Freelance Friday: How to Create a Career You Love

Disclaimer: This special edition of Freelance Friday is sponsored by Agent Mentor, an online real estate education platform. A huge thank you to Agent Mentor for supporting Endo Strong!

Changing careers is scary. While my job title hasn’t changed much since leaving my full-time role at Organic Spa Magazine — as in, I’m still a digital marketing professional — making the leap from steady paycheck to freelance was a huge step! Still, one thing that’s unique about my journey is that I always knew I wanted to be my own boss, even when I graduated college. I just didn’t think I would have the economic resources to do it so soon.

Sadly, many of us spend more time thinking about the “what ifs?” than actually taking the leap toward finding a career we love. We learn to view the steps we need to take to achieve our dreams as obstacles rather than a pathway to success. But sometimes, all we need is a little shift in perspective. You can think to yourself “if I quit my job to start this business, I’ll have so much to do.” Or, you can start checking items off that list one by one: first, register a domain name….next, file for your LLC….etc. etc. etc.

This process of taking concerted action toward achieving our goals is what separates the dreamers from the doers. My great-grandma always said that on their deathbed, nobody wishes they had a cleaner house. I’ve always taken this saying to mean that we should stop making mundane excuses not to achieve our dreams — as in, household chores and obligations aren’t a good enough reason not to start a side hustle, find the love of your life, or pick up that hobby you can’t stop thinking about.

In that spirit, I decided to title this post “how to create a career you love” — as opposed to “how to find a career you love” — because discovering your career path isn’t a passive process. Most people aren’t going to stumble upon their dream job. Unless you’re a wealthy white male with fraternity connections and a graduate degree from Harvard, you’re not going to have success handed to you on a silver platter. You have to actively search for the things that set your soul on fire.

Agent Mentor agrees — which is why they’ve teamed up with me to sponsor this post on creating a career you love. Agent Mentor is a digital education platform that makes it easy to jumpstart a career in real estate. Unlike other programs, their team of vetted real estate professionals won’t just coach you — they’ll mentor you, going above and beyond to show you the ins and outs of the business.

Under the guidance of Agent Mentor’s team, newbies can avoid becoming passive salespeople and instead become trained real estate professionals, who actively work toward long-term success. The convenient platform offers over 100 detailed lessons, tools, resources, and a supportive community that can help you create your dream career in real estate. Some examples of what you can get with a membership to Agent Mentor’s training program include:

  • Access to courses in useful real estate skills, including social media, networking, and more
  • Advice and live coaching from top real estate agents across the country to help you develop your skills
  • Use of Agent Mentor’s all-in-one cloud-based CRM and coaching app, SwarmCRM
  • Digital networking opportunities with a community of like-minded real estate professionals

You can visit Agent Mentor online on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn — and don’t forget to sign up on their website!

This post isn’t a step-by-step guide to writing the perfect cover letter or nailing that first interview. Instead, in the spirit of Rachel Hollis, I’ll be breaking down the excuses we use not to go after our goals and showing you why those excuses are total BS. Because I believe that you can and will create your dream career….as long as you stop adding the qualifier of “someday.” Turn that “someday” into today. Sure, career success doesn’t happen overnight — but it definitely doesn’t happen when you aren’t trying to get there. Here’s why you need to ditch the excuses and start taking steps to make your dream job a reality.

Excuse #1: “I’m Too Busy.”

Since my boyfriend started his medical residency, I’ve completely redefined what it means to be “busy.” After watching him work 13 days in a row, including three night shifts, with barely any time to eat or sleep, I vowed to stop complaining about my “busy” work schedule. But what’s stuck with me most about his residency experience are some words of advice given to him by an attending physician during medical school. David asked this doctor when would be the best time to think about getting married and having kids during his medical career, to which this doctor replied, “There is no best time.” The way the attending put it, a doctor’s job is always busy — but that doesn’t mean that you should put your outside life on hold.

I think this is good life advice not only for doctors, lawyers, and other people with demanding careers, but for all of us! If you decide to wait for the “perfect moment” to build a business, start a family, or move into your dream home, you could easily spend your whole life stuck in limbo. After years of waiting, you may finally realize that there’s no such thing as the “perfect moment,” only to discover that you missed a million opportunities to make your dream happen along the way.

Each of us has a finite number of minutes, days, years on this planet. Why would you want to waste a second of it doing something that makes you unhappy? We’re not talking about the little things, like 30 minutes of folding laundry or sitting through your child’s hour-long school play. We’re talking about your job, which by some estimates, comprises one-third of your entire life. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to spend 90,000 hours on the job in my lifetime, I want to like what I’m doing, I want to like the people I’m doing it with, and I want to like the person to whom I report. I don’t think it’s unrealistic or overly-ambitious to be picky about where you spend one-third of your time.

