Tuesday, March 12, 2013

REAL TALK: CAREER GOALS

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I am all over the place today. It’s one of those days that I’m feeling completely restless and agitated and I want to run away. I won’t actually run away, don’t worry. But since I graduated from undergrad I have had a lot of varying thoughts that all sum up to one question: What am I doing with my life?

Even now, at 27, with a master’s degree and two great jobs under my belt, I still have no idea. I’m frustrated and flustered and embarrassed just thinking about it right now.

So let me explain a bit about who I am and how I operate and why I am reacting this way to my life. Because I think many of you may feel the same way, and I want you to know, that we are all in this together. (Feel free to watch High School Musical clips right now if you’re so inclined!)

I am the oldest child and have always been a self-motivated overachiever. I am not sure if this is a blessing or a curse but it is the way that I am. I have always been this way. Two Thanksgivings ago I found some of my journals from middle school. I remember life being easy then but when reading my thoughts, I was just as stressed. I had my outfits written down every day as well as a schedule of my time and goals for every fifteen minutes. I was fourteen years old.

So it’s no surprise that I moved through high school aggressively focusing on my grades and being a member of every honor society known to man. I was motivated, wanted to get into a good college, and beyond all that I really think that I liked being at the top of my class. I was in competition with myself and if I wasn’t the best I was failing.

Along the way, I got very involved in theatre and musical theatre and after completing a summer program before my senior year of high school for drama (Anyone else go to Governor’s School instead of summer camp?), I had decided I was going to be an actor. The plan was to study theatre in school and then move to Manhattan to start my career on the stage.

I went to Northwestern University on a full academic scholarship (thanks nerdiness!) and worked my butt off in the theatre and business departments there. I suffered many disappointments and celebrated many successes in my four years there but my drive was always the same. Intense. Some may even say intimidating (that story is for another time). I spent time producing, ran one of the student theatre companies, had a part-time job, held a leadership position at my sorority, was in an A Capella group, and did as many shows as possible. I was busy and happy and felt fulfilled and like I was moving forward. I had my goal and I stayed on the path to accomplish it.

When I got to New York after graduating from Northwestern, I lost myself. I don’t know how to put it more simply than that. I had been working toward that move for the better part of 12 years and all of a sudden I was there and it was sad. I’m sure that it had more to do with the fact that I was actually sad, not the city itself, but it certainly wasn’t what I had expected. It was hard, I barely got seen at auditions because I wasn’t a member of the Actor’s Equity Association, I was waiting tables, and I always felt like I had no money.

I could talk more about this, but the point I want to make here is that while I was in NYC I was blessed. I had a job, friends, roommates, and never went hungry. Unfortunately, my career aspirations were so different than what I anticipated that I failed to see these blessings. I was just so focused on how life wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

After about a year, I got cast in a professional show in DC, sublet my apartment, came home, and loved performing. When the show ended and I was faced with taking a job at a DC consulting firm or going back to the restaurant in NYC, I chose to stay here and make a change. Also I desperately needed health insurance. Since then, I have earned my M.A. in Arts Management while working in consulting and now work at a non-profit in DC.

By all standards I should be happy with my career because I am successful and am now in a market that is more suited to my interests. Still though, I can’t help feeling like something is missing. Am I really supposed to be doing this? Can I do this for 20 years?

I work hard and love my organization and the people I work with. I am motivated to be successful in my work here. But I still do not know if this is the career I am meant to have. Here’s where it gets tricky… when I left acting, it was like a part of me died. I still perform and really love it, but as I no longer want that for a full-time career, I’ve lost a huge part of myself. So now what?

I keep telling myself that I should just appreciate where I am. In ten years, I’ll look back on this and be like, “Why didn’t I go out more, or relax more, or eat more, or sleep more when I was single and financially unburdened?” But right now, I’m frustrated. The motivation at my core to do work that I am passionate about goes in and out – and I’m not even sure what that work should be.

I don’t have an answer. That is the truth. But if you are feeling at all the same, I can promise you that you are not alone. What I am telling myself today, while I am flustered and frustrated, is that there are good things in store for me. I’m supposed to be here right now, so I should enjoy it. You never know what is around the corner career-wise. Stay true to yourself and constantly sharpen your skills. That way, when the right opportunity comes along, hopefully we will be ready.
 
Two things to remember: one and two
 
Anyone else feeling like this? Let me know! There is power in numbers. :)
 
 

4 comments

  1. I totally feel you on this one! I'm actually on my first year of working full time (graduated last year with my master's) and while I worked hard in school forever to get to this point it's easy to look around and think "Is this all? Is this really what I worked for?"

    I'm actually a career advisor so see your story from multiple sides! The one good thing these days is we're not destined to have one career at one company like many of our parents & grandparents but can bump and move around as needed to fit us. Take it one step at a time, but make sure you're indulging yourself in all of your interests & passions whether inside or outside of work!

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  2. Great post! So honest :)

    I think so many people feel this way. There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, in not being content work wise. I think it makes you keep working hard and striving for better. I would have never guessed I'd be where I am work wise a few years ago, but I am so glad I am now :)

    And if nothing else, I've learned that every single job experience I have had has taught me SO much, both good and bad. At least that's something!

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  3. Loved your post, and its nice to see other people feel the same! I think enjoying the moment is key, being happy where you are and taking opportunities as they come!

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  4. Yup. I feel all of this. I had a similar situation where I wanted to work in entertainment, I wanted to be an entertainment publicist. I moved to LA and had a rough time and moved home shortly thereafter. I don't regret the experience at all, I'm glad I now know I wasn't cut out for that life. But I can't help but feel like something is missing at times. Oh life. lol.

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