But we haven’t been taking this challenge sitting down. We’ve gotten creative. The shortage of traditional positions has inspired many Millennials to follow passions, rather than paychecks. We’re crafting careers out of our creative pursuits, and finding ways to do what we love.
With that, comes new challenges. There are fewer rules when you’re not climbing the corporate ladder. We have to work harder and smarter to make our dreams a reality. Here are 5 essential skills to do just that.
1. Learn how to talk about yourself and your goals.
“So, you’re a writer? You make money doing that?”
As frustrating as it may be to constantly deflect skepticism regarding your professional pursuits, learning to explain your work is the first step in learning to sell yourself to clients. If you can’t provide a simple explanation to your Dad, barista, AND Great Aunt Peggy of what you do and why you do it, then how are you going to sell it to someone in a professional setting?
Start with performing your elevator pitch — that crucial, fifteen second summary of your work and your goals — to your bathroom mirror. With practice comes confidence, and soon you’ll be deploying this pitch in casual conversations, which you’ll eventually apply to professional opportunities.
Every person that asks you a question about your work is an opportunity to present your pitch, or share your story, so take advantage and perfect your answers.
2. Be your own worst critic and your own toughest boss.
There was a time when I was working three jobs, alongside pursuing a career in freelance travel writing and blogging. I thought that I was doing the best I could, but when my readership dropped and my freelance opportunities dried, I knew that I had to find the time in my schedule to work harder on these pursuits.
I created an Excel spreadsheet that made use of specific slots between my other jobs to write, and I made myself stick to it. I’d wake up early to write before my day job, and specific hours of the weekend were spent glued to my keyboard.
Push yourself to create a little more and work a little longer each day. Awarding yourself for work hours is one way to do this. Looking forward to a concert next weekend? Only if you get that project done.
If you’re the competitive type, try an online productivity game that will incentivize you to work harder, like HabitRPG, which assigns points to your to-do lists, and penalizes you for slacking off. You even invite friends or fellow creatives to push you along further with their “party system.” Delete angry bird from your phone immediately, and find one of these instead.
3. Go social with your passion.
Whether you’re sharing your work through a blog or a Facebook post, or reaching out to mentors on Twitter and LinkedIn, these social networks are great tools for finding communities to support you and your work.
Technology has given us the ability to cast a net into our ocean of contacts. You no longer have to run into that friend with that great connection at such-and-such publication. You can just find them online!
A peer of mine who’s also a writer, recently wrote a post on Facebook, asking for some help…
“It is one of the most exciting times in my life, but I’m very fearful about being able to continue these things because of money, energy, and support in general…I feel as though I need mentorship and motivation of a kind I’ve never had before. Is anybody out there?”
168 people commented on her status, and over thirty left thoughtful comments full of support and helpful suggestions.
4. Don’t Apologize.
Last month I took a press trip to Beacon, New York, where I was treated to a fancy dinner by a member of their tourism board. I hate to be that person who whips out their camera while people are trying to eat, but as a travel blogger it’s part of my job. I apologized to the tourism rep. as I snapped pictures of my lobster ravioli.
“Don’t apologize! You should have seen the guy I brought here from National Geographic. He put his plates on the FLOOR by the window to get better lighting!”
To work for National Geographic, as a photographer or a writer, is probably the most coveted position in the travel industry, for either creative ends. And in this moment, it struck me that a big part of that photographer’s success was probably thanks to his boldness — and his refusal to apologize for his craft.
He would get the job done, even if it meant putting a fifty-dollar plate of pasta on the floor of a fancy restaurant.
5. Eliminate aspiring from your vocabulary.
If you write, then you are a writer. Case closed.
It’s an ingrained need to practice our art, and although there are times when we aspire towards productivity and successes that aren’t met, we are not aspiring to do anything that works its way through our bones on a daily basis. To tell someone you are an aspiring something is to apologize for details that don’t matter, because no one really knows how to define success for creatives anyway.
I hope to one day be writing for a glossy travel magazine, rather than my blog. Blogging is a perfectly respectable pursuit, but ultimately it’s not my goal.
So in pitching tourism boards and publications, I recently began introducing myself as a travel writer instead of a travel blogger, and have already noticed an uptick in responses for the type of work I really want.
Get out there and exude the level of success you’re working towards, and people will start treating both you and your work with the respect they deserve.