I’m only just getting to a place where I can write this with any sense of authority. No wait, maybe authority is the wrong word, maybe I mean… authenticity.
You see, for pretty much my whole life, I’ve hung such a huge sense of importance, of meaning, on having an impressive job title.
Maybe it is in part society’s fault, with strangers wanting to know what you do for a living within the first five minutes of meeting you.
Maybe it is in part my mum’s fault for clearly loving having a daughter with a brag-worthy career path, or maybe there’s nobody to ‘blame’ but me: I became addicted to the impressed looks on people’s faces when I could drop that I worked for a glossy magazine causally into conversation.
Whatever, for years it stuck, and my ambition was at least in part fuelled by impressing people with my current position. No, but seriously, when applying for jobs, I used to imagine people’s reactions when telling them my title at parties.
The thing is, I’ve had some pretty nifty roles in my time: fashion buyer at Topshop, social media manager at ASOS, digital fashion editor at Cosmopolitan – the list is lengthy! But was I happy in any of these seemingly perfect positions? Abso-fuckin-lutely not. And delving into the detail of all that will undoubtedly take another blog post.
Once you’ve bagged your so-called dream role, then along comes the anxiety of living up to the job title. Of convincing yourself you’re a fraud, and you’ve tricked your new bosses into employing you. Maybe there was a mix-up with the CV and they think you’re somebody else?
Maybe you’re trying to be somebody else, someone sassy, someone you’re not, and you should just go home now; your P45 will be in the post (hiyas Imposter Syndrome, eh?).
Conversely, and somewhat cruelly, there is also the guilt, if you realise that you actually don’t like the Shiny Dream Job all that much. The job that you fought so hard to get, the title that rolls off your tongue like a velveteen chocolate dessert so easily, the job that gives you a smug sense of satisfaction as you compute people’s reactions at your supposed wow-worthy role.
The job that, as you’re always reminded: people would KILL to have. The one that they’re forming an orderly queue for, as the door hits your arse on the way out.
So you simmer down and buckle in. You work harder than you’ve ever worked before, to prove yourself (to your boss, to yourself, and to an imagined audience who are, in your head, obsessively waiting for you to stumble along the way in your career path).
All the while, you’re probably doing it for pittance, so maybe you’re side-hustling for extra cash, or snoozing at weekends to catch up on the zeds you missed WHILE WORKING ALL THE HOURS AT THE DREAM JOB.
Before you know it, all your time is taken up with your shiny happy role; like some sort of career crack, you’re seeking out your next fix – the next suitably impressed reaction from a stranger, or the next dream role to better the last.
You haven’t got time to pee/answer all the emails, let alone stop and ask yourself if you’re happy.
But is your busyness busy filling the void, masking the elephant in the room? Are you running away from your conscience, your soul, your real authentic self; childhood you who had a dream and it wasn’t slogging away doing 12-hour days at your desk like some sort of office-based version of Groundhog Day?
Of course, as ever, money is always a problematic little bitch, because we’ve all got bills to pay, I GET THAT. Me more than most!
But what I’m trying to do, is not be lured in by the money or the prestige; to see beyond that.
Otherwise, it’s like buying a house with amazing decor, on the shittiest street.
I find myself moving away from wanting to work in the materialistic world of digital marketing and longing to set up my own business. To use some of the creative skills I was lucky enough to be born with. I’m also drawn to wanting to work with nature somehow – something that still slightly embarrasses me to admit. Because that doesn’t have such an impressive ring to it when answering the question, “so what is it you do, then?”.
Of course, for some, the idea of career perfection ~is~ perhaps the job you’re doing. But is it actually yours?
And therein lies the rub. Don’t let your career be someone else’s dream – be it your parents, your teacher or strangers you’ve yet to meet (but want to impress).
Otherwise you’ll get to fifty and your inbox will still be full but your heart won’t.