One year ago, I ditched a career path I had my heart set on for years and never looked back.
Back then I had one mission: to be a ball-busting talent agent who could negotiate any deal in her sleep.
I wanted to be the female Ari Gold… but less angry.
Two seconds after college, I landed the PERFECT job at an agency in New York as an assistant. I called it “grad school” because the best way to learn how to be an agent at first is to work for one.
As you’d expect, I learned more on the job that I anticipated.
The only problem? I wasn’t continuing my education outside of work.
After a year and a half of assistant life, I was basically the same person I was in college — just more financially independent and slightly less excited about life.
I hadn’t really grown as a person. And that was a bigger issue than I thought it would be.
Why? Because when I put that career path aside, I felt like I had nothing to fall back on.
After quitting my second job as an assistant, I was terrified that I had no other options outside of becoming an assistant again (at least, that’s what I thought).
I felt like all the doors to new opportunities were closed because I lacked the necessary skills to get through them.
Obviously, I was wrong (and overdramatic).
Fast forward a few months and I was working a new job in a completely new industry.
And all of the sudden, I had tons of time.
Instead of working 9-9, I was working 9-5. An ambitious lady like me can get a lot done with an extra four hours.
First, I just started seeing my friends more. I worked out more. I hung out with my boyfriend more.
But after awhile I started to notice a gigantic void.
Even though I was spending quality time with my friends, I wasn’t doing anything to improve myself.
And if I’m not doing something to improve myself, I might as well be going backward.
So I started looking for new ways to use my extra time.
In the beginning of this year, my boyfriend and I both made New Years resolutions to learn one new thing a month.
I wish I could take credit for this brilliant idea, but it was all him.
We each planned out month by month what we wanted to learn.
I started with bread baking, personal finance and self-defense. But by April, I had already learned so much during my personal finance month that I decided to switch gears and teach myself about copywriting, blogging and online business.
Instead of picking up hobbies and random skills, I was developing myself professionally.
I was opening those previously intimidating doors. Through that process, I created new ways to make money outside of having a regular job.
Copywriting jobs don’t intimidate me anymore. And now I know how to build a website. I’ve taught myself about market research and how to write in a way that actually reaches people.
I essentially created a safety net for myself, just in case one of my professional endeavors doesn’t work out.
Yes, I still bake bread.
And everything I learned during my personal finance month will probably help me for the rest of my life.
Making the conscious decision (followed by a conscious effort) to improve myself based on stuff I was kinda sorta interested in permanently changed my life for the better.
If I hadn’t adopted a learning mindset, I would have just stayed the same.
Well, that, and I wouldn’t have saved SO MUCH money.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of how exactly you start learning after school.
Not knowing where to start is overwhelming.
When I first selected the skills and subjects I wanted to learn, I picked based on two factors:
- What I’ve been mildly interested in, like bread baking.
- What skills would help me professionally, like copywriting.
How you can apply this: if you’re thinking about making a career switch but you feel like you’re not qualified for what you’re interested in, that’s a good place to start.
Let’s say you want to start learning graphic design. You can:
- Look up the best resources online to start learning
- Hit up a local class or online class
- Buy Adobe Illustrator and just start playing
- Ask someone you know who’s awesome at graphic design for lessons in exchange for money, food and/or alcohol
You just need to start somewhere. And if it really interests you, it won’t even feel like work.
Maybe you don’t need or want to develop professionally. If that’s the case, pick up a hobby you’ve always wanted to do.
Have you always dreamed about learning how to breakdance or maybe knit an entire sweater? Now is the time to start.
Seriously, I don’t care if you close this post to start Googling where/how to learn something new. Just do it!
When picking up a new hobby or skill, the cost is definitely a factor you have to consider.
When I started learning how to bake bread, I bought a book instead of paying for classes because it was cheaper. Of course, for personal defense, I did actually take a class. But I found a way to get it for free!
Pick subjects and skills you can read about online or get classes for cheap — if you’re worried about cost, that is.
You also have to think about how much time you can realistically put into learning something new.
But again, if you enjoy it, you’ll MAKE time.
You will happily give up Netflix and a couple of happy hours for your hobby or skill if you pick something you genuinely enjoy.
Yeah, learning something new requires work, but just remember you’re in control of what you learn and how much time you’re putting in. No one is grading you. That’s the beauty of doing something for yourself.
When you find something that clicks, you’re going to want to continue. It’s going to become part of your weekly routine. I promise.
You don’t have to become a master or expert.
I wasn’t going for a degree in bread baking.
I just started reading the book I bought during my commute to work. And because I had a time limit of one month, I was motivated to put what I had read to practice.
But back to the importance of this: personal development.
I hate to say it, but the person you are when you graduate is fairly boring, especially if you don’t develop yourself outside of your job.
You’re pretty much a blank slate when you graduate. After about five years post graduation, no one cares that you were on the Dean’s list or that you were president of the History club.
Devoting time to learning new skills will help make more friends based on your interests.
It can even help you get a raise at work.
The truth is, watching Netflix and doing the same thing every day after work won’t make you a better human being. Continuing your education on your own terms will change your life for the better.