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Friday, August 23, 2019

How To Deal When Your Dream Job Just Doesn't Work Out

Have you ever had a moment when you reflect on what you do for work then wonder “How the hell did I end up here?”Not doing what you thought you would be doing in life can be difficult to cope with. Especiallyif there is a time constraint on your “dream” career. I’ve been there and most people I know have been there, too. So how do you deal with the feelings that come along with your career not working out like how you thought it would? The ups and downs (mostly downs) of my dance-life and my now Executive Assistant-life have taught me lessons about what I thought I could do vs what I’m actually capable of. 

Grab some tea; here is my story and how to deal when your dream job just doesn’t work out. 

When I was just a kid, I remember going to my mom’s job and seeing her very grey and corporate work environment. The cubicles, the magnetic key fobs and the breakroom with a refrigerator full of Tupperware and condiments with people’s names written on them are all etched in my mind. She is extremely successful and was one of the higher ups in the company. An Original Boss, before it was trendy. But that never appealed to me and I said I would never end up at a corporate job. My sites were set on becoming a professional dancer and living a life in the arts. 

Fast forward to senior year of college (I went to arts school in Philadelphia and absolutely loved it) and I am traveling to New York City on a weekly basis for auditions and callbacks to try to land a dance job. On Broadway, Cruise ships, Cirque Du Soleil, company work, commercial work. ANY. DANCE. JOB. I was in full pursuit and planned my auditions weekly. Every few days, I would wake up at 5am to catch a 6am MegaBus to NYC to commute to a few auditions that day, then commute back to NYC around 6pm. I had tunnel vision and was doing what I felt all the right things were to land a job. Graduation day rolls around and one of my best friends wasn’t there because she had already received her job offer and was away to start rehearsing. Although I am happy for her success always, it was hard not sharing that particular moment together and because I couldn’t talk to her about my feelings of dance job-lessness as her career was just starting off.  

Fast, fast forward to me moving to NYC from Atlanta after a year of saving money and dancing (unpaid) with small local companies. I worked at Thumbs Up Diner in Eastpoint, Georgia waiting tables, as a receptionist at Atlanta Ballet, Cobb Center (hello free dance classes) and I ended up in Scary Movie 5 because they needed dance extras. All the dance scenes were cut but I’m in there standing around Ashley Tisdale and the barre - a ballet barre, not a boozey bar. I was officially living in New York City (well…Astoria, Queens with roommates) and my purpose was to find that BIG dance gig. 

The wide eyed excitement quickly faded since I was on my own and trying to navigate adulting in the Big (and mean) Apple. Audition after audition, no luck. An annoying roommate scuffle later and I decided to move to another, more expensive, apartment, still with roommates of course, in Astoria. I had to work a few jobs to pay my rent and try to stay in shape. A brief Pilates internship in Brooklyn (indentured servitude basically), worked at the front desk at Equinox, Soho (they paid $8 an hour), and had various server jobs. I found myself exhausted, broke, had less time than ever to audition and was no closer to any kind of a dance break almost 2 years after I graduated. 

What. Was. Life. 

I know dancers who had been in the same situation. Some waited 6-8 yearsfor their first big contract. Did I really want to wait that long for something that may or may not happen? Could I really sustain this life of a million dumpster jobs until the dance job I wanted surfaced? l was trying to stay with it and as optimistic as possible but all the rejection was emotionally exhausting. I felt like I wasn’t enough and second guessed myself in everything. I felt I was failing in what I sought out to do. Discouraged and disheartened. I played around with the idea of seeking one job that could sustain me. I had no intentions of completely leaving the dance world to find some other career but just wanted some stability. 

The straw that broke the already rickety camel’s back was when a co-worker at my restaurant job text me asking if I had heard if the restaurant closed down. I happened to be close by the café and walked past it to find the sign completely torn down and the windows had been covered with brown paper. The restaurant shut down and the management didn’t even have the courtesy to call and tell us. That lit a fire inside of me that something had to shift.

