You’re alarmed. Once again. Just like you are most days of the week. Fumbling for the snooze button, you wipe out the nightstand and all of its inhabitants. Something thuds the floor followed by a flash and a dzzzt. You didn’t need the lamp anyway.
Crap. Gotta get to work. At least the light bulb in your head still works. You run through the morning drill like a soldier at boot camp, and you wonder, “How much longer will I have to do this?”
For me, mornings like that are countless. I should wake up excited about the new day, but getting out of bed and heading to the office is often drudgery. My mind cranks out ways to rush the process toward my dream.
Don’t get me wrong. I like my day job (a network engineer for a major restaurant chain), but am I passionate about it? Is that my vision for offering myself to the world? Honestly?
Roughly six years ago, I desperately wanted out of corporate America to dive into a freelance writing career and forgo the painfully slow development process of a writer. I felt trapped and could not conceive ever getting there.
A close friend encouraged me to resist rushing the process. He opened my eyes to the blessing of an established career that provided for my family without the pressure of an abrupt career switch — a stable job gave me control of the pace car. His advice made sense, so I chose a different mindset.
If you’re in a similar situation and feel hopeless about changing careers, give this a try. Think of your employer as your private investor. I know it sounds silly, but hang with me. Your employer may have no idea that they’re investing in your dream, but they are. And we must re-tune our perspective if we are to maintain sanity through workday monotony.
For example, I want to write, but my limited writing window opens late at night because of my day job and raising a family. I can’t quit my job because I need the income, and that first book contract floats dreamily in a distant galaxy — okay, another universe. I have a choice to either whine and give up on writing, or, seize the day, one step at a time. Sorry for the cliché. I watched Dead Poets Society again. 🙂
So how am I seizing the day? At least Monday through Friday, I’ve become the technical documentation king for my employer. I’ve done this for five previous employers.
Writing corporate security policies is not my ambition, but it gives me daily practice on several key writing concepts: grammar, word usage, punctuation, sentence & paragraph structure, self-editing, and feedback from readers (i.e., management and staff). I’ve also written training courses, proposals, technical presentations, and reports — all excellent opportunities to communicate and educate others through written media.
And the best part? Whether or not my employer realizes it, they are paying me to be a network engineer and also to hone my writing skills, on the job. Out of their investment — my salary — I save a little cash for tools of the trade: writers conferences, books, reference materials, and membership with a respected writers guild.
But — and this part is critical if we’re serious — I had to ask for the opportunity. It won’t always fall in your lap, especially if your day job has little to do with your dream job. You will have to look for those opportunities and volunteer your services, often adding to your existing workload at no extra pay.
That’s where most people bow out, because they’re already holding a loaded plate and are underpaid. Nobody said reaching your dreams would come easy, but how bad do you want it? We do what we must.
Whatever your dream job, find ways to work around the roadblocks of your current situation, and it’s okay to slow the process. The journey toward our dreams is meant to stretch us in ways necessary for what comes next. Fight the urge to rush it, but keep yourself in the battle.
Your employer is an unknowing venture capitalist investing in your private dream, and the good news is you won’t have to pay them back. They’re paying you to get ready for your next big opportunity, and you might even get a raise for the extra effort! Okay, don’t count on the raise in this stiff economy, but keep at it and pursue excellence in everything you do. It will pay off.
Are you taking advantage of opportunities in your job that help pursue what you would love to be doing? Are you already doing what you love and have ideas to share with others feeling stuck in a job? I’d love to read your comments.