The year was 2012. I was fresh out of college and back in my hometown of Stockholm. And I was broke and clueless.
I had just spent 3 years getting a degree in game development, but I wasn’t feeling like putting it to use. As they said in that Lord of the Rings movie: “One does not simply walk into the game development industry”. Or was it something else, I don’t remember… 😉
However, applying for an entry level job in a game studio didn’t excite me. In fact, getting any kind of 9-5 employment felt a little bit “meh”. I would rather stay at home.
So I needed to figure out some way to apply the skills I already had, so I could start making a living immediately. Preferably without leaving the apartment.
The one skill I felt really competent in? Writing.
Problem was, blogging wasn't a legitimate career yet and I didn't have a blockbuster novel lying around to send to publishing houses.
I had however read my fair share of magazine articles and I thought to myself: “Hmm, journalism. How hard could it be?” I didn’t have a degree in journalism, but I had written magazine-like articles for my blog for years. And I knew I could write just a well as those published writers in my favorite magazines.
So I went for it. I bought a bunch of magazines I would like to write for and I studied them carefully. I read books on freelance writing and learned how to brainstorm ideas and how to approach editors with them.
And I eventually gathered enough ideas, (and courage), to send off some emails. (I might be introverted but I sure ain't shy.)
I remember the first pitch I sent to a magazine. It was nerve-wracking. I didn’t expect an answer. I didn’t expect any of this to actually work in real life.
So when I got a reply:
“We would like to publish your piece. We’ll pay 10 000kr (about $1100) for it, is that okay?”
I almost peed my pants, that’s how okay I was with it.
I wrote the article. It was about a particular field of study in circadian rythms I had come across online. An organization in Denmark who had coined the term “b-people” - people who hate early mornings and love to stay up late. People like me.
I interviewed the founder of the organization, as well as a self-confessed nightowl I managed to hunt down online. The article was published and I was paid.
Was it really this easy? No one was going to stop me and ask to see my college diploma or references from previous employers?
I pitched some more, and I landed more assignments. I wrote about everything that fascinated me: articles about downshifting and self-hypnosis, interview pieces, game reviews…
The more I worked, the more I realized: I had found my perfect occupation. This freelance writing thing was almost too good to be true. I loved reading and researching new topics. I loved boiling down complex information into easily digestible articles. I loved interviewing people and arranging the answers into an exciting story. And I could do it all from home and on my own schedule. All the pieces fit.
I expanded from writing magazine articles to also writing copy for business clients. I thought: "Writing sales copy for a website or app, how hard could it be?" And I went for it. Did I have a degree in it? No. Did I have copywriting experience? Nope.
Degrees and experience are valuable. But passion, drive and a willingness to learn are even more powerful.
I hunted for clients and I got assignments. This was entirely new to me. I was so used to gatekeepers everywhere. People telling me what I could and could not do. Positions only available to those with the right credentials and 5+ years of experience.
As a multi-passionate creative, I had dipped my toe into whatever looked exciting in the moment. My resume was a jigsaw puzzle of odd jobs, university courses and assorted 1-year employments. I was a Jack of all trades.
And here was this profession that actually demanded a Jack of all trades kind of person.
I stumbled onto freelance writing and found that it fit me perfectly. I wouldn’t have discovered it if I hadn’t embraced my curiosity. If I hadn’t thought to myself “How hard could it be? I’ll give it a shot.”
I’m telling this story because it shows just how serendipitous finding your ideal line of work could be. Some people know at a very early age what their thing is, but what about the rest of us? What about those of us who have beat ourselves up for years for not being able to choose one thing and stick with it?
Sometimes finding your thing takes years of fooling around, being confused and sort of stumbling your way forward. It takes courage and persistence. But when you do come across something that fits you like a pair of spandex shorts, it'll all be worth it.
This whole experience has taught me 3 valuable lessons:
- There’s probably not just one type of work that could be perfect for you, there are many.
- There’s only way of finding those jobs and that’s trying a bunch of different ones.
- The qualities about yourself that you think hold you back and prevent you from getting your ideal job could be just the qualities that lead you to it.
Below this post, you'll find an exercise that will help you map out all your personality traits, skills and interests, and to match those against any job or career to see how it fits. This could save you many years of stumbling and give you clues about where to dip your toe in next. ;)