Ask less, move more?

Recently I reached out to an established writer for some advice. I wanted to talk to this person about my love for feature writing. But the talk never went that way. Instead this person spent a chunk of time tossing ideas at me; and not in a good way. I left our chat feeling a bit perturbed and questioning why I tried to talk to this writer in the first place.

You see, we millennials are an advice-seeking crew. We know that the decisions we do or do not make right now can impact us for years to come.  So we seek out the knowledge of those who have gone before us. Nothing wrong with that. However, my question today is: When is the right time to stop seeking advice in favor of doing some exploration?

I love to explore the self-help section at bookstores. I read a lot of career advancement books, but I also like to indulge in the relationships section, and I can never resist grabbing a book on overcoming procrastination.

Self-help books are one of my fav guilty, indulgences, (who really wants to be seen carrying 10 books that are all about “fixing you?” ) but after a while all of the advice and tips start to boggle me. The same thing happens when I am reading articles online. Am I the only person who is all tipped out?

When I reach advice overload mode, I have to remind myself that there is really not one path to success.  I can ask a million people “how they did it” and I’m sure I will take away some good ideas, but  what worked for them may not work for me. What do you think? When do you think it’s time to stop seeking, and start doing?

Defining life by who you are, not what you do

Last year I spent a lot of time going to networking events in the city. While some people avoid these organized soirees at all cost, I flocked to them because they often provided me with two amazing opportunities: a chance to meet new, cool people, and a chance to get  free food and drinks(hey, I was unemployed at the time).

When I went to my first networking event on a frosty February night last year, I did not really know what to expect. I brought the business cards I had gotten done at Staples, and wore what I thought was a pretty professional outfit, but none of this prepared me for being bombarded with the question of the evening: “What do you do?”

Now, I know this was a networking event, so obviously people were there to talk about work in some form, or fashion, but I was not expecting that this would be the first thing people asked me. I also never expected that when I meet new people anywhere, that this would be the leading question.

I’m sure this happens in other places, but in New York City, asking someone what they do (as in what type of job do they have), is just as common as asking a new acquaintance their name. Everyone wants to know how you spend the hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

When I was unemployed this question made me uneasy. I always knew it was coming, but I never knew quite how to answer it. Did I say I was looking for a job? Did I tell them what I had done in the past?  I didn’t want to use the “U” word. Last year, admitting you were unemployed (especially in NYC) was like telling someone you have bed bugs.  People were afraid that your misfortune would rub off on them.

Now, even though  I am working full-time, I still find this question (when mentioned very early in the conversation) unsettling.  It’s not that I have an aversion to talking about work-quite the opposite, actually I just have a problem with being defined by what I do, and losing the opportunity to share the things about me I know for sure.

Things like how much I love to read. Or that I believe dancing is the greatest form of energy. Maybe even sharing how much I still like to write, although I am interested in alternative storytelling forms.

These are the things I need to remember I know for sure at a time when my days are somewhat unstable, and I am questioning the career choices I’ve made thus-far.   For a second I might want to be reminded about who I am; not what I do.

Am I the only person who feels this way?

One lifetime, multiple careers

I’ve read a lot of career books, many of which are aimed at Gen Y’ers. Most of these books include exercises that are supposed to help you get in tune with what you really want to do, but I think the most important thing any twentysomething can do is open themselves up to the idea of having multiple careers that span multiple industries. You too can be a nurse, then a writer! Why the heck not?

Last year when I was unemployed I went to a lot of networking events.  Although it was the dead of winter, I liked going to these events because I met such a variety of people. Most notably, I met a ton of “slashes”– people who employed in one sector, but have a side hustle doing something they are way more passionate about than their day job.

New York City is full of “slashes” as in people who are  “waiters/actresses”, or  “finance analysts/ writers”.   No one here really only has one gig.  We live in the city of the side hustle.

I was thinking about all of this (side hustles, career transitions, and second career options) because of an article I read in the New York Times last week about Afghan girls who dress as boys until puberty if their parents don’t have a son.  Wondering why this made me think of career stuff?

Well, the piece focused on many aspects of these girls’ lives, but the bit that caught my attention was a quote from a 15-year old girl discussing her future career plans. She said she wants to be a journalist, then possibly a politician.

It was the “then” that totally caught my eye. I thought back to when I was a child who wanted to be an artist, then an actress. Or a writer, then a psychologist. I’m sure if you think back on your childhood, you might have a similar story.  After finishing the article, my question to myself, and to anyone reading this is: When did we stop thinking that way? When did we start believing that we could only have one career? That we have to give one notion all we’ve got, and if it doesn’t work, we fail?

I think it is totally possible to have one career, then transition to the next. These days, it might be necessary to think in those terms.  Why not think about your second career while you are still planning and plotting for the first?

I work in the media industry. I love the media, and journalism, and the multiple facets it represents, but I would be foolish not to acknowledge that the industry is a little shaky these days. We are in the midst of a transition, and it is impossible to see the end result. But when the dust settles, we’ve still got skills that can be used somewhere else in a different way.  This applies to every profession.

When you think about what you want your second career to be, ask yourself  about the things that attracted you to your first one, or if you want to do a total 360, ponder the things that interest you now.

I’ve read a lot of career books, many of which are aimed at Gen Y’ers. Most of these books include exercises that are supposed to help you get in tune with what you really want to do, but  I think the most important thing any twentysomething can do is open themselves up to the idea of having multiple careers that span multiple industries. You too can be a nurse, then a writer! Why the heck not?

Have you made a career transition, or have one in mind? I’d love to hear you ideas 🙂 And if you are curious about reading the article that spawned this post, check it out here:  Afghan Boys are Prized, So Girls Play the Part