Career

[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!

RECAP: Personal Branding for College Students

Hey, guys! It's been a while since my last post. Balancing my trade and my passion has been a little difficult. ATL WEBFEST is in it's second year and we've got a ton of work to do and The J. Michelle Firm just finished a huge writing project. I'm just now finding time to update you all. I'm writing with some pretty amazing news. About a month ago, I was invited to serve as the 2014-2015 Career Mapping & Brand Strategy Coach for the HBCU Rising Program. Don't you just love fancy titles? Lol! The program is an Atlanta-based program launched by the National CARES Mentoring Movement and is hosted by my alma mater, Clark Atlanta University. This weekend was my very first workshop and it was awesome!

I spoke to a group of 20 STEM students about how to leverage their personal brand to gain internship and employment opportunities. It was a blessing to be able to share my personal journey with these students. It just goes to show that you aren't the only one that can benefit from the "journey lessons."

I titled the session "Personal Branding for Non-Business Majors" because there's a misconception that only businesses or entertainers can benefit from branding. Not true! If you're entering the job market at some point (which is the goal for pursuing that fancy degree), then I suggest you lean in and check out my four tips for building a personal brand.

4 Steps for Developing a BOSS Personal Brand

Step 1: Develop your professional image. Your professional image includes the following: how you think, act and speak. Period. Attire, attitude and behavior, conversation and language are all included. To help jumpstart your thinking, ask yourself, "When people hear my name, what do I want them to think?"

Step 2: Clean up your online image. I can't stress the importance of this tip! You can be the most experienced  with a slew of impressive credentials, but if a simple Google search reveals your "turn up" from spring break 2k14-- you're in trouble. Check out the social media cloud below. Active accounts on any of the platforms can help get the "you" that needs a job hired. FYI: The other "you" that loves to party should stay OFF of social media, or at least lock it down with a private account. #ijs

Step 3: Upgrade your network. One of my favorite quotes is, "Broke friends can't make you money." It's not just about money; it's also about influence.  Nine times out of ten, your personal circle of friends won't be able to provide you with adequate job leads. As a college student, you have to incorporate the 3 P's of networking (peers, professors and professionals).  Tap into these and you'll be surprised at how influential your network will become.

Step 4: Know your ISH. Implementing steps 1-3 are for naught if you don't know what the BLEEP you're talking about. Paying attention is class and being able to hold an intelligent conversation about your industry is imperative. Taking it a few steps further, you also need to identify industry "thought leaders" and follow them on social media. Lastly, read up on your industry's trade publications or journals. Every industry has them. They are a vital source of information and can be used for chatter in your interview.

I hope you enjoyed these tips. Click here to view the full presentation. Be sure to comment below and share your thoughts!

When God's Plan is Greater

Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to read my last post, “What to Do When Your Dream Job SUCKS.” It was great reading the comments both on the site and on Facebook. My initial plan was to blog about identifying your passion while working your trade; however, I felt led to share more of my personal story.  

It’s May 2007 and life couldn’t be better. I just graduated from my illustrious alma mater with a full-time job AND a full scholarship to graduate school. In my mind, everything was going according to plan. I worked hard and completely sacrificed a social life in order to have these opportunities available to me. Headed to New York City, I would become one of less than twenty recent college graduates who would work as Summer Associates for MTV Networks. In addition to a paid gig, we’d all receive corporate housing, a stipend and countless opportunities to network with top executives across the company. For a small town girl from Vidalia, Georgia, a chance to live and work in NYC was the opportunity of a lifetime.

 

My very first day on the job, my supervisor offered me a full-time position beyond the initial summer contract. I sat in my manager’s office stunned as she—within minutes of meeting me—offered me the position of Programming Coordinator, a role many recent grads dreamed of. She even went as far to offer her spare bedroom until I could afford a place of my own. Mindful of my full ride to grad school, I nervously declined the offer and hurriedly made my way out of her office. This moment would plague me throughout the summer.