For most of us, there will absolutely be seasons of life when we are forced to take a job we don’t love, whether to make ends meet or to fill the gaps in our employment history. Unlike my grandparents’ generation, I knew when I took my first job out of college that I wasn’t going to work there for the rest of my life. But the majority of your career should not feel like a “rat race.” That isn’t to say you have to like everything about your job — no one does — but you absolutely deserve to enjoy the one-third of your life you spend at work, including what you do and the people who surround you.

Excuse #2: “I’m Not Good Enough.”

In our capitalist culture, there seems to be this myth that in order to become successful, we have to be “the best of the best.” This attitude begins when we are young, and is often instilled in us by our (well-meaning) parents. Consumed by the fear that their children won’t get into the best colleges, make the best connections, or have the best opportunities in life, our upper middle-class parents sign us up for a wealth of extracurricular activities designed to set us apart from the crowd. They assign us to expensive tutors, whose job it is to minimize our shortcomings and maximize our potential.

Beneath all of this fuss lies an unspoken understanding that our goal is to oupace our peers, in order to beat them on the way to the finish line — or, in this case, the path to college acceptance. As a result, we internalize the toxic belief that life is a competition, one that other people want us to fail. We learn to see other people’s success as a threat to our own, and compare our accomplishments to those of our peers. And these beliefs persist long after the college acceptance process, and even our college graduation — only instead of comparing our grades and resumes to those of our classmates, we turn to social media as a measure of our self-worth.

Drunk on the validation of “likes” and “followers,” we strive to project the best possible version of ourselves online. Yet we rarely pause to acknowledge the fact that everybody else is doing the exact same thing. Deep down, we know that real life isn’t as glamorous as social media can make it seem — but when we see our friends post stunning travel photos and happy family excursions on Facebook and Instagram, we immediately forget that there’s more to that person’s life than what’s beyond the surface. Social media should be fun, but instead it begins to feel like the middle school cafeteria: a breeding ground for self-deprecation and insecurity.

Success requires you to recognize that it’s impossible to quantify self-worth. As humans, I think we gravitate towards concrete measurements — whether it’s our percent grade on an exam or our followers on Instagram — to make sense of things that are difficult to define on paper. But don’t let your brain trick you into believing those numbers measure your worth. You don’t need to be the best in order to become successful — or, more importantly, to deserve success. Your worth, much like your flesh and bones, is an inherent component of being human.

Nobody expects you to be “the best” when you’re first starting out. Alan Rickman began acting at age 26, yet only achieved success with Die Hard at age 42. Oprah was publicly fired from her first TV job, only to go on to become a multi-billionaire years later. These people’s stories prove that you are still worthy, regardless of how much “success” you’ve been able to achieve — and that there is still a world of potential available to you, as long as you keep pushing toward it. As the old adage goes, “it does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.”

Long story short: don’t stop yourself from going after your dreams simply because you’re not the best. When you’re constantly searching for a means for comparison, you will always be able to find someone who’s “better than you.” It’s never too late to begin challenging the meritocratic belief that life is a competition. You need only strive to become the best version of yourself.

Excuse #3: “I Don’t Have Experience.”

Did you know that on average, men will apply for jobs if they meet just 60 percent of the criteria, but women only apply if they meet 100 percent? Women shortchange themselves, and their careers, all the time. I’ve definitely been guilty of it myself. By self-screening our qualifications, we prevent ourselves for being considered for high-level roles, or a role we might really want — when in reality, many skills can be learned on the job, and employers are often happy to teach them.

Put it this way: if a new college graduate only applied to jobs for which they were 100 percent qualified, it would probably take them an inordinately long time to get hired. After all, most jobs require experience — and, as I myself have complained on occasion, how are you supposed to get experience if no one will hire you without it? Unfortunately, I know from LinkedIn that some of my peers have settled for unpaid internships after graduation. I firmly believe they could have been paid their worth, if only they had broadened their definition of what it means to be “qualified.”

My first full-time role straight out of college was, technically, at the managerial level. I bore the title of “Digital Content and Social Media Manager” (though, as a team of one, I wasn’t technically “managing” anyone), despite the fact that I had less work experience than everyone else in my office. On paper, I certainly wasn’t qualified to be a manager, but I like to think that the company saw potential in me. They certainly did all they could to nurture that potential, by giving me many opportunities to take on more responsibility. By the time I left, I had interviewed and managed two different interns and overseen the entire social media strategy for a high-level event.

I realize not every employer wants to take on the risk of hiring someone who’s still learning their role — but then again, would you really want to hire someone who thought they had nothing more to learn? No matter how long we’ve been in the workforce, we all have room to grow. Many employers are willing to support that growth; in fact, some will pay for you to attend conferences, continuing education courses, or even graduate school, simply for the sake of investing in their talent. But you can’t find an employer who’s willing to teach you if you aren’t willing to take the first step.

Of course there’s a chance the hiring manager will throw your resume in the trash. But by not applying, you aren’t even giving yourself the chance to be considered for what could very well be your dream role. As a working woman, you deserve that chance just as much as (if not more than) the underqualified white guy next to you!

