don't think that just because you studied law, every aspect of you will be happy by working as a lawyer because it pays well. If you can, getting to know yourself and spending time figuring out what makes you tick as a person can be very valuable. For example, I love the intellectual rigour of my day job. I find the finance world fascinating, although I never formally have studied it, because from a policy perspective it informs so many other things that affect our society and economy. And while some things are quite dry and specific to the financial world (Derivatives anyone?), I love working on policy solutions for things like how the financial markets can support New Zealand's transition to a low-carbon economy for the future.
On the other hand, The Residents has provided amazing creative freedom and opportunities for me. As I've said before, if I didn't have a blog to write on, I wouldn't be doing this, because the competition and cut throat nature of 'the influencer world' just isn't for me. Some girls thrive on it and are doing incredibly, have other side hustles or projects and passions that co-exist alongside their Instagram or influencer profile. Personally, I love writing. If I could, I would marry writing. It makes me happy and provides zen. So writing is very important to my work, my play and my mental health and zen. It is the common thread that connects everything. And while I always knew that, from when I was about 7, I had to go away and do some things, and explore the world, to find out what it was I really loved again.
You are going to be working until you are about 70 years old. So whatever stage you're at, be kind to yourself. Sometimes, things don't work out. You haven't yet found your spot in the world yet. That's okay. Give it some time. I promise it won't be like that forever. And in the meantime, while you can't control everything, focus on what you can control. Quit your job (once you've got a year or so under your belt if it is your first job however - otherwise, sorry babes, you got to thrash it out for 12 months), start a side project or join someone elses and spend time learning what makes you happy.
What are your work stories or side hustle successes? I'd love to know in the comments below, or over on Instagram!