 

The rest of my time in NYC was interesting— meeting the awesomeness that is Christina Norman,  working as a PA on a few major TV shows, tickets to the The Daily Show, and an opportunity to work on a really cool project with Comedy Central. I truly experienced every aspect of living and working in NYC. However, when August came, I was ready for my next chapter. With a total of three declined job opportunities, I packed up and headed back to ATL only to unpack, and then repack, for the 10-hour drive to Ohio. That September, my life as a grad student began.

 

Within 48 hours of arriving to campus, I instantly regretted my decision. The first day (literally the FIRST DAY) of orientation, my ethics professor handed us a stack of freshly printed syllabi…and a five chapter reading assignment. Jazzy, you left FOUR job offers for this? (Note: The fourth gig was an invitation to interview at Tyler Perry Studios—literally got the call the day I was leaving for Ohio.) As the quarter progressed, I sank deeper and deeper under journal articles, survey design and the dreaded SPSS.

 

Then one fateful day, as I struggled with statistical ANOVAs, I got a phone call that changed everything. MTV Networks just announced a mass layoff that would affect hundreds. Look. At. God. After making a few phone calls to make sure my former colleagues were okay, I couldn’t help but praise God for protecting me from what could have been a very terrible situation. I knew there was a nudge to leave NYC, but I allowed the frustrations and challenges of grad school cloud my truth. As I sat and contemplated what could have been versus what was actually happing, suddenly those ANOVAs didn’t seem so bad.

 

Although hundreds of miles away from NYC, I made sure to stay in contact with old employer.In my mind, once the economy rebounded in 2008 (ha!) I would move back and continue my mission to be the youngest VP of a cable network.

By the following summer, everything appeared to be moving in that direction. I successfully defended my thesis proposal, moved back to Atlanta and already had a lead on a position at my old company. It was an assistant role, but I knew I only needed a pinhole of opportunity to make it my own.

 

The interview itself was more so a call between colleagues than prospective employer and candidate. I updated them on what I had learned in grad school and most of the conversation was a discussion on trends and challenges with cable programming. I kept my car packed and ready because I just knew the job as mine. The call came alright, but instead of offering me a job, I was being told that they were unable to offer me the position. I was crushed. With really no insight into what happened, I thanked him for his time and hung up. I guess it was time to finally unpack my car.

 

I started work at the Apple Store and shortly after, began teaching part-time at a local arts college. I tried to make the best of it all but, in reality, it sucked. Jesus, this is not what we discussed. It wasn’t until my phone rang later that year that it all made sense. MTV Networks had just laid off 850 employees. Suddenly having two jobs and reduced rent at my dad’s place didn’t seem like such a bad thing. It was actually a blessing in disguise.

 

By now you should get the point of this entire blog post. I left Atlanta with my own plan of how my life should be— job in the City, graduate school, corporate takeover by 30— but God had a greater plan. Although I spent two frustrating years working two part-time jobs, I met people during that time that would drastically alter my career (and business) trajectory.

 

Teaching allowed me to realize my passion for student success, while working at Apple allowed me to connect with other creatives. The continued rejections from “my dream job” pissed me off enough to just start my own business. Relationships developed during this time even led to my company landing its very first long term, high net worth client. Look at God. And if you factor in my “gas pump meltdown” all of these instances were needed to position me for my purpose— to help frustrated millennials get “unstuck” in life and business.

 

Although this post has been super long (it’s been quite therapeutic), I definitely wanted to share the best advice I received along the journey.

 Grow where you are planted.— Oshanda Kittles

When faced with continued adversity + frustration, our natural inclination is to do whatever it takes to improve our situation. Although I agree such initiative is imperative, God often wants us to sit still so that He can work in our lives. In our efforts to create a better tomorrow, we often miss the fact that God wants us “right here, right now.”  Take a look around you and realize that there’s value in the soil. Grow where you are planted.

 

I’d love to hear from you about your own personal story and any revelations you’ve received along the way. Also, would you mind sharing this with your network? Thanks for reading :-)