Share This Article
Shortly after graduating from college and entering real adulthood, I (like many 20-somethings) started to feel uneasy about my career progress. I had landed a full-time job but couldn’t shake the feeling that I was headed in the wrong direction.
And while I didn't know the exact path I wanted to take, I did know I wanted to work in a more creative industry on projects that excited me. And I wasn’t going to wait years for things to fall into place.
So, to speed things up, I decided to do one thing a week that scared me. It wasn’t easy or comfortable, but that’s the idea, right? Here are some of the challenges that made the biggest difference.
1. Mastering the Art of the Cold Pitch
If I wanted to become a writer, I knew I’d need to start freelancing to build up my experience and portfolio. I began applying for writing jobs with publications I admired, but those opportunities were only posted so often.
I didn't have a lot of connections in the industry, and living outside of big media markets like New York City and Los Angeles didn’t help. I knew if I wanted to expand my network and client base faster, I’d have to start cold pitching.
Did I like emailing strangers out of the blue asking for work? No. Did I get rejected a lot? Yes. But, sometimes I hit the jackpot and landed a story at a great publication or made a new contact, which grew both my network and experience.
2. Going Solo
To further expand my network I tried to make the drive from Orange County to Los Angeles as much as possible to attend networking events, career seminars, panel discussions and conferences.
At first, I enlisted a buddy to go with me. Over time, I realized that when I had a friend with me, I was less likely to, you know, actually network. I hated going to these events by myself, but found them to be much more effective when I was on my own and couldn't cling to a familiar face.
3. Drinking All the Coffee
Full disclaimer: I hate coffee. A fact you’d find surprising if you knew how many coffee dates I’ve arranged. When I was first starting out, I read countless stories of young professionals who’d found mentors simply by asking them to meet for a cup of coffee. I replicated their results by setting up my own coffee dates with people whose careers and achievements I admired.
I asked colleagues, former professors, people I’d met at networking events and whose careers I admired, to get coffee. Sure, the answer wasn’t always yes, and that stung, but more often than not, people were receptive and happy to help. I’ve made valuable business contacts, soaked up great advice and even made a few friends.
4. Getting Online
I don’t enjoy talking about myself. Being a writer by trade has forced me to get more comfortable doing so, but when I first graduated from college, I found it challenging to share my career aspirations with others.
It was embarrassing at times to “brag” on LinkedIn or share an article I was proud of on Instagram, but I kept posting. Slowly but surely, by being active on social media and through my website, I built a personal brand. Now, it’s not uncommon for my digital presence to attract new clients. Even though I found self-promotion on social media uncomfortable (and sometimes still do), I’m glad I stuck with it.
My efforts weren’t always a success. But each small action helped me gain control over my career. And all the failures made the times I saw results that much more invigorating — so much so that I would often double or triple my weekly efforts. And now that I have the career I want, I’m so glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and did all those scary things — they paid off.