By Holly Reisem Hanna
You know how some people grow up knowing what they want to do from a very young age? Yeah, well, that wasn't me.
Every year in my School Days Keepsake Album, it would ask the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And every year I would answer something different: a school teacher, nurse, mom, model, flight attendant … Even when I got to high school, I still had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I dabbled in art, Spanish, sociology, and psychology — but I didn't feel a strong pull in any one direction.
When I went off to college, I started out as an undecided major. I took my basics along with a ton of social science studies. And while I enjoyed my classes, I still had no idea what I should do for a career. I ended up switching majors numerous times until I finally settled on anthropology for a major with a sociology minor.
What did I plan to do with those?
No clue. All I knew is if I got my Bachelor's Degree everything else would fall into place.
After college, I took off a couple of months from my waitressing job to backpack around Europe and to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Throughout my travels, I kept thinking back to folklore class I had taken. In this class, we had learned about the varying birth practices from around the world. And all of a sudden it hit me — I wanted to be a midwife!
When I got back to the U.S., I started researching midwifery and labor and delivery nursing and decided to apply for nursing school. I felt so proud that I had finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life.
Fast forward a few years, and one nursing degree later, I found myself working in a hospital on a pediatric unit (Yup, turns out I didn't enjoy labor and delivery like I thought I would).
There were a lot of things I enjoyed about nursing such as the critical thinking that was involved, the joy of helping others, and working with a great team. But there were more things I disliked about nursing than I liked, such as staffing shortages, odd and long working hours, dealing with doctors who were demanding, demeaning, and condescending, and don't forget the stress of having patient's lives in your hands. In the course of one short year, I went from idealistic and excited to totally burnt out.
From there I went on to prior authorization for Medicaid, then to surveillance and utilization review, and finally on to clinical research for pharmaceutical companies. These roles were better than my hospital days, but they didn't bring me joy. In fact, I dreaded going to work every Monday morning.
As soon as I got pregnant with my daughter, I planned for my departure from the work world. Since I knew I’d be unemployed for an extended period, I saved as much money as I could during my last nine months working as a nurse. I was able to save $15,000 which I thought would last me at least 12 to 15 months. But my savings dwindled much faster than I anticipated. Even though my husband’s income covered major expenses, I still wanted to have money for mommy and me classes, play-dates out, and my regular coffee fix at Starbucks. It was during this period that I started looking for work-at-home gigs.
I had no clue what I wanted to do. What I did I know was that I didn’t want to put my daughter in daycare, and I didn’t want to work in the nursing field. My goal was to make just enough money, so my daughter and I could continue to participate in our outside activities.
I searched online for work-at-home opportunities but encountered a bunch of scams. I read tons of books on changing careers, starting a business, and working from home. I talked with friends and family about different career options and had even considered starting a Personal Concierge business or building a website. I also asked past employers and friends who were self-employed if they had any work that I could do from home. My efforts finally paid off, and I started working from home, 10 hours a week for a small publishing company completing marketing tasks.
Once I had money coming in, my mind was free to focus on other things. And that other thing that kept popping into my head was starting a blog. If I had such trouble finding a home-based career, there must be other women who were facing the same issues. It was at this time that I decided to create The Work at Home Woman.
For months, I researched work-at-home ideas, wrote content, and brainstormed monetization methods. Eventually, I bit the bullet, hired a graphic designer and created the website. I officially launched on March 19, 2009.
For six years, I continued to do freelance work for the publishing company and work on my blog which continued to grow by leaps and bounds. But I was stressed out. My position with the publishing company evolved into a much more dynamic role as did my blogging business. Even though my blog was making a good amount of money, I was afraid to let my freelancing gig go, because it provided consistent income each month (never base decisions off of fear). I finally decided to part ways with my freelance gig and focus on my blog full time. I should have made this break sooner, but live and learn.
Today, I have a career that I LOVE. I never dread Monday mornings, in fact, I look forward to them. And regarding income, last year I tripled what I made working as a full-time nurse and this number is will be even higher this year. When you have a career that you adore, there’s no limit to what you can do.
So what advice do I have for finding your dream career?
Ask Yourself These Questions.
First, you need to ask yourself some tough questions. In Michelle Goodman’s book, The Anti 9 to 5 Guide, she has a great list which can help you uncover your passions and interests.
Here's a few from her book to get you started:
- What’s on your nightstand? What books and magazines are you reading?
- Out of your friends’ jobs, which one are you most jealous of?
- What’s the one thing you’ve been talking about doing forever that your friends are sick of hearing about?
What Are Your Strengths?
Next, you’ll want to identify your strengths. In Marcus Buckingham’s book, Find Your Strongest Life, he suggests that women keep a journal of when they feel happy and empowered and to describe exactly what they were doing. On the flip-side of this, write down when you’re feeling stressed, unhappy, and anxious, this will help you identify activities and potential careers that you should stay away from.
Who Do You Hand Around?
Back when I was working as a nurse, I worked for a company where the majority of the employees were disgruntled and unhappy. This negative energy sucked the life out of me quickly, and I too became one of those disgruntled and unhappy individuals. Who you hang around has a huge impact on your outlook and creativity. Start hanging around people that are positive and empowering and watch your creative juices start to flow. If you're trapped in a dead-end job, try joining a professional networking group or take up a new hobby to start expanding your circle of friends.
Are You Reading?
As you see, in this article I have mentioned two different books that can help you find your niche. Whether you’re looking to find your perfect niche or you’ve already found it, you should constantly be reading. It helps to cultivate and stimulate your mind, and it helps you grow as an individual. Plus, reading is an inexpensive way to learn new things.
Are You Trying New Things?
I had no clue what I wanted to do. I fell into blogging, marketing, and advertising, and it turns out I love it. So get out there and read articles, take classes and personality tests, attend events, try out new things, and talk to people, lots of them. The more you open yourself up to opportunities the more ideas and information that will flow your way. Lastly, don’t be afraid to apply for jobs, start a business, or change careers entirely. Each position you take leads you one step closer to your dream job.
Need more help finding your dream job? Here are some additional articles and resources to get your creative juices flowing.
- How to Figure Out What Work at Home Job Is Right for You
- How to Choose the Business That's Right for You
- Find Your Niche by Following Your Heart
- Which Career Best Fits Your Personality?
- 99 Work at Home Career Ideas for Women
Finding Your Niche Resources:
- Career One Stop
- Career Shifters
- Changing Course
- Levo League
- Quint Careers
- The Muse
- The Oxford Program
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