The closer I get to my graduation date, the more questions I get from people in my life about my post-grad plans. Will I follow suit with others in my degree program and find a job in HR, or some other type of office setting? Will I continue to nanny, or find other work in childcare? Will I keep working with TFD and being a writer?
I don’t really have an answer to any of these yet. (Besides the TFD question — I will keep writing with TFD as long as they’ll have me!) But besides that, it is hard to know what will happen once I graduate, and it is hard to convince some of the older, more traditional members of my family and other people in my life that I’ll be okay without a traditional 9-to-5 desk job, if I don’t end up going that direction.
I’m comfortable with my decision to always live, as my boyfriend refers to it, an ~alternative lifestyle~ when it comes to what I do for work, and I do a lot of things to help myself out (like diligently budget and save money just in case my unpredictable work schedule takes a turn for the worse). However, I find myself feeling insecure, and racking my brain for excuses when I’m questioned about it, trying to justify to everyone around me how productive I truly am on a daily basis in spite of the fact that I don’t have a traditional desk job. I’ve worked really hard to give myself a set of Emotional Tools to remind myself that my Professional Identity is, in fact, professional — even if my job isn’t necessarily traditional in the sense that I earn a salary and wear a pencil skirt to an office.
These tips are ones that I’ve taken from observing some of the best in my life, and have rounded up as the four ultimate things I do as a non-traditional job worker who often needs to take her professional self more seriously, and squeeze 9-to-5 productivity out of multiple jobs.
1. Give yourself a title, and stand by it.
A little label can go a long way when you are self-employed, or work some other non-traditional job that can leave you feeling like less of a professional than you actually are. Having a title you can call yourself when people ask “What do you do?” is a good way to make yourself feel a little more legit. Example: I’ve been a babysitter/nanny for a bunch of different families for many years now, but it sort of makes me feel like a high-schooler to tell people that I babysit for cash in my twenties. Making the simple switch from calling myself “nanny” to calling myself an “In-Home Childcare Provider” makes me feel like my job is real, and makes me feel better about what I do. Additionally, being able to put “Writer for TFD” in my Twitter bio did wonders for my professional self-esteem. Feeling ~the part~ is surprisingly helpful in making you act the part, too. I want to live up to the titles I’ve given myself, so in turn, I work extra hard to squeeze more out of my jobs than I previously thought possible.
2. Don’t downplay your work time.
A lot of people with non-traditional jobs become resentful of the fact that our time feels less valuable than the time of our 9-to-5 friends. It is often assumed by people in my life that I should switch up my schedule on a whim because it is easier for someone self-employed to do so. However, just because I do have wiggle room in terms of scheduling doesn’t mean I should take advantage of it. In fact, it can be hella professionally stupid for me to take advantage of it, and ignore my (very necessary!) working schedule in favor of my personal life. One of the most important things about being someone who works a few side-jobs rather than one 9-to-5 is that we have to schedule ourselves very meticulously in order to make sure we actually get work done and have ample time to devote to each different job. Our schedules, though often crafted by us, are very important, and definitely not always easy to muck with.
When you set yourself a schedule, treat it like a set-in-stone schedule that your imaginary jerk-of-a-boss gave you, and maybe even imagine that they will fire you if you don’t comply with it. Your time is precious too, even if you work from home and schedule yourself.
3. Don’t downplay your workspace, either.
Having a proper space to do your work (as I’ve mentioned a million times, because it is so darn true) is one of the best ways to make yourself feel like you’re “At Work” even when “work” can literally be any location where you and your computer both exist. Lock that bedroom-office door, and don’t let people bother you. You’re not chillin’ at home and dicking around — you’re at work.
4. Remind yourself that not everyone can do what you do.
I get a lot of jokes about how I “shouldn’t complain” because I work from home most days, while other people (like my boyfriend, for example) kill themselves working 90-hour weeks and living off of black coffee and self-loathing.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful that I currently make money doing two really wonderful things: writing, and watching children. I do love my jobs, and I do feel lucky to have jobs that don’t always feel like “work” to me, because I truly, deeply enjoy them so much. But make no mistake — they are still work. It still takes a lot to wake up at 5 AM and get the kids on the bus to school. It takes a lot to come up with ten headlines and write articles when I’m feeling stressed about school, or something bad happens in my personal life. They are not traditional, but they are jobs that require brainpower and time and effort. And another important thing to consider –- it is hard to manage a non-traditional job, and it is definitely not something that everyone is capable of doing. By nature, we tend to prefer jobs that have some level of predictability, and at the very least, have a schedule we can count on and require some sort of repetition. As a nanny and a writer, every day is a new schedule and a new creative adventure. It is fun, sure, but it isn’t exactly stable or predictable. When I start to feel guilty about the fact that I’m not like my boyfriend running around a hospital for 15-hour shifts, or sitting at a desk crunching numbers from 8 AM to dinnertime like many others, I remind myself that my job isn’t for everyone too. But it is for me — and I need to be proud of that.
Image via Pixabay