What the hell do you do when your career seems hell-bent on sliding into the mud? Ask Google and then turn to Facebook, that’s what.
Let’s backtrack. I’ve been a freelance journalist, author and editor for thirty years. I’ve worked for the vast majority of the UK’s national newspapers and a large swathe of its consumer and health press. I caught onto social media pretty early in the game and I’ve been an award-winning blogger. Back in the day I earned a seriously nice living from doing what I loved. Now? It’s beyond tough. Rates are a lot lower than they were thirty years ago (seriously) and, as more and more people are willing to write for free, it’s only going to get worse. I’m lucky – I don’t have huge living expenses – but, even so, I need a certain amount to pay the bills and keep Dan in dog biscuits.
Over the last few months I’ve been pondering. Do I struggle on? Do I spend my days badgering editors who are neck-deep in freelancers? Do I sell my soul writing features like this? Do I do what so many of my colleagues are doing and sidestep into PR, digital marketing, copy-writing? Or…do I do something completely different?
Something different is appealing but…what? When you don’t know the answer to something, you Google it, right? So I tapped into the box – ‘What should I do?’ My first click took me to a website that suggested I should be a) a rapper, b) a yoga instructor and c) open a bowling alley. Yeah, right.
The next one made me pause. “Meet or call at least 50 people. Don’t expect anything. Don’t ask them to find you a job. Don’t ask them to give you a job. Just talk.” I don’t know 50 people in Exeter and I hate phones, but I know more than 50 people on Facebook. So I tapped in this: “I need a job. Anything considered. Suggestions?”
What happened next was pretty amazing. I learned how people saw me – as someone who not only has writing skills but also listening and interpersonal skills. Many suggested I become a therapist. It really appeals but the training is long and expensive. Some suggested I should teach or lecture – interesting. Some made me laugh out loud. “International art thief and woman of mystery,” said one friend. “Funeral celebrant,” offered another. At least three people suggested I start my own cult.
Some asked really good questions. “What did you want to be when you were seven?” Plugging back into childhood dreams and ambitions is a great idea. Unfortunately in my case, I wanted to be an Olympic show jumper who ran her own riding stables. Not quite feasible. Yet, I also loved instigating and working on creative projects with like-minded friends.
“You might think I’m joking but how about working in a nice shop?” someone else suggested. No, not a joke at all. I love the idea of working in a business where I’d get to meet people face to face for a change. My mind started shimmying off all over the place. Anyone fancy starting a floatation centre with a well being shop attached in Exeter?
What a great exercise. It’s got me thinking in all kinds of new and interesting directions. If anyone has any additional ideas, do please leave a comment. And tell me this – what would you do if you wanted to start a brand new career?