I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here; I think few of you, RELEVANT readers, are currently in your “dream job.” You probably finished school a month, a year, five years ago, and now you’re doing what pays the bills. Or maybe you’re doing what you trained to do, but you’ve realized that what your 18-year-old self chose on the college application turned out to be far less interesting than expected.
Seems that this malaise usually affects the creative types most strongly; since jobs in those fields of interest are scarce and pay little to nothing, we find ourselves editing copy or filing TPS reports to keep body and soul together.
Be honest with yourself: What do you want to be doing? Do you wish you were writing books? Running your own design firm? Traveling as a photojournalist? Caring for your own children?
I’m no expert on this—I’ll confess, I’m not always feeling so passionate about the day-to-day in my own job—but here’s a few things to consider as you’re working while you’re waiting.
Take a class
It was my first August after graduation, and I’d been in my new job and new city for three months. Having finally become adjusted to my new life, I followed my daily routine with relish and frequently reminisced with my college buddies on the phone about the all-nighters we’d been pulling just months earlier. “Ah, it’s so nice to be out of school,” we’d say.
But out of nowhere, a panic set in. The trees were starting to turn colors, nights were turning crisp, I was considering pulling out cardigans, but I wasn’t going back to school. I wasn’t buying notebooks and sharpening pencils. I was so unnerved that I actually signed up for a French class at a local university. And to my delight, I really enjoyed the once-a-week class taught by a diminutive madame who refused to use English—at all.
If you hated school, this probably seems like a bad idea. But hear me out. Most colleges and universities have continuing education programs, offering once-a-week classes or weekend seminars at a drastically reduced rate from regular college tuition. Some even offer certificate programs. And because you’re not earning credit, it’s less pressure than you’re remembering from college, and it’s a great excuse to pursue your interests and get feedback on your work.
Read a blog
Blog reading can have its drawbacks (slogging through your friends’ rants and lunch menus is less than riveting at times), but look beyond your buddies to the rest of the Internet, and you’ll find a world of interesting information and inspiration—for free. Whether your aspiration is art, travel, design, fashion, music, writing or something else altogether, chances are there’s a network of people from whom you can learn.
And don’t just limit yourself to blogs by anonymous amateurs. Find feeds from publications related to your interests. As a New York City-based writer with a bent toward film, I subscribe to daily feeds from various local magazines as well as my favorite film critics. Browsing their virtual scribblings keeps me up-to-date and helps spark my own ideas.
Make your time at the desk count
It’s a touchy subject; some of us have jobs that require us to be actively involved in the workday, and it’s a poor use of your employer’s resources to pursue your own interest at the cost of the work you should be doing. Besides being distinctly un-Christlike, that kind of behavior will come back and bite you in the end.
On the other hand, plenty of early-career jobs are purely reactionary, and you’ll find yourself sitting around waiting, playing web sudoku and following Wikipedia bunny trails. Solution? Redeem that time! Research your field and learn what you wish you learned in college. Write, even if you’re not a writer—write emails, write in a blog, begin to develop a deeper understanding of your creative desires and hash out your approach. Become a mini-expert. Prepare yourself for when the time comes. (And don’t forget to keep an eye out in the job listings.)
Live in your evenings
It’s tempting to come home every night, order some Kung Pao chicken, and spend the evening watching crime dramas on the TV. But do you want to leave your mark on the world, or just leave a permanent imprint in the sofa?
Start by picking one night a week to go pursue your passion; form a writer’s group, join a book club, get the paints out, craft a song, work on a business plan. It takes discipline—it may require finding a buddy or getting out of the house and into a coffee shop. But as you methodically pursue what you love, you’ll find yourself gaining confidence, and your skills will increase, to boot. Then, when the right opportunity comes along, your future employer and/or clients will be impressed by your work and your get-up-and-go.
Make it your “identity”
Someone is going to say that our identity should be found in Christ. To which I respond with an unequivocal and resounding “Yes!” But recognizing that God has created me for a purpose, as a part of the Body with a specific function and identifying with that function helps build confidence to use His gifts to me.
I struggle with this. My day job doesn’t involve writing in any capacity, so I’ve had difficulty answering the ubiquitous “What do you do?” question. It’s only when I started actually doing it on a regular basis that I felt comfortable answering, “I’m a writer,” even if it doesn’t pay all my bills. God has given me opportunities to write, and the ability to string together coherent sentences, so really? I am a writer.
Minister and serve
Although your desire is to be raising your children, the children haven’t materialized yet. But chances are your church has children that need watching. Besides being fun for you (and who doesn’t love animal crackers and apple juice), serving in the church is a mandate from God. So obey!
Or maybe you want to be running your own catering business, but you can’t seem to get started. Explore some opportunities; maybe you can provide food to shut-ins and new mothers, or offer to cater for a non-profit’s planning meeting, free of charge. Bless others with the gifts God gave you, and be creative about it.
Count your blessings
Don’t forget; having a day job does have its perks. You probably have health insurance, an apartment to live in, enough food to eat, even the ability to go out and see a movie on the weekends. God put co-workers around you to bless and befriend. So thank Him for His provision, even if you’re feeling like a square peg in a round hole.
Although it may seem like God forgot about you and is leaving you to wander in circles in the wilderness, we know He isn’t. He promises over and over that He has plans to “bring you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11), to “make your lot secure” (Psalm 16:5). I’m constantly reminding myself that I can only see a tiny way into the future, but He sees my whole life story. So tell Him of your desires, and trust that He hears and will direct.
And when the time comes, take a deep breath and leap.