Article By: Colleen Williams Photo Credit: Getty Images
In almost every industry, there are several paths to success. For example, legal, medical, engineering, and journalism professions all have different specialties from which to choose. As a lawyer, you can decide to focus on family law, finance law, or even technology law. Since transitioning to writing full-time, I’m continuously asked about my specialty, and this has forced me to think long and hard about the trajectory of my career. Here are some discoveries I’ve made along the way:
Think About What You Used to Love as a Kid
This may sound overly simplistic but, hear me out. Over the past few weeks, I’ve interviewed several Silicon Valley success stories. They are engineers, product designers, and vice presidents at some of the biggest technology companies.
Despite their varying professional and personal backgrounds, they’ve all had at least one thing in common — they turned their childhood obsessions into their careers. Every single person I’ve interviewed has spoken of the daily hours they spent as children tinkering with computers, video games, or other electronic devices. Their current jobs are, in many ways, extensions of passions they’ve held since they were kids.
These stories have inspired me to search a little harder for creative honesty. Whenever I get bogged down by attempting to be marketable and listening too much to the industry, I remember that all great work must come from a place of personal honesty. I search for opportunities to express the most authentic version of myself. After that, I’ve chosen to believe that the money will work itself out.
Think About What You’re Good at, and Do That
Of the things that you love to do, zero in on the things at which you are exceptionally gifted. Hone this craft. Learn everything you can about it. If you claim to love something, you shouldn’t hold back on mastering the subject matter. Whether it be fashion, beauty, medicine, or web development, always be hungry for knowledge and skill. As a freelance writer with a background in engineering, I’ve been able to use my technical expertise to create content for technology companies.
Learning Never Stops
The truth is, learning is an iterative process. A product designer at a top EdTech company reminded me that staying relevant will always be a concern for any professional. Even after you’ve put initial work in the form of degrees, certificates, and self-teaching, there’s still more to learn. Pay attention to your industry. The moment you stop being curious about new things or the moment you stop learning is when your light begins to dim.
Find the Market and Be Visible
I left this one for last because you have to do the work on yourself before you can be commercially successful. However, at a certain point, you should go out, find where your skills are most valuable and monetize them as much as possible.
When it comes to skills and talents, no one should worry about being “humble.” Own your space and advocate relentlessly for yourself. Establish yourself as an expert in your field by reaching out to the companies you’d like to work for. Learn their business needs thoroughly, and find ways to add value to their organization and customers.
A tech leader recently told me that he always urges young designers to reimagine projects from other companies. By rebuilding these projects from the ground up, and including them in your professional portfolio, you can display your talents more effectively to potential clients and employers.