In episode 323, I received a great question that focused on how to remain positive and motivated when trying to find a job in today’s world. In this post, I offer my thoughts and provide some tips to help you keep going!
I’ve been listening to your podcast and enjoying it quite a bit. I have been navigating a difficult and unwelcoming job landscape here in New York, trying to become a writer. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and all I know I enjoy doing — I have done other things in the past, your typical mind numbing office gig in P.R., blah blah blah. Can’t do it. I’m left with one choice, which is to try to figure this out, despite how hard it is and how long it might take (if it ever happens).
My question is, how do I stay positive? Filling out these applications day in and day out is draining me of my confidence and drive. It’s affecting my relationship with my girlfriend — I have too much free time, and I’m irritable and depleted. The thing I want to do is a difficult thing to do, and there are only a finite number of positions that allow it. So how do I keep believing I can do this, in the face of overwhelming rejection and discouragement?
Thanks for the question. This is a good one and one that I imagine will be relatable to a lot of people.
Before jumping into the answer here, I want to just challenge you on your statement that you are left with one choice. I very much disagree with that. You have a spectrum of choices. There are a lot of possibilities here. What you know is that you are personally fulfilled by writing and that it comes naturally to you. You know that it is hard for you to be passionate and maintain your happiness when you have to work in other fields. You also know that it is very hard to find a traditional job in the field of writing. You aren’t alone in this. Whether it’s writing or another type of passion, there are many people that know what their passion and skillset is, but there are no jobs available for them. That’s tough. I think the answer here is to be both aspirational and pragmatic.
Let’s talk about the pragmatic side first – you need money to live. If you spend some time planning and working on it, you can figure out what that specific number is. How much do you need to make to live? This can help to guide your decision making. You have had jobs in PR and such that have basically crushed your soul. That’s fair – only you can say how these sorts of positions impact your mental health. It’s easy for me to sit over here and say that it’s not life or death, but for all I know it could actually be for you. But if you know the minimum number that you need to achieve, maybe you don’t have to do exactly what you have done before. Maybe you could work a part-time job or a job that is simple and below your skill level, but it is not very demanding and gives you plenty of time and space to focus on other interests or projects.
There are also a lot of hours in the day. I wrote my first book while I was a pre-doctoral intern at Kaiser. I was working full-time and being paid hardly enough to get by. I used my lunch breaks, downtime when I had a client no-show, and plenty of time on the iPad prior to going to sleep to bust the book out. It ended up becoming the the most significant contributor to my income for several years. You may not have the ability to push yourself to that extent and that’s okay. But you can do an audit of your weeks. Take a real look at exactly how you are spending your time. If you are extremely honest with yourself, could you be doing more?
Now, let’s talk about the ambitious part. I understand that there are not a lot of professional positions in New York for you. Does it have to be NY? Could you potentially move for a job? Could you work remotely for a job? How about the idea of building your own thing? If you are a writer, there is really no limit to what you can do. From writing your own books and self-publishing them to doing freelance article writing to building a company to looking at jobs that are in the writing industry, but are not exactly writing jobs. Again, I have no idea what kind of writing you do, but there are startups and established companies like Freewrite, Grammarly, Scrivener, etc. If you are willing to work remotely, you can also broaden your search to anywhere in the country/world. Maybe you could piece together a few different remote opportunities?
Back to the pragmatic side, maybe you could also be spending more of your time on research and learning. I’m sure there are a bajillion podcasts, blogs, books, subreddits, youtube channels, and facebook communities devoted to writers and jobs in writing. Perhaps setting side some time each day to look into communities, platforms, resources etc. could help you move in the right direction.
When it comes to staying positive and motivated, I wonder if connecting with others in your desired field could help out. Either in-person or virtually or both. Society kind of teaches us that our job and passion should be the same thing. I don’t necessarily think so. I know a lot of people who are totally happy working a job that simply provides them with money and they use that money to live and pursue their passions. You may find that the daily grind of a whatever job isn’t as soul-crushing when you are also building your own project or pursuing your passion in some capacity.
I think you probably also want to watch out for fake productivity. Sometimes we get so stuck in a set way of doing things like simply filling out mindless applications that we are actually in a pattern of avoidance. We feel like we are being productive just because we are doing something. It’s possible that taking a break from doing the same thing over and over could actually be productive in that it gives you a chance to get the gears turning and work more efficiently and creatively rather than just beating your head against a brick wall and expecting it to budge. The other trap that you can fall into is thinking that you don’t deserve other things or that you aren’t allowed to do other things until you’ve solved this problem. You might be turning into a miserable bastard by depriving yourself of things like quality time with your girlfriend, breaks, and small indulgences for yourself. I want you to keep pushing and I want you to grind right now to make something happen for yourself. BUT you need to also be honest with yourself. Look at what is working and what is not. Look at your capacity and what recharges you.
Consult! Gather opinions. Connect. Keep moving forward and try your best to have some patience. As long as that minimum number is met, you have time to figure things out. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.
You can listen to this on Episode 323 of the podcast!
Thank you for the great question!
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