How to curate your work-life experience (5 of my tips)

Most of us will experience moments in life when everything just falls into place (or apart) and change becomes inevitable.

My moment of change was not really that dramatic, but I was sooo sick of hospitality.

After years of waiting tables in Sweden, Norway, Spain and Australia, I decided that it was time to move on – and find something I actually cared about.

Once I had set the intention to change, it was impossible not to obsess about it.

I used to print small pieces of receipt paper in the restaurant during my breaks, and write down what I wished for in my next job (these are real examples from one of those lists):

  • Wear whatever I want, no uniform or apron
  • Be able to wear heels to work
  • Learn new things every day
  • Have long nails
  • Experience cool work-related events (lol)
  • Travel with work
  • Meet inspiring people that have jobs I want

To my 22-year-old self, those things seemed so far away, yet today I have ticked them all off.

I still list my dreams regularly, to remind myself of where I want to go.

Whether you are a student, a graduate or just tired of your job or industry, there are tricks you can use to curate your lifestyle in a way that positions you for the job you want.

How to curate your own work experience

… and what has worked for me:

1. Identify your values and the industry you wish to work in 

This is more for those of you who are unhappy in your current industry (e.g. me at the end of my hospitality career) or don’t have enough experience to enter the sector you’re interested in.

Fashion, for instance, is a popular industry but offers few opportunities for people without previous experience.

Remember that you are looking for an area you’d be interested in working in, not just a subject that you are curious about. For example, I am fascinated by neuroscience, but that does not mean I should work in a lab.

Make the distinction between your general interests and your ambition.

You should also consider your values; do you want to make a lot of money? Or would you prioritise more time with your family?

TIP: Think about who you are to your friends and family; what are you good at? What do people ask your advice on or assistance with? I always helped my friends with social media, writing and encouraged their crazy dreams – all of which have influenced my current career.

2. Commit to a life-long learning process

If you’re serious about curating your own work experience, it doesn’t matter if you’re studying, graduating or entering a new industry; you have to stay up-to-date with where your chosen industry is going.

Make sure you subscribe to relevant blogs or magazines, follow leaders in the field on social media and perhaps join some online community groups.

Make it your mission to find out what skills will be on demand in the next few years and learn them.

This list gives you a pretty good idea of the skills that are trending and declining worldwide:

You don’t need any experience in the industry to learn the basics of how it works;

Watch YouTube tutorials, take free online courses, access your local library, volunteer for relevant community projects or join MeetUps or other seminars in your area.

For some of you, this might be enough to change your mood – no job change needed. Filling out your days with things you are passionate about will have a huge impact on the day-to-day feels.

However, say you want to work in fashion:

If you join a fashion MeetUp, volunteer at fashion week and simultaneously blog about your insights then…Voilá. You’ve just started curating your lifestyle and you have immediately positioned yourself as a more employable fashion candidate (this is literally how influencers are born).

TIP:  I highly recommend reading the World Economic Forum, as they provide incredible insights on the Future of Work. If you are interested in how these changes may affect your industry, you can have a look at the graph below or read the whole report here.

3.     Show the world who you are

You are probably going to hate this one, but it is the most important point on this list.

Like most people today, you are more likely to meet your next employer online than in person. That’s why you have to make sure the online version of yourself is as good as you want to be.

Find the channels that are the most relevant for your industry, and start by building your brand there. I know it can feel weird at first, but once you get over that initial bump, you’ll get used to it. You can then slowly become more visible (and opinionated) as you find your own tone and voice.

I am a student myself,  but I’m also freelancing and juggling a couple of clients right now. Could I have done that without a good online presence? No way José.

TIP: Make sure your public social media accounts are professional and consistent. Use the same, appropriate photo for all channels and always use your own name (if by some godforsaken reason you have not yet upgraded from your sweet_girl_93@hotmail address, now is the time).

Also, use your titles or taglines as an opportunity to clearly state your ambition. For example:

“Anna Andersson – PR student and gardening enthusiast (blogger at melbourneflorist.com) ”

This will immediately lead people to associate you with your PR degree and your passion for gardening.

Communication Management at Parks and Recreation, here you come.

4. Find an employer that offers flexible working arrangements

This does not mean that you can pack your bags and head to Fiji, rather it offers the flexibility to start later one morning or squeeze in a yoga class during your lunch break – while still completing your job in a dedicated timeframe.

Having a more flexible role is a great option for those of you who already have experience but want to explore other industries. For example, you could choose to work at 75%, and spend that extra time starting a side business, or supporting community initiatives or non-profits. It all depends on your own values – do you want more free time or more money?

Alternatively, you might look at breaking free completely and start a freelancing career (you’ll want to think long and hard about this one).

Everyone has their own preferred way of working, and being with a company that respects that will have a massive impact on your ability to curate your own dream schedule.

5. Do internships to gain relevant experience

If you can’t get the job you want with your current resume – fill it out with the stuff that will.

My big dream when leaving hospitality was fashion. I know, you don’t just “start working in fashion”, but I was fortunate enough to get an internship through a friend in the industry.

I worked there for months, without pay, only to get a foot in the door (I was still working weekends in a bar, and yes I was very, very poor).

I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but other alternatives include volunteering at events or requesting a “ghosting session”.

Ha! Never heard of that one?

The “ghosting session” is when you ask an employer whether you can come in and follow the person (or team) for a day or two. If she or he is too busy to host a full internship position, this may be a good compromise. This strategy was recommended by my University lecturer and apparently worked really well for previous students.

Final thoughts

Curating your work experience is so much fun and will completely change your days if you let it. It’s all about how you prioritise your work and life.

~ A fine balance between passion and career development ~

It has certainly worked for me – I do heaps of stuff I enjoy and it’s getting better and crazier every month.

While I encourage everyone to go easy on themselves in the beginning, make sure you’re not procrastinating. Just start doing stuff. Explore your options. Crafting your personal brand takes time and effort; so the earlier you get started the better.

…and don’t even think about figuring everything out at once.

Three years ago I desperately wanted to work in fashion, and now I’m eyeing out corporate jobs in the global sector.

You just have to trust your ability to make it work, even though you don’t know exactly what it is yet.

-M

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