[My Story] What To Do When Your Dream Job SUCKS

I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I stood dumbfounded at the gas pump as my heart skipped a beat and--oddly enough--sank at the same time.

I had just left a video shoot for a friend's new co-working space; she wanted a quick promo video for her business. Simple enough, right? However, from the time I arrived, I knew something was wrong. At best, my shots were mediocre and I couldn’t quite catch “the moments” that all videographers are hired to capture. As the shoot progressed I grew increasingly annoyed and, within the first hour, I was ready to leave.

Eventually making my exit, I haphazardly threw my crap ($10,000 worth of crap, but in this moment, crap nonetheless) in the car and sped out of the parking lot. In my over ten years of working in production, I had done tons of shoots like this and it should have been cake. But... this? This was different. As I stood at a gas station in the middle of South Atlanta, a very cold and startling revelation hit me like a sock full of quarters: I didn’t want to do this anymore.

But how could this be? I had devoted all of my career to working in media. Starting from my early days in college, I completed a million internships and even freelanced for my professors. Writing, producing, shooting and editing. If you needed a video, I was your girl. Everyone knew that I was destined for a very successful media career. After college, I worked for a TV network, went to grad school and even joined the video faculty at a local arts college.  I later devoted a ton of time + money to launching an online TV network for indie black filmmakers. My career, professional network and most importantly, my finances (read: student loans), had me locked into this career. Right? Wrong. But if I wasn't going to work in media...what was I going to do??

As the words sank into the depths of my soul (I’m probably being just a little dramatic here), I reached for my phone to call a trusted colleague. He could barely say hello before I hit him with a barrage of statements and questions, all loaded with self-doubt.

After having laid it all out, I trepidatiously waited for his response. “If you don't want to do it, don't.” he replied. With that simple statement, and a few more encouraging words, I gave myself permission to not panic and embrace this new path.

Trade vs. Passion

After about six months of soul searching (read: hiding under a blanket, binge-watching Netflix and searching for the meaning of life on Google), I began to realize the real source of my frustration. It wasn't that I didn't want to work in the field anymore, but that it was no longer my passion. Don’t get me wrong— I still love media. Project Blaq, J. Michelle and ATLWEBFEST are all very dear to my heart and fulfill very real needs within the media industry. However, outside of fulfilling their intended purposes, they weren't fulfilling my purpose. With this revelation, I was able to identify media as a "trade" and not a "passion." By my definition, a trade is a particular set of skills that can be used for financial gain. For me, media isn't my dream job, it's my trade. 800 lb elephant? Lifted.

Your trade will get you paid while your passion will leave you fulfilled.

This simple, yet profound statement made me realize where I had gone wrong. Because I'd gone to school (twice!) for media + communications, I naturally assumed that I would ultimately find fulfillment in a career in media. But as I've learned since my gas pump meltdown, that's definitely not the case. Per conversations with close family and close friends (meant exactly as typed), I discovered that I had been ignoring what really made me happy-- helping people be great. It was just that simple.

4 Tips for Discovering Your Passion

Based on conversations with Jesus, family and friends, I offer you four things you can do to get out of a job that sucks and into a career that's fulfilling.

1. Don't Quit Your Day Job!

If you have a job that's paying you, don't quit to go find your passion. A job that sucks is much better than being homeless. Trust me. (You can, however, start drafting your resignation. Click here for inspiration.)

2. Reflect.

Take a moment to reflect on how you got to where you are now. Was it the result of strategic planning? Was it for the money? Or something else? Our motives dictate our decisions. If fulfillment becomes your primary motive, you'll begin to yield more positive results.

3. Consult Your Circle

Now's the time to reach out to those who have your best interests at heart and ask them some very real questions. My favorite question to ask: If I were a superhero, what would be my superpower? You may be surprised at some of the answers. Take notes because you'll definitely want to reference these later.

4. Give Yourself a Break

Discovering your passion takes time. Giving yourself intense (and often, unreasonable) deadlines will only frustrate the process. The fact that you're reading this blog (and *fingers crossed* will continue to read) means that you're on the right track!

In next week's post, I'll share more on how I transitioned from working my trade to working in my passion. Until then, I'd love to read your thoughts on today's topic below!