Getting the Career You Want by Honoring Your Gifts

In the Fall of 2014, I decided to spend almost all of my savings on a month-long floral design course. I was convinced that I would become a florist who sold inspired arrangements out of an adorable little flower cart.

As you might have guessed, I didn't end up becoming a florist. I made some pretty (and not so pretty) things, learned about the power of flowers, and got to be creative every day for a month. It was a rich season, but ultimately one that was driven by desperation.

You see, for about 6 months preceding the design class, I had been applying to Human Resources (HR) jobs all over the Portland metro area. For months, I networked, I researched, I applied, all in a frenetic dance to be seen and valued. I was lobbing my gifts all over town to anyone who would talk to me because I thought I needed someone in a position of power to say "You are a valuable person who deserves a job."

I never got a job. Hardly anyone called me, and the ones that did were the wrong fit.

I spent all of my money on a floral design class in an effort to find a new, better vocation (and validation), and realized afterward that becoming a florist wasn't my thing. I stepped back into the Job Application Wheel of Death for a few months and felt my soul shrivel up again.

Fortunately, I was able to work part-time as an independent consultant, which helped me realize that I don't actually need the HR Powers That Be to pick me out of the applicant pool and tell me I'm worth something. I get to choose who I share my gifts with, and as it turns out, I love not having a "real" job.

As I look back one year later, I don't regret entertaining the idea of becoming a florist, but I do wish I could tell "2014 Megan" a few things about honoring her gifts. I'm sharing these with you in case you need to hear them, too:

  1. Wait. I know it's painful and that nothing seems to be happening. I know it feels like you are a boring, worthless piece of sh*t that no one will ever hire. Instead of running from this pain and spending all of your money on a new career, sit with the discomfort. Spend a little money on something fun and creative, but get still. Breathe. Meditate. Look at the pain.
  2. Know your gifts. Even if it feels weird (especially as a woman), take 30 minutes every day to remind yourself of the gifts you bring to the world. Make a list or draw a picture of all the talents, insights, and experiences that are unique to you and that you are offering up to those around you. Let yourself get excited by the prospect of sharing these with others and imagine what that could actually look like in real life.
  3. Enforce your boundaries. A lot of people in the job search are told to network like crazy - meet with anyone and everyone who will give you the time of day. I was told to do that, and I did. I met some wonderful people, but I also met some unkind people who essentially told me I wasn't good enough for their organization. I'm not encouraging you to become deluded about your qualifications, but I will tell you to cut those shady people out. Now. They will not help you - they are too caught up in their own sense of worthlessness to see the worth in others. Find the people who care about what you bring and foster a relationship with them instead.
  4. "Behave in a manner that honors your path." This is a quote that I love, and one that reminds us to become today who we want to be tomorrow. If you want a corporate HR job, okay - get up early, get dressed, and apply for jobs at a cafe where other corporate folks hang out. If you aren't sure what kind of job you want but know that you want to work with inspiring people, hang out with someone who inspires you today. Start honoring who you truly are now, and the future you want will become real.

To "2014 Megan" and all others who wonder if anyone will see and value their gifts: you have to honor your gifts first.

When you get to know and honor who you are and protect yourself from those who will denigrate you out of their own suffering, you will find that the path is made clear. I really, truly believe that because I am seeing it manifest in my own life, and I hope you will, too.