“What do I find myself doing for free?”
It took a lot of retrospective analysis to realize the various things that I found myself doing just because I wanted to. In my case, I realized that I was always focused on creating the best user experience possible (e.g., creating the most user friendly spreadsheets, creating proper workflows for maximum efficiency, nitpicking on design elements, ensuring syntax and diction choices in writing were easily understood by the masses, etc.).
With that tiny bit of direction, I began searching for ways to get into the field. Unfortunately, I had a few problems in my path:
- I did not have any formal education on the field of UX.
- Although I had a little coding experience in the past, I couldn’t compete with people who had been coding or designing all their life.
- I was working full time in a job that was not going to bring me anywhere close to my dream job.
So what was my plan of attack?
- Start consuming any UX knowledge I could find.
- Research all available UX jobs and see where the major demand of skills are.
- Develop those skills during my free time to increase my marketability.
- Utilize and grow my network so I can spend time with the right people.
- Be ready to fail many times.
Over the next couple months, I applied for NUMEROUS positions. I did not care where I applied: Wisconsin, California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, etc. During this process, I tested various methods of writing cover letters and resumes. To be frank, a lot of them met with dead ends or simply no responses. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine mentioned that LivingSocial was starting up a program called Hungry Academy. This was a temporary gig where they would take programming newbies and train them to become full-fledged developers. As if getting paid to learn something wasn’t already awesome, there was even a good chance for a full time position with LivingSocial when the program ended. Needless to say, I had to try!
The application process was quite difficult. You had to write a 500 word essay on a topic of your choice, and also had to create a video answering a few predetermined questions. As you might expect, this was not a simple application process! I spent hours agonizing over my responses and how I could rise above the norm. It even got to the point where I was rehearsing with my brother on camera for hours just so we could get the best take possible.
After all that effort and time, for a position that I really wanted, I met with the one thing everyone fears: rejection. And the question that one must ask is, “So what do I do now?”
Throughout my life, I have had various career aspirations: music/art –> education –> computer programming–> medicine–> dentistry –> psychology–> dentistry–> entrepreneur ventures –> dentistry –> law –> business –> project management –> I/O psychology –> law –> and finally… human resources. (If you think that is a random mix, I didn’t even include the stuff that I explored on the side as well [e.g., becoming a writer, relationship counseling, etc.]). And the problem was that it wasn’t because I was ADD or couldn’t stick anything out, it’s just that I was unsure of what I was doing. Everything was interesting, and it’s not like I ever had any issues acquiring new skills or knowledge. Dentistry was the closest I had come to really trying to pick a direction. Unfortunately, the sciences just bored the living hell out of me and I could never bring myself to really care about the material. I loved the idea of being a dentist, but I just couldn’t get past the science material.
So fast forward back to the present moment in the story, I have a federal government job in HR. I’m set for a well paying career with great benefits. I know that everyone who is in the job hunt right now would view that as the holy grail of jobs; but once I had actually achieved it, it just wasn’t what everyone jazzed it up to be. I have my own perspective on why the federal government is NOT for everyone, but that will be for another post. The more important matter at hand is the fact that I now had a full time job, yet I still felt utterly directionless. So what did I do to try and gain traction? I started to learn and research everything I could about the idea of a “dream job.”
I read so many different blogs, books, and articles on trying to find a job that one could be passionate about. There are vastly different perspectives on tactics towards getting your dream job, let alone whether or not the whole notion of a dream job is a joke. Ladies and gentleman, as living and breathing proof, I assure you that the dream job concept is very much real and achievable. I will go more into the various takes on the dream job and methods to get there, but the one question that really sent me stumbling down the unbeaten path was this:
“What do I find myself doing for free?”
So this should be the conclusion where I tell you about my happy ending and how I managed to get a coveted full-time government position when the economy sucked. Wrong.
At first, like anything else that is new to a person’s life, it was very exciting and interesting. After all, I had never worked in the field of HR (Human Resources) before and welcomed the challenge of learning a new field. I had some magnificent co-workers, and I was enjoying the benefits of working for the federal government (particularly the flexible work schedule… loved it!). I was quite happy with my position for awhile, but once I really began to settle into the job, that’s where the issues began to arise.
For those who don’t know me, one of the best ways to lose my attention span is to try and get me entrenched in minute details. By this, I’m not trying to say that I don’t like being detail oriented or anything, but when I’m bombarded by policies and little intricacies of what I can or can’t do because of a ton of political…. ooo…… paper bag……..
Let’s just say that I quickly grew tired of being a cog in a wheel. It was difficult to really affect any kind of change, and the solution to getting on with your day was generally knuckling under and just hope that the next recruiting effort you get isn’t nearly so riddled with nonsense. So around this time, I really got to wondering, “Is this really what I want to do the rest of my life?”
I had a set career and path laid out for me at this point: I was essentially guaranteed a career growth up to around 80k – 90k (and that’s excluding the possibility of being promoted to higher leadership positions). The benefits were fantastic (even at the lowest tier, I was getting around 12 vacation AND sick days ON TOP of Federal holidays). And to those who haven’t been in this position, I know it sounds magnificent. The only thing missing however, was that feeling of passion and self-actualization.
So by this point, I was already in my second and final year of grad school. Yet, I was back to square one with the question I should have asked myself from the very beginning, “What direction do I really want to take my life in?”