Last September, I got an amazing chance to go to FinCon, a financial media conference, in New Orleans. While I was there, I got to meet a lot of my fellow bloggers and freelancers whom I had previously only e-known. But more importantly, I had the opportunity to network with some people that helped me pivot my writing career in a direction I never thought would happen so quickly.
It wasn’t without a detour though, which seems to be my modus operandi. Last October, I wrote about what I learned getting turned down by my dream job. This was my reaction after being rejected for a staff writing position with NerdWallet. I was devastated. The opportunity was three of my favorite things all rolled into one–my family (I’d be working from home), personal finance and writing. During the process, though, my inexperience presented itself pretty glaringly and they politely said, “No thanks.” In the end, I was happy I put myself out there, and I felt like I had some good things going for me anyway with a new client that I also met at FinCon.
Over the few months writing for that client, there was a huge demand for articles, each of which was very research-intensive. The first couple of months were hell as I tried to juggle all that with my other freelance clients and my full-time job. However, during that process, I got a lot of great feedback on my writing and really learned to hone my style and voice. So when NerdWallet came back a couple of months ago and asked me to apply again, I knew exactly why I didn’t make it the first time and what I needed to do in order to make it this time.
And guess what? It worked! 🙂
So then, what have I learned this time around?
You can get bitter or you can get better
During my more recent interview process with NerdWallet, I mentioned the post I wrote about what I learned when they turned me down. As I looked back on it, I was grateful that I took that opportunity to improve rather than being bitter about it, and that I had something I could show them about that process I went through. That’s a huge step up from my experience right out of college when I was trying to get a job at Wal-Mart’s corporate office. The entire year 2013 was filled with bitterness, and you want to know what? It did nothing to help me succeed.
As upset as I was about being turned down for my dream job, I took the editor’s feedback and let it drive me to hone my craft and to be more open to making the changes I needed to get closer to one day being a great writer. Also can you imagine how awkward it would be if I was bitter and shared that with the world? I never would have gotten a second chance.
Never ever ever ever give up on your dream. Ever.
I don’t know if every other writer goes through what I go through, but there are times when I get really self-conscious about my writing skills, and getting rejected really doesn’t help. Usually when I start to feel that way, I start to wonder if I should just quit…give up on this pipe dream. Maintain my current client base, but just keep it at that. After all, I have zero writing background beyond my recent freelancing. I didn’t study it in college. I’m not an AP Style guru. I’m just not good enough.
But I realized that the only way I can reach the potential of what I’m passionate about, is to chase that dream either until I die or until I catch it. Fortunately for me, I only had to wait a few months to take that next step toward catching it. Things are still evolving, and I think they always will, but I know I’m on the right path here.
Hustle your pants off
As I sat down for lunch with NerdWallet’s Director of Content yesterday, she told me that one of the things that impressed her when she saw my resume and interviewed me was the fact that I was able to balance all of my freelance work with a full-time job. Obviously, I wasn’t doing it to impress anyone, but it was part of the reason why she felt I was someone they wanted on the team. It’s a good reminder for me now to ask myself on a regular basis what I’m doing with my free time. Am I wasting it on Netflix or surfing the Internets? Or am I using it effectively?
Treat failure like a springboard
One thing I love about NerdWallet is how it views failure. One of the first things we did in orientation was write down a failure and stick it on the Fail Wall. Everyone fails, but our society wants us to think that’s a bad thing. Making mistakes in school, for example, is the absolute worst thing you can do. There’s no forgiveness for doing poorly on a test, even if it’s because you were out of school for a month with mono and the teacher didn’t give you all the materials he covered as he promised (true life story). This paradigm clobbers us into inaction, leaving us terrified to do anything courageous, in case things things don’t work out.
We’re not born with that mentality, by the way. I wonder how many times I fell on my butt before I learned to walk. I wonder how often I had accidents until I was fully potty-trained. I still wonder how many times I have to spill food on my shirt before I learn how to eat like a normal person.
The moral of this story is that I felt like a failure when I was turned down by NerdWallet the first time, but that feeling of failure turned into fuel to change what needed to be changed so I could succeed if given another chance, here or elsewhere.
I’m more than stoked that chance came here 🙂
How have you learned from your failures and shortcomings?