woman in white long sleeve shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on brown wooden bench

If You Can’t Find Your Dream Job, Make Your Own

It’s important that you work a job you love for many reasons, but none more so than the fact you will spend up to 20,000 hours working in your 20s.

20,000 hours.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

When I read that, I nearly choked on my cornflakes. I’d never given it much thought before, but one simple calculation later and I couldn’t get this figure out of my head. What’s worse is that many in their 20s are dedicating this insane amount of hours to jobs they hate, with a Gallop study suggesting that up to 71% are ‘disengaged’ from their work.

It’s no wonder depression and related forms of psychological distress among young adults aged 18 to 25 are on the rise, with a 63% increase between 2009 and 2017.

The future indicates that it may only get worse. With the world dropping into a recession on the back of a global pandemic, the future of the job market itself is unstable at best. Recession is nothing new for most of us in our 20s; we were born into a recession, and have now lived to see two more. But this one lands right in the middle of our career paths.

What this goes to say is that if you strive to do anything in your 20s, you should aim to find work that makes you happy, excited, and invigorated, because put simply, you’ll be working too damn long to hate what you do.

If you’re struggling to find that work, especially in difficult moments such as these — it’s time to make the opportunity yourself.

As someone who has never worked a 9–5, I can assure you that it’s entirely possible to follow your passions, create your own opportunities, and stop working jobs you hate once and for all.

Here’s how.

Find Those Living Your Dream

Post-university, I teetered on the edge of doing what I thought I should do next (apply for career jobs) and what I wanted to do next (start my own business).

The summer I graduated, I went to a Design Exhibition in London. All around me, there was incredible work on display, from handcrafted wooden chairs to out of this world future-concept pieces. I spent the few days there in total awe at the craftsmanship before my eyes. I also spent a lot of those few days talking to anyone who would give me the time of day. I wanted to know how they designed their work, what they planned to do with it, and more importantly, if pursuing this line of work as a business was feasible.

They told me everything I needed to hear.

I left the expo with my mind made up.

I was starting a business.

If you have a dream, a passion, or even just an itch of interest, reach out and talk to someone who is living that life. Get the full picture before you dive right in. It’s essential to get an insight into what it would be like to do, from earnings to workload, and whether it’s feasible in the first place.

Start Making Content Yesterday

Sergey Faldin put it best when he wrote, “The job of the future is content creation. And soon enough, it might be the only one left.”

In today’s world, content is king. It’s that important, you probably should have started producing it yesterday. Even if you venture into the career world, content creation may still play a big role in your work, so it’s something we all need to get in on.

Alongside running the startup, I started to dabble in writing. First, it was a hobby and an outlet to vent my frustrations. Then, as my audience started to increase, it began a tool for gaining clients and driving customers to the business. Now? Writing is my business. It’s led to me getting a job as co-editor of a large publication. I’ve now got clients that I write for. I’m even scouting out a publisher for my book draft—all from what started as a pastime.

Creating content can lead you to literally anywhere, doing anything. It could lead to speaking engagements, book deals, starting companies, ‘influencing,’ job offers, and more.

While things may be turning to shit out there, the various platforms needed to make content are thriving. If you didn’t start yesterday, today is the day to begin sharing yourself with the world.

Never Burn Your Bridges

Before lockdown, I was doing a job helping to fell trees in a beautiful Scottish forest for seriously good money. Just this past weekend, I’ve been in the countryside, helping to build a new roof structure over a huge outdoor shed. Every Christmas season, I manage ‘party nights’ at the weekends with a former boss of mine.

All of these well-paying gigs come about because I never burn a bridge with anyone I work with.

And I mean never.

The world is a small place, and when you’re searching for work that gets you excited, it’s better to have everyone on your side. Whenever you meet or work with interesting people, get into the habit of exchanging details. I’ve kept the details of former managers, coworkers, clients, and more.

It’s a simple way to expand your network, and keep as many plates spinning as possible. A favorite of mine is to say, “This has been great fun. If there was ever another opportunity to do this, I’d love to be involved.”

You’ll be surprised at how many calls you get.

Offer To Work For Free (Initially)

I only find myself in the position I do today thanks to offering to work for free—for genuinely nothing in return.

That second part is the crucial bit. As GaryVee has said on many occasions, it’s “jab, jab, jab, right hook.” In real terms, it’s give, give, give, and then ask.

It’s easy to spot someone looking to work “for free” who has an ulterior motive. However, if you approach people with a genuine interest in helping them, you will see doors open like never before. Say you want to work as a coach. Why not put out a post on LinkedIn offering a few hours of your time a week to give free video calls? All it costs you is your time, and if it leads to a client or even a single reference, it was more than worth it.

Working for free won’t create an opportunity every time. As Michael Thompson says, “Like most things in life, creating opportunities is a numbers game. When it comes to winning your dream career, there’s no better advice than helping as many people as you can.”

People like to tell me I’m lucky. I like to tell them that I made my own luck.

You’d better get started making your own, and in the process, you might just make your dream job too.

Founder, maker, writer & editor

Keep up with Stephen on Twitter and postgradsurvival.guide