I had to get creative and make something out of nothing. I investigated receptionist jobs at companies in New York City since I had worked previously as a receptionist at Atlanta Ballet. The starting salaries were more money than I ever thought I would make dancing anywhere so why not? I scraped together my resume and pushed it out to whoever was hiring. I had no clue what I was doing but I submitted to anywhere that I could. Predominantly to stuff on Craigs list. 

Somehow, a few headhunters found my resume and called me in to meet with them and spruce up my skills. I was skeptical of these so-called headhunters because I had never heard of way to get a job like this and I didn't know if I was getting scammed or not. I decided to just go for it because the joke would be on them since I didn't have any money to steal anyway. However they turned out to be legitimate and they saw value in me which was a nice feeling after constant plateaus in the dance world. I interviewed for a few months then I hit gold and landed with my current company. Bye, Bye $8 an hour. I've been with my job for about five years now and although my journey within the company has been anything but smooth (my rocky entrance into corporate life is a whole other story) I'm currently quite content. 

Transition into a space I never thought I would be in taught me I am capable of thinking in ways I never thought I could. It has allowed me to reach other dreams, like moving into a cute apartment in Manhattan, (with no roommates!) and also traveling the world. I've seen Spain, Italy, the UK, Portugal, Cuba, and France. I finally was able to begin to make payments towards my student loan that was just painfully accruing interest because I had to defer it since I couldn't afford to pay it. And maybe most importantly, I've been able to help those who may need a little help financially.

I will always love dance and that won't change. It is inscribed in me forever so will always be part of my life. Not falling into my dream job made me discover more about myself that I even knew was in me.

Here are a few ways to deal with not landing your dream job:

Give yourself a Break
When things aren't going how you want them to it's so easy to beat up on yourself. When you do this, it can feel like everything you're doing is not enough and will make you second guess your decisions. Be kind to yourself. If you are putting in the time and effort to reach your goals, you're doing the right thing. Take a few moments to do something nice for yourself because you deserve it. 

In your current career or job decide: will you stay or will you go? 
If you're having regrets about shifting away from your dream job and feel you want to give it another shot, listen to that voice. Is it realistic to go after what you really want to do? If it is and you want to give it another go, do it. If it doesn't make sense and is unattainable, reevaluate your approach. Maybe what you love could be done as a hobby or on the side. I realize this could be difficult especially if you have anyone depending on you financially. Talk it over with yourself and also whoever may be impacted by your decisions. 

Realize that someone else's successes are not your failures
In other words, stop comparing yourself to other people. Just because one of your peers has reached a goal you haven't yet does not mean you failed. Sometimes I get into a spiral of insta-stalking (thanks social media) someone's life and wishing I had their success but then I have to get a grip. I realize everyone's path is different and what's for me is for me. Then I also remember social media is just a compilation of happy, successful, and very staged moments in someone's life. 

Accept whatever your current career or job is
This. right. here. I had to acknowledge that nothing fulfills me like how art and dance fulfills me. I'm just wired this way and I understand that. Most things, including my current job are not able to touch me in this way. Which is completely OKAY. I'm not saying to settle if you want to reach other goals, but accept what your current job is giving you. And accept what it will not give you. Whether that be fabulous financial stability or loads of personal fulfillment with not so much earning power. If it's not giving you either of those things, get up outta there. 

Talk it out
My entrance into the corporate world left me confused and bewildered (like I said, another story). I had to talk it out so my feelings weren't just bottled up in my head and making me crumble. I talked to family and finally a therapist. Mental health is important and discussing troublesome feelings is an excellent way to cope with what you may be going through.  

Make the most of out of your current situation
So you're not doing what you thought you would be doing. Most people aren't! Whether you decide to pack up and roll out or stay where you're at; continue to want to do well at whatever you're doing. Doors will open because people will see that you're trying and they will want to help you.


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