Friday, October 22, 2010

"What Are Your Qualifications?"

In my non-freelancing life, I work for a nonprofit and talk a lot about career awareness and job readiness. Professionals from all walks of life set out on a particular career path, but many find themselves doing something completely different—often something they never imagined they’d be doing! If you really sit and think about it (or ask someone), tracing a person’s professional journey is pretty fascinating.

So that got me thinking.

Most of us fall into one of two camps I touched on above—we’re either working at a job or career we’ve always loved and always wanted to pursue, or we’re doing something else “for now” and keeping our true passions as a side project. I’m curious about how many of you reading this set out to be writers (or any creative professional), and who sort of fell into it?

I’ll go first. My road has been long and winding, with plenty of detours and backtracking along the way. I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know enough about the possibilities to feel comfortable enough to pursue it full-time. But I didn’t really know what else I could see myself doing besides writing. (Journalism wasn’t my thing, though oddly enough my first freelance assignments came from newspapers.) I tried to lay the groundwork so “the perfect job” would somehow magically appear. I majored in English with a focus on communications because it seemed the most marketable. I struck out on interview after interview for marketing jobs, so I landed in the nonprofit sector and have been there ever since. But writing and literature remained a huge part of my life and I never lost the desire to work at it in some way. Most of what I’ve learned about freelancing I’ve learned through trial and error and asking other freelancers. I decided to get my Master’s in English so that I have more opportunities for teaching.

Now you. Did anyone earn a degree in writing or communications? Who came up the old-fashioned way—learning as you went along, or branching out into a particular niche after gaining experience in a particular field? Any advanced degrees? Has it helped you? I’d love to know!

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