By Stormie Laine Knott
My v wise friends think I should preface this article by saying that many of the suggestions I make below are pretty risky. Personally, I don’t think they’re that risky, but also I’m crazy. This isn’t a formula for how to change your life – only a journal of how I changed mine. Everyone has their own path, and many people have far greater challenges in life than I do. I still believe, however, that no matter your struggle, intrinsic motivation and a carefully selected support system can empower you to make your dream a reality.
When I decided I wanted to change my life, I had a college degree, $30,000 of debt, and a job I wasn’t very good at and didn’t like very much. In a situation like that, it’s easy to feel stuck. Luckily, I come from a family of people who think they can do anything (and honestly, no one’s proven them wrong yet). With the encouragement of my fam, I doubled my income and became a full time professional graphic designer in just 8 months. Here’s the story of how I did just that.
I quit my job
Okay, maybe this isn’t the best advice, but I knew my mental health was declining rapidly at my current job- so I quit. I quit with no plan and no certainty. I got a temporary job as a nanny to support myself, and focused all my energy on finding out what I wanted my life to be like.
I stopped making excuses
As a 24 year old with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and humanities, I didn’t think I was ready to switch careers. My college career taught me how to care for others well and pursue truth, goodness, and beauty, but it didn’t really prepare me to work anywhere outside of social work or church institutions, which I wasn’t emotionally prepared to do (#MajorDepressiveDisorder).
I fought through the feeling of being unqualified and told myself I deserved to love my life. I took a hard look at what I loved and what I had some experience doing, and saw that I needed to be in a creative field. My creative experience consisted of this: I took one drawing class in high school and one in college, taught art to kids in afterschool programs for a few years in college, volunteered as an art director for a small theatre troupe, and I’d self taught myself how to use Illustrator for a few simple flyers while working at the church (probably equivalent to one week of experience in a college illustrator class). It wasn’t much, certainly not enough to get me started in a new career, but it was something. I knew I needed to stop making excuses, and that if I couldn’t do it afraid, I would never do it. So I made a choice to become a graphic designer, and promised myself I would do whatever it took to get there.
I manifested it (lol LAME)
Laugh all you want, but I’m not the only one who thinks setting your intentions seriously gives you an edge. As a young actor with no certainty of success, Jim Carrey wrote himself a ten million dollar check. One year later, he cashed it. Maybe he manifested it, maybe it was white privilege, but either way, he’s the one with a ten million dollar check.
Once I decided to become a designer, I set my intentions. If anyone asked me what I was up to, I told them the truth: I am a nanny, but soon I will be a professional artist. I said it with confidence. I knew I wasn’t good and I knew I had a long way to go, but I wasn’t scared to believe that I would get there. I didn’t doubt myself, which meant no one else doubted me either. I practiced reading, thinking, and talking like a designer. I believed I would become a designer.
I took stock of my connections and I asked for opportunities
I left my pride at the door and asked anyone and everyone for opportunities to freelance. Old friends, new friends, strangers, family members. And you know what? It got me jobs. A lot of jobs, actually. In the course of eight months I gathered several freelance clients, an internship, a part time design job, and finally the full time design job that I’m in now. Before I asked, I didn’t think I knew anyone who could help me get a job. Its amazing who comes out of the woodwork when you really need that lucky break and are brave enough to ask for it.
I said yes even if I hadn’t yet learned how to complete the project
This one is risky. People are counting on you. But if you’ve got that fire that says you will find a way no matter what, then this is the route you need to take. Before I even got an internship, in my very first month of pursuing design, my friend advocated for me to get a one-off freelance project from her company. With all their other contracted freelancers busy, my friend’s company hired me. They told me they wanted me to edit a Photoshop file for print. Guess how many times I had used Photoshop before taking this opportunity? Zero. But they never asked me if I knew how to use Photoshop, they only asked me if I could do it. And you know what? I knew I could. Yeah, you could call it sneaky or cocky, but you could also call it determination. It took me like four hours to do a poster that would now take me 20 minutes, but in the end I provided the company with great work at a better price than any other freelancer, and to this day they continue to hire me for freelance work.
I worked my ass off
Leslie Knope said it best, “There’s nothing we can’t do if we work hard, never sleep, and shirk all other responsibilities in our lives.” Though I don’t recommend living this philosophy long term, it worked for me during my eight month career transition. I worked eight hour days and went home and worked more: I didn’t have a computer, so I borrowed my stepdad’s super slow pc laptop, borrowed my friend’s creative suite, and subscribed to Lynda.com to learn as much as I could. I let myself become obsessed with design.
I decided that the fear of not living my dream was greater than my fear of failure
I put together an Instagram, a website, and a design resume, even though I didn’t feel ready to land a job as a full time graphic designer. So when some of my best friends texted me asking if I could come in for an interview for a design job in their company, I was there within two hours. When I first got that text, everything in me wanted to say no. I was terrified – what if they laughed at me in the interview, or what if I got it and then tanked in my first few months? Then I realized I was not willing to let my pride get in the way of my dream. I could recover from failure; I couldn’t recover a lost opportunity. So I went to that interview, landed that job, got a raise within the first month, and am now in my second year there as a full time designer with no plans to leave any time soon. Paired with freelance work, this career move doubled my income and set me up to grow in a career I know I will love for years to come.
Did I get lucky? Maybe. But in the wise words of Earl Nightingale, “luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity.” The more we prepare for our dreams to come true, the more likely it is that we’ll catch that insane, one-in-a-million break. What steps are you taking to make your goals reality? Comment below!