In September of last year, I quit my first major job out of college. In that position, I was unhappy, exhausted, and felt like I was wasting my time because it was in an industry that had nothing to do with what I actually wanted to do with my career. After the initial relief and shine wore off from finally committing to finding a job that fit my interests better, I realized I had nothing to show for those interests in the previous two years. I felt like I had nothing to my name, and like I had already failed myself. I was 25, but I felt like I was so behind in my industry that I would be doomed to wander, unhappy and aimless.
It took me a while to realize that my career aspirations weren’t dead just because I hadn’t achieved them at 25. To keep yourself from spiraling, start by finding some relief.
1. Take a breath.
It’s so easy to get stuck in a pity hurricane where you just want to lay in your bed and let the darkness take over you. Don’t do this. You’ll only hurt yourself more by being inactive. Make yourself a cup of tea, go on a walk, or pet your dog. Give yourself a break and remind yourself that you are still only 25.
Everyone’s seen those posts on Tumblr that tout how when Oprah was in her twenties, she was getting fired from her first broadcasting job; how Harrison Ford didn’t get his first acting job until his thirties. As corny as those posts are, they can help re-ground you a little and remind you that there is still time to achieve what you want. Stop comparing yourself to others; stop trying to compete. Focus on you and what you need to do.
2. Remember what you’ve already accomplished.
I’m here to tell you right now: you’re not a failure. For you to believe that, I want to make a list of five things you’ve accomplished in your life so far. These can be anything from graduating college, internships you’ve had, jobs you’ve held (of any level or industry), or personal projects. Accomplishments can even include relationships you’ve fostered, books you’ve read, vacations you’ve gone on, or video games you’ve conquered.
Listing your accomplishments can boost your confidence and remind you of what you’ve already achieved in your life. You own all these experiences and no one can take those away, even if you haven’t dedicated yourself to your craft for a couple of years. Put a star next to the ones that align with your future aspirations. These are your starting points, and where you currently stand. Use these as your building blocks to realign yourself.
3. Figure out what your priorities are.
What do you want? Where do you want to be in five years? If money didn’t matter, what would you be doing? While these are cliche questions, they can help you map your path and figure out where the priority destinations are. So where are these destinations? Is it a certain number of followers on Twitter? It is a certain dollar amount earned through your Etsy page? Is it financial independence? A book deal? Your own magazine? What is your ultimate goal?
And now, at this moment, what is a priority to get there? Maybe money is a priority right now. Maybe you need to move or simplify your life to focus on what you really want. Try to cut out all the static and figure out what you need to do right now to achieve your goals.
4. Come up with a game plan (and stick to it).
Now that you have your priorities, break them down into small, achievable steps. Use the SMART goals guidelines:
- S: Specific – Know exactly what the goal is and how you’ll know you’ve reached it
- M: Measurable – Is it a certain number of followers? Articles written? Products sold? What is that number?
- A: Achievable – Your goal needs to be realistic and attainable. It’s good to have pipe dreams, but what can you get done now?
- R: Relevant – How does this goal contribute to your ultimate dream? If you achieve this goal, will you be closer to that dream?
- T: Time-bound – Give yourself a deadline. “I want to have written 100 blog posts and 15 contributor posts in the next year.”
With your goal in mind, schedule what your time should look like to achieve that.
Do you need to dedicate three hours a day to sewing to prepare your products for selling? Or create an editorial calendar to plan out your blog posts and social media posts? Effective goals take time and planning. Use programs like Trello or the Google Suite tools to help you organize your projects.
Now follow through! Plans don’t mean anything if you don’t stick to them!
5. Do something productive with immediate, visible results.
What can you do right now to take a step in the right direction? Send an email to someone who can act as a mentor for you. Set up that Etsy storefront. Pick a logo or color scheme for your blog. Clean up your workspace. Do one thing right now that will set you on the path to success. Having one more accomplishment, even a simple one, under your belt can really boost those feelings of self-doubt.
It’s easy to beat yourself up and feel like a failure when you hit a low in your career, especially when you feel passed by others in your industry. When you feel you’ve fallen behind, it’s difficult to see beyond that.
I encourage you to go easier on yourself and take steps to still push for your aspirations. It is never too late to accomplish what you want, but you have to work for it. You got this, trust me.
With a background in magazine and newspaper publishing with a splash of business-sense, Julie (Eckardt) Winsel is re-pursuing her passion for writing. Now living in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband and cat, she likes vodka-crans and getting caught in the rain. View her website here.
Image via Unsplash