Excuse #4: “I Can’t Afford It.”

Let me begin by saying that I recognize my position of privilege, both racial and economic, when it comes to being able to “afford” my dream career. I have a supportive family and a supportive boyfriend, both of whom have been willing and able to help me when my bank account ran dry. That being said, while economic hardship is very real for many of us, your financial circumstances should not dictate whether or not you are able to live out your passion. Thankfully, many people who agree with me, and who have more resources than I do to put toward this cause, have made it their life’s mission to provide access to educational and career opportunities for people facing economic hardship. I believe you owe it to yourself to determine if any of these opportunities could provide you with an avenue toward financial freedom.

If You Can’t Afford to Interview

From appropriate attire to transportation expenses, even interviewing for your dream job can be an investment. These costs can be prohibitive — but with the right assistance, they are surmountable.

Can’t afford a spiffy new suit or dress for your dream interview? Organizations like Career Gear (for menswear) and Dress for Success (for womenswear) provide workwear to low-income individuals at no cost.

If you can’t afford transportation to-and-from your job interview, Lyft has partnered with organizations like Goodwill and United Way in over 35 cities to provide free rides to individuals in low-income neighborhoods. You should also know that it is illegal and discriminatory for a recruiter to ask if you own a car, since that is considered financial information.

Career coaching can also be a valuable resource, especially if you are in the process of changing careers. Under normal circumstances, this service can be very expensive — but organizations like LIFT and JVS provide career services to low-income individuals at no cost.

Or, perhaps childcare is an obstacle to finding your dream job. Each state receives money for childcare subsidies, or “vouchers,” that may be awarded to low-income individuals to help them pay for childcare. You can also receive tax credits for childcare to ensure you can afford to work. Learn more about these programs at childcare.gov.

If You Can’t Afford to Go Back to School

College is expensive. As I write this, I have thousands of dollars in student loan debt staring me in the face. Even so, I am one of the lucky people who went to college right after graduating high school. Not everyone can afford to do this, and even fewer can afford to return to school after completing their degree in order to pursue a career change.

If your dream job requires additional schooling, you might assume it is inaccessible or unrealistic. However, it’s worth exploring whether special financial aid could be available to you, in the form of scholarships and grants targeting needy and non-traditional students. Federal, state, and non-profit programs offer financial assistance to adult students, elderly students, and low-income students hoping to start or return to school. Read about grants for adult students and grants for non-traditional students on collegescholarships.org to see if you might qualify.

Or, you might choose a career path that does not require you to go back to school — at least, not in the traditional sense. Online certificates and industry-specific training programs, like Agent Mentor, can help you save money on tuition while still gaining valuable experience. Some dream careers, like real estate, require a license to practice, but you can gain much more knowledge from investing in an affordable continuing education tool like Agent Mentor to help you build and grow your business. Certain tools available on Agent Mentor, including the SwarmCRM system and the digital One Journal publication, are even free.

Monster.com shares that volunteering is also a great avenue for working toward a career change, since it can help you expand your skillset and make connections in your preferred industry.

If You Can’t Afford Your Student Loans

Maybe you’ve already been to college — and still have student loans looming overhead. When changing careers means taking a pay cut, your student loan debt might present an obstacle. Monthly payments will continue to be due regardless of your dreams, and falling behind could mean years of damage to your credit score. So, what’s a girl to do if she can’t afford a career change thanks to sky-high student loan debt?

If you’re facing a temporary hardship due to the coronavirus, the CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, automatically places federal student loans, including Perkins and Direct Loans, into forbearance until Stepember 30, 2020. In other words, you do not have to make payments until October 2020, as long as your loan is eligible for the forebearance period. Click here for FAQs about the forbearance period under the CARES Act, and be sure to contact your student loan servicer to make sure you are eligible.

Under normal circumstances, other options are still available to make student loan payments more bearable. You can apply for student loan forgiveness, which discharges your student loans in part or in full, if you work in public service for 10 years or as a teacher in a low-income school district for five.

You can also consolidate your federal loans into one Direct Consolidation Loan, which can lower your monthly payments by giving you a longer period of time to pay off your loans. Be careful, however, as consolidation may increase your interest rate. It may be helpful to consult with a financial professional at your bank or student loan servicer about consolidation to determine if this option is right for you.

Some people are eligible to defer their student loan payments for a set period of time. You might be eligible for an Economic Hardship Deferment if you receive welfare benefits, work full time but earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level, or are serving in the Peace Corps. You can also defer during cancer treatment, and for six months after your cancer treatment ends.

If you plan to attend graduate school, you may be eligible to defer loan payments if you are enrolled in an accredited fellowship program. Additionally, switching to an income-driven repayment plan could lower your payments to as little as $0 per month while attending school, depending on your employment status and income during graduate school.

Certain types of student loans may require you to pay the interest that accumulates on your loans during the deferment period. Click here to check which types of loans require you to pay interest and which do not during deferment.

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