I realize it’s a bit of a broad sweeping statement, but if you’ll indulge me for just a moment. When you get hired for and work a more traditional kind of job at a more traditional kind of company, particularly a very large company, there is a very good chance that you play a very specific kind of role. As an accountant, you’re not all that involved in marketing. As a human resources specialist, you’re not driving the delivery trucks. While there are exceptions, to be sure, this is generally the case.
But, it is not at all the case when you decide to strike it out on your own and turn your blog into a full-blown business in its own right. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself wearing many hats. As much as you might enjoy the activity of writing captivating blog posts, just blogging isn’t enough on its own. You’ve got advertising, marketing, outreach, analytics, accounting, logistics, competitive analysis, design, branding, and all the rest of it.
To this end, even if your first job (or your most recent job) doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with blogging, it probably does. There are lessons to be learned, so long as you’re willing to look for them. In my case, my first job outside of the family business (my parents ran a restaurant) was as an accounts payable clerk with the now defunct A&B Sound. I worked at the head office of the Canadian home electronics retailer in Vancouver while I was still in high school. And here’s what I learned from there that I apply to my day-to-day working life today.
Do Good Work and Get Noticed
Has anyone ever told you that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know? It’s totally true. There are lots of people out there who are remarkably talented at what they do, but they don’t know the right people and thus never find themselves presented with the right opportunity. For better or for worse, the reverse is very common too. A lot of mediocre people get great opportunities because of the connections they (or their friends or their family) have. Me, I suppose I’m somewhere in between.
As part of high school, I signed up for a “career preparation program” in accounting. As part of that, we’re assigned three “work experience” weeks where we effectively work for free for three companies. One of those, for me, was A&B Sound. My supervisor there was so happy (impressed, even?) with my time there that she offered me a part-time job on the spot. I accepted. The part-time job turned into a full-time gig over the summer.
Did you know that at least 70 percent of jobs are never even listed? This was one of them. What you’ll find is that opportunities as a blogger work in much the same way. It’s only through who you know (and who notices you) that you’ll be able to find these chances at a “big break.”
Routine Is Not for Me
Can I be honest with you? As great of an opportunity as it was to work at A&B Sound as a bright-eyed teenager, it really wasn’t the most interesting or the most rewarding of work. I suppose it was better, in some ways, to flipping burgers or working retail. But, it could also get very, very, very boring.
A big part of my job was matching the invoices we received from vendors with the packing slips that accompanied the deliveries to each of the stores. I’m talking piles of hundreds and hundreds of pieces of paper, so I’d sort each pile in numerical order, and then go through them to find matching pairs. Staple the pairs together and go again. And again. And again. It was menial and repetitive. It was also a great learning opportunity.
Right then and there, I decided that my future career — whatever it may be — will not be one focused on routine. With blogging and freelance writing, no two days are the same. And the act of writing, even if I approach similar topics, is never the same either. I love exercising my creativity.
My Only Competition Is Myself
We might need a little bit of context here. I worked in the accounting department, specifically in accounts payable. There were several full-time and part-time employees there, but this was the cubicle life, so I always felt a little isolated. This was especially true as practically everyone there was at least 20 years older than I was. Some of the other A/P clerks did the same invoice and packing slip matching as I did, but many had more important tasks.
Either way, I had no real frame of reference of how quickly I was “supposed” to complete each batch. Part of my motivation, as lame as it might sound, was to gamify the process such that I would compete against myself. If it took me 60 minutes to get through this batch, let’s see if I can complete the next one in 50 minutes. My only frame of reference was my own performance.
On some level, all bloggers need to take this to heart. There is wisdom to be gleaned from other bloggers and online professionals, surely. At the same time, comparison is the thief of joy, because you’re comparing your real life against the shiny, curated version of exceptional stories. Don’t worry if Joe Blogger down the street just landed a big brand deal. Concern yourself instead with how you’re doing compared to last week, last month or last year.
You do you. And do it to the best of your ability. Now, go start your blog!