I’ve always valued financial independence. From an early age, my mom taught me how important it is to be able to support myself. I’ve really taken that to heart. I don’t ever want to be a situation, whether it’s due to a job or relationship, where I can’t leave because of financial reasons.
It’s that advice that stuck with me through college and as I entered into the workforce. In fact, I can’t remember a time in the last five years when I haven’t had a primary job plus several supplemental gigs.
In high school, that primary job was working as a cashier at a local fast food joint. Now, to be totally honest, I HATED that job. The grease-stained pants, dealing with rude customers and the excessively long showers immediately after work to avoid smelling like french fries were just a few of the reasons why I wasn’t sad to let that job go. But, I worked there 20 hours a week through my senior year of high school to be able to pay for my car insurance and gas—a requirement from my parents. On the side, I used to babysit, petsit and housesit, which is something I enjoyed a bit more.
Then, college came around. I had multiple gigs in college. From working as a virtual legal assistant and making sandwiches at Subway to being a TA and so forth.
After I graduated, I found myself in the same boat as so many other recent grads—UNEMPLOYED in a very tough economy. I knew I had to find work and continue to build professional connections. So, I hopped on the part-time job bandwagon through connections from a prior unpaid internship. I was able to get a part-time gig (30 hours a week) working at a local TV station. While it wasn’t ideal and certainly didn’t pay all the bills, I would be getting valuable experience in my field, which is exactly what I needed. On the side, I continued to work remotely for a company I worked for in college. I also wanted to expand my experience and take advantage of my web and social media skills. So, I decided to build websites and do some social media consulting on the side for some “pocket money.”
And now, I find myself starting a new chapter in my life. I’m balancing a full-time job in my field with occasional freelance work (like website development, video editing and social media consulting from time-to-time).
I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been networking the entire time. I can’t stress this enough. NETWORKING is key. Both online and offline. You never know where you may get that next big opportunity. Networking doesn’t just happen at a professional conference. A conversation with friends and acquaintances at a bar could just as likely lead to more opportunities. It’s the same with online networking. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (to name a few) are so valuable to opening up the lines of communication. At a certain point, it’s important to take those connections offline; this might involve a “tweet up” or even a phone call or Skype video chat if an in-person meet up isn’t possible.
But ultimately, what works for me won’t work for everyone. I’ve always been a very driven person, who doesn’t mind working long hours with little sleep to get what I want professionally. YOU are the one, who has to decide what you value. Do you highly value financial independence? Or, do you just want to continue searching for a job in the traditional fashion until you find that “perfect” gig? I’ll let you decide.
Jessica Malnik is a Gen Y blogger and social media enthusiast. For Jessica's social media, technology and workplace ramblings, please visit her blog or contact her on Twitter.
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