For a lot of my life, I didn't know what I wanted to do for a career. I knew what I liked and have been involved in the arts in many capacities since I was a child. I actively engaged in the choir, participated in numerous school and church productions, and had the incredible privilege of playing guitar and singing in a group that travelled across Canada.
I liked making things and I especially liked decorating my room and helping my mom bring her ideas for our home to life. I expressed myself with my (now regrettable) fashion choices (hello handmade teddy-bear print wide leg pants!) Despite knowing my passions, they were never seen as being possible career options or ways I could make money and support my life.
Although my parents were great and always encouraged me to go after my dreams, teachers in high-school offered only one path to financial security, getting a degree in university. In fact, I remember all my teachers, even from as young as grade one telling students that if they didn't choose university they would never get a good job. The messaging was clear: this was the only option for making a good income, being able to buy a house and having a decent life. Although there are many amazing college programs that cost a fraction of the price of university programs we were always told that college was for underachievers and was more of a backup option if you couldn't make the grades for uni. No one ever told us about the six figure incomes that tradespeople make and that there are great, high-paying career options that you can pursue with a college diploma. It's classist and misleading.
Whatever your opinion of post-secondary education may be, for me at the time, university seemed to be the only option for having any sort of stability after leaving school. I didn't even know what I wanted to do so I chose a major at random based on what I enjoyed most. I did an English major and later switched to a minor in English and majored in Women's studies which led me to a career in social services and working with the homeless population.
I worked in a Toronto shelter for many years before I just couldn't do it anymore. Working with this tough population of people with extremely complex needs and unique challenges wore me out. It was really hard for me to "leave work at work" when it involved people's real lives. I was ready for a change but it seemed impossible. I had a job with benefits, a modest but reliable paycheck that came every two weeks. It was easy to budget and save and it was all reasonably comfortable.
"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will not lead you astray." - Rumi
I am going to tell you something that I am sure you don't want to hear but the big secret to making real change in your life is this; You have to be okay with being uncomfortable for a while. You have to make peace with taking risks. You have to do it without knowing what is coming next and with the thought in mind that it may not work out as you planned.
Once I made the decision, I can't say I didn't stay up late at night sometimes thinking about how I was going to pay rent and make my car payments. There are things that you will have to change in your life. You have to make room for the new things that are coming, and trust me it will be more worth it than you can ever imagine!
There are so many ways to develop the life your heart wants. There are many paths to success and everyone's journey is going to look different but this is what I did to prepare and I hope my tips can help you start on your own journey.
1. Start planning - The process of change can start right now! I am a very impatient person so when I made the decision to change my career I wanted to quit my job that very day! Was that realistic for me? Nope. It may be for you, but that's up to you to decide. I needed the time to make some preparations for leaving a steady job and I also needed time to save some money. What I did instead of calling my employer immediately was to sit and reflect. I grabbed my journal and started to write down all the things I was good at. I made a list of everything I liked to do and also listed some career ideas I could begin to research. Make your list and be liberal about what you write. Remember this is only a brainstorming exercise. If you already know exactly what career you want to do yay! If not, this is a really helpful exercise.
2. Research, talk to people, network. Research and networking are so important. One of the possible career options on my list was "antique dealer". I knew nothing about what it would take to do this job so I called up a few antique shop owners in my area and asked if they would be willing to sit with me for coffee or let me shadow them. I was lucky because some of them responded and I got to learn more about this business through my discussions with them. You may even get a job opportunity this way. The more people you begin to meet in your chosen field the better. There are a lot of people out there who enjoy mentorship and I have found that some can be extremely kind and generous with their time and knowledge. Find these people and connect with them. They are out there and they are rooting you on! Ultimately I did not end up being an antique dealer but taking time to research gave me the insight to see that I needed to keep looking for the right fit.
3. Put your intentions into the universe. - One of the best ways to start moving forward into a new life is to begin to talk about your intentions. I really believe that breathing life into an idea begins with saying it out loud! It is also a super useful networking tool! Word of mouth is everything and you never know when that conversation may turn into an opportunity. Let people help you spread the word. Maybe a friend of a friend is looking for an event planner for their wedding or someone is selling a used vehicle you need for your new dog walking business. I give this advice with a modicum of caution. Not everyone will understand your plan. Not everyone will be supportive. I remember telling a co-worker at the shelter I worked at about my plans to leave and pursue another career. Her response was less than enthusiastic. To her, this plan sounded insane. Why leave a decent job to venture into the unknown? Not everyone will understand but that's okay. Keep moving towards your goals.
4. Plan financially and cut your spending - For me, moving from a job that gave me a steady paycheck to going freelance was very scary. I knew that there would have to be some big changes to how I spent money and what I was able to afford. My then husband and I lived in a spacious bright apartment in Riverdale that we realized we would not be able to afford once I left my job. We made the difficult decision to move into a much smaller apartment in a less desirable neighborhood but this choice helped us cut our housing budget in half. Was it hard to leave the beautiful backyard, stunning wood floors and affluent neighborhood? Absolutely. Was it worth it? A thousand times yes! We didn't end up staying in that tiny basement apartment for long and as soon as my new career got off the ground we were able to afford an even bigger and more beautiful apartment than our original space, only 2 years later in an even cooler area of the city. Sacrificing comfort now can give you the freedom to make bolder moves and will eventually pay off in ways you can't even imagine!
5. Don't be afraid to make big moves! - Making big changes in your life can be so scary but through taking risks comes growth, discovery and rewards! It was not always easy to say no to those fancy Starbucks coffees and dinners at nice restaurants but I was able to quit my job at the shelter and take on prop styling assisting gigs without worrying about how I was going to pay my bills. In just two years of hustling, networking, learning a new skill and taking leaps of faith I was able to kickstart a career that has lead me into a life that I could never imagine possible for myself.
I know that the things you seek are seeking you. The desires you have to follow your passion are inside of you for a reason, and all the things you want for your life are totally possible. The first step to moving into a new career is to believe this. I love mentoring and I love sharing the knowledge I have gained with others. If you're interested in hearing more about my journey or you have a million questions let's chat! You can book an appointment with me anytime.