Acknowledging when to take a step back in life can be hard.
We invest such a large portion of our time on our jobs, assignments or even relationships; feeling like we're on the right track. But, on track to where?
Is this the life we dreamed of?
I have recently heavily considered where my track is taking me. This self-reflection has resulted in a completely new career path, which is both exciting and terrifying. Ultimately though, after 12-months on my new track I know I am heading in the right direction and I want to share my journey, so you can learn why taking a step back was the greatest thing I did for my career.
Stuck in a time loop
Not long into my corporate life I quickly found myself spiralling into that dreaded phase in adulthood called "the daily grind." The feeling became so natural, the thought of ever leaving gave me anxiety.
My daily routine consisted of...
Skip breakfast assuming a coffee or two should do the trick.
A trip on that dreaded public transport, blasting angry music through my headphones in an attempt to drown out my surroundings. Meanwhile searching for petty Mondayitis memes on Facebook to enhance my hatred of Monday's.
An arrival at the same boring white desk scattered with paper and a plant that was holding on for dear life - which I found myself relating to and an outdated computer that took 20 minutes to turn on...
7 hours of staring at said computer.
Home time rolled around and I would sneakily escape a few minutes.
I arrived home, switched on the most mind numbing TV show I could find, The Bachelor anyone?
Late that night I would roll into bed, with the knowledge I would have to repeat that very scenario again the next day...
Feels familiar doesn't it? So what did I do to escape the daily grind and alleviate my Mondayitis?
Photography by Matthew Henry
It started with a period of self-evaluation
My day was made up of repetitive tasks that I performed to an acceptable standard. I was pigeonholed and my focus became so narrow that all of those "amazing skills" listed on my resume, were far from relevant. I was feeling bored and under-utilised.
I developed the mindset that if I kept grinding on my dream job would magically appear one day and I would be happy. It never really crossed my mind that I would have to change anything to get there.
Then, just after my 26th birthday, I realised my habits were getting worse, my days weren't improving and I felt the lowest I had in quite some time.
My partner had just started up his own gym working 14-hour days but he was riding high, loving his job! I was proud of him, until I started to become envious...
Then it dawned on me...
I too could have a career that is successful and fulfilling.
Change definitely required
I realised I wasn't challenging myself. I wasn't making mistakes and learning from them, I was just stuck on the hamster wheel.
We fall into a daily routine without thinking about what we're doing. Like when you get in the car and start driving to work... on Saturday.
When I looked at my partner and his gym I felt that pang of jealousy and a mild panic, I knew change needed to happen...
I took a step back and implemented a plan of attack.
It was scary but I knew it was time.
Photography by Matthew Henry
What makes you happy?
As Steve Jobs once said, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do."
This quote is where it all started for me.
I started by identifying what was going to make me happy in a career by pin pointing the things I really enjoyed, but never thought I could turn into my day hustle.
Step 1. I considered all the things I have done in my life and what brings me true joy.
I landed on my flare for writing, taking photos and putting a creative twist on everything I touch.
My appreciation for small businesses started from attending local markets and pop up stalls. Every day creative people were making handmade items like clothes and little trinkets.
You know, those items you really didn't need. But I REALLY needed that one of a kind handmade Star Wars dress.
Step 2. I thought about what I look forward to doing on a daily basis.
For me this is social media and in particular, Instagram. The platform gives everyone the ability to connect and chat with like-minded people from all over the world.
Something as simple as posting a photo of my new plants and giving them human names connected me with people in Germany, America and even people in my same city.
Step 3. Was I willing to spend a lot of time learning?
My Instagram page had about 350 followers and I only posted once a week. I quickly became infatuated with learning how to develop engaging content.
I researched, purchased ebooks, learnt about algorithms so I could drive traffic to my page. I was in the learning zone! And it felt great. I knew learning wasn't going to be a problem.
My level of passion for social media became more than just uploading someone else's inspirational quote or a photo of my dog sleeping.
I started implementing goals for my Instagram. First, I wanted to build my following to 1000 by applying the research and achieved this within a month. So I thought, where else could I apply this?
At this point it became natural for me to keep learning. I actually wanted to learn more!
I found myself researching marketing next. I had a rough idea of what it was, but I knew it was going to take some time to understand the ropes.
For example, how does one simple idea like a rubber shoe with holes in it grow into a multimillion dollar business? Who even wears Crocs?
Step 4. How I broadened my skills with free learning resources.
When you're wanting to broaden your mind and discover what you could do for a career, utilise every free resource you can find on the internet.
Keep an eye out on Facebook for free events with speakers who have been in similar situations and want to share their success stories.
Open your mind to different ideas and possibilities. Try ebooks, webinars, blogs, podcasts and free courses available everywhere online like Open Learning.
Follow Facebook groups and pages in the fields that interest you. Find a platform of like minded people where you'll feel inspired by bouncing ideas off of each other and even find new career pathways you didn't think existed.
Step 5. Taking the leap into a diploma and mastering a schedule with a full time job.
If researching for free was so liberating for me, what would paid education do to help seal my dream job?
I bit the bullet, I started a Diploma in Marketing.
I knew that if this was going to work, I needed a plan. I couldn't physically work 5 days a week, study AND maintain a social life to keep my sanity.
I dropped down to a 4 day work week. This allowed me an entire day to focus and set myself up for the future.
Not long into implementing my plan my mood had lifted, and as an added bonus I even found myself becoming more productive in my day job.
I had stepped away from performing mundane tasks while running on autopilot and into learning in a field I truly cared about.
If I hadn't taken a step back and evaluated where I was at and where I wanted to be, there's no way I would be where I am now.
Finally, Step 6. I GOT THE JOB!
I am still learning, but in a completely different way to what I started because I now have a job as a marketing assistant.
That one day a week has now turned into a full time job.
I find myself expanding on my knowledge daily, researching ways to better improve my work and performance.
What I have quickly come to love about the marketing industry is that you need to learn rapidly and stay current.
Two months ago if someone had asked me where I would be today, my answer would probably be, "still in corporate, still studying and still bored." Today, I am even more focused on learning than yesterday and I am excited for my new career in marketing.
My message to you..
The importance of stepping back into the learning zone is something we will need to consider at some point because I guarantee a time will come when you will be faced with a challenge that requires taking this step. Whether it's to up skill in your current field or learn an entirely different skill.
Don't shy away from it, because it is an opportunity to re-evaluate your direction and make sure you are on the best track for you.
You may be overcome with the fear of failure but try to embrace it and remain open to the possibility of mistakes, mistakes help us to learn and grow.
At first, spending so much time in the learning zone can feel counterintuitive because as humans we thrive on success and learning isn't doing but after time, and not even a lot of time, you will begin to see your learning paying dividends.
Embrace learning so you can thrive at execution.
Making time for learning will be the best decision you ever make.