Some of my first jobs were in photo labs. It was an ok job, but not a ‘forever’ job. I knew I could tough it out for a while, but remember telling someone that “if I’m still working here in two years I’ll shoot myself in the foot.” (Ahhhh, youthful arrogance.) In any case, the years fly by. It can be easier to stay in a convenient place than to take a risk. I worked at that lab for four years.
I find that sometimes we talk ourselves into taking jobs “the pay’s not great, but it’ll be good experience/exposure/connections” or “I don’t love it, but the pay is fantastic.” That kind of thing. And it’s great to look for the good in situations. But those good things you identify at the beginning of a job can fade with time. How long do you need to stay in a job before you’ve gotten as much experience as you need to move on? What are you making all of those contacts for? What will that exposure bring you further down the road? If your job does pay well, what are you saving up for?
I’m trying to be better at setting stepping stones out in front of myself. By setting specific goals, I can take better stock of my situation once the goal is achieved. For example, if you’ve taken a soul-sucking job because you need to pay off your student loans, start thinking about what you want to be doing once that loan is paid off. Or if you’ve taken a low-paying internship position to get experience, start thinking about what opportunities you want to pursue once you’ve been there for, say, a year. This kind of goes back to a post I wrote last year about map-making. Change is good for humans, especially those of us who identify as creatives. I’m not saying you have to have your whole life figured out, but by setting baby-step goals, it makes it easier to achieve the things you want and to transition to the next part of your path. Before you make that last student loan payment, start thinking about what your next move will be, and get the ball rolling, whether that means sending out job applications, or building a website, or buying a plane ticket.
So, who’s planning to make a change?