I often don’t find the time to write about my work experiences outside of web design. Like many aspiring freelance web designers I have a day job which is very different than what I generally use seandfeeney.com for. For no other reason than, it is hard to write about confidential initiatives that are not finalized. To give a brief background, I spend most of my time working as a Program Manager, by way of a Technical Support Engineer, in the remote technical customer services division of EMC Corp.
I didn’t get into this Program Manager role by waiting around for someone to recognize my skills and offer me a position. It rarely works that way. The core of what I am about to discuss stems all the way back to when I was 13 and got my first job working for parking at Foxboro Stadium (now Gillette Stadium, yes where the Patriots play). I started out as the low man on the totem pole and was told, do this, go here and wave the flag. I did this for a little while but, the days dragged on and I quickly began to find what I was doing very boring. Here I am a teenager surrounded by people partying and I was bored. In order to make my time work for me, I started slowly but surely, acting as a leader in the parking lots I worked in. Within a very short period of time, I was among the youngest employees that was a lot supervisor in some of the busiest locations at Foxboro/Gillette Stadium.
It is this work ethic, that has allowed me in just about any job I have ever worked in, to do the job I want, not only the job I am told to. Of course, you can’t just do whatever you want because someone would probably complain that you are not doing your job; however, you can do a variation of your job which satisfies the requirements of why you were hired and allows you to do something that helps develop the skill-set you aspire to do with the added benefit of discovering what your true passion is.
What should you do?
Ask, ask, and ask again to be involved in tasks, projects and initiatives where ever you can. Keep asking and throw yourself into anything you can get your hands on, especially early on in your career. What this will do is force you to live outside your comfort zone and you will quickly see that you can do it; Then, it will suddenly become less of an issue with confidence because you will look back and say, “that wasn’t so bad!”
Sure, you will probably from time to time work on projects and initiatives that are not that thrilling and they may not yield much benefit but, keep you head high and push right through it. On the other side, you will learn some valuable information like, what you don’t want to do with your career, how to avoid it, who does what in your company, gain a larger personal network, etc.
Some jobs and companies may not have a whole lot of opportunities to take on additional tasks. The mere fact that you even ask often shows your interest in going above and beyond and instantly allows you to gain credibility and puts you in the minds of your seniors / managers. When the next time an opportunity actually does come up, you will be at the top of the list of people to go to.
Building a resume by doing it
When I first started finding my interests in technology, I didn’t know a lot of people in the field and getting my name out there wasn’t easy. I found the only way to learn something was by doing it. For the longest time, I struggled with the very first step. Where do you start? I used to read and read and read and never found a good answer to that question until, it finally clicked. Start anywhere!
I know it seems too easy and you can often question it, “Start anywhere? Where is anywhere?” but, it really doesn’t matter where you start. Sure, some starting points get you on the right track faster but, you will often never know until you do it and find out what the best path was, when you look back on it. Even if you start off on the wrong foot, you will learn it is the wrong foot and that will often narrow down your paths to take from there, making your next move that much more clear.
Let’s take a look at my web design work for instance. Starting out, I didn’t know anyone who did web design. With no connections and no clients who will trust your work because you don’t have any experience? So, I just started coding. I started with a personal blog, asked around at my college for extra work, got the option to work on a section of the schools website, then a client, AfternoonCrash.com, and more and more clients have been coming. Why did this happen? Because I asked for more and just started somewhere, anywhere. I am certain that some of the work I do now will be less meaningful in the future and I will have to move on from it but, that doesn’t matter. Optimizing your time, comes with time. Meaning, in due time you will learn what is and isn’t working for you.
Why should you listen to me?
You shouldn’t. You should be getting out there and making it happen. Don’t be afraid to try new things because whether it is positive or negative, you can always learn something about yourself and about others from the experience. All I can say is, I did this and went form being the shy, low man on the totem pole with little confidence in myself to working directly a global senior director of a very well known corporation and leading / participating in many global initiatives. Best of all, I learn everyday what many of my strengths and weaknesses are. I learn what jobs and opportunities are right for me. I also know that in any position I’ve had, I was often looked at as one of the more counted on, “go to” employees.
Good luck! Remember, always use your experiences as an experiment and learn from your successes and failures. EVERYONE FAILS, it is truly always an option.