Dress for the Job You Want…Not the Job You Have

How often have you heard this phrase? Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If you and I had a buck for every time we’ve heard this advice, we could probably go travel the world together.

Because I do have a sarcastic bone or two in my body, my response to this advice used to be, “How are jeans, a hoodie, and flip flops going to get me a job as a writer?” (At least, that was my fantasy: dressed accordingly, sitting on the beach, while typing out a 75,000-word novel.) But that dress code doesn’t fly in most circles and, besides, I just didn’t see the logic.

A Revelation

Six years into a career managing the print and graphic design department at a pharmaceutical company, I was still mulling over this question. I had my degree in graphic design and was working in my career field. That was a huge blessing as graphic design jobs can be few and far between where we live. However, I still felt my calling was writing. How did I get from where I was to where my heart longed to be?

One morning, about 300 emails into my day, a revelation snapped like a rubber band across my brain: Dressing for the job you want has less to do with what outfit you’re wearing and more about your attitude.

How are you clothing your heart? Are you wearing determination like a belt? Does perseverance cover you like a cloak? Is courage supporting your feet?

Every morning when your feet hit the floor, it’s important to clothe your heart in these things. By doing so, you’ll make great strides toward your dreams and goals. But where to start? Here are 3 practical ways for you to dress for the job you want and make strides toward achieving it.

1) Take a Step Every Day

You have a dream, a goal, and a passion to get there. Great! Now, what’s the first step? It is so easy to feel overwhelmed when you are starting out. If you’re like me, you want to discover the fastest road and the path of least resistance to the goal. In truth, finding your dreams involves a lot of trial and error, detours, and off-roading. Many people allow themselves to be overwhelmed, and that gets the best of them. They give up before they’ve even started.

Don’t be one of these people. Take that first step.

Is it scary? Absolutely. It took me a solid week to click “publish” on my first blog. I was terrified out of my mind to put myself out there and to let others read my writing. But excitement for the possibilities outweighed the fear and, as I look back, it’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done!

So whatever dreams and goals you want to chase, it all starts by taking that first step. Create a plan that you can approach daily. It may be helpful to write down one thing that you will do each day on your calendar. Check it off when you’ve accomplished it. You don’t have to tackle your whole “to do” list at once. Spread it out, climb one step at a time and, before you know it, you’ll be at the top of the staircase.

2) Learn Something New

Contrary to another adage about old dogs, you’re never too old to learn something new. We are wired to constantly be learning, growing, and improving ourselves. The more that you can do this, the better shape you will be in when trying to reach your goals.

The opportunities are endless for you to learn new things: libraries, online learning, classes, etc. Perhaps you want to learn a new skill, or learn more about a concept, or even try your hand at a new hobby. Take that first step and give it a shot. Even if what you are learning doesn’t directly apply to your current job or the one you hope to have, learning new things helps keep our minds sharp and agile.

I am constantly learning new concepts and skills when it comes to my writing. However, it involves hours of extracurricular activities. I learn by reading articles and pieces by other authors in my genre. I spend hours researching and visiting places that appear in my stories, or learning a new skill that my characters know.

Another key component to learning is practicing what you learn. Most people can’t sit down and play a Mozart concerto on the first try. It takes hours of practice to learn how to play the piano and master such a difficult piece. Malcolm Gladwell states that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any given subject. Similarly, it will take hours of practice for you to improve your skills and be able to use them to tackle your dreams.

3) Create Connections

We were not created to go at life alone. Relationships with other people can help us to grow in many different ways. Creating connections with others can encourage us, teach us, and offer us windows of opportunity that might otherwise not be available.

Reach out to people who are doing the same thing that you want to do and who are successful at it. These people can be excellent mentors and can offer you great insight and advice. They know the ropes; why not let them help you along the route?

Some of the best friendships that I have were sparked by connections I made with other authors and writers. Not only have I gained encouragement and insight as I navigate my writing journey, but I have found amazing people to laugh and cry with, to celebrate successes with, and with who I can enjoy life’s moments. You never know how important that person can become to you, and what a blessing they may be in your life. You only need to have the courage to reach out. 

Role Models

Think of someone that you admire who has been successful in reaching their dreams. Perhaps it’s an actor or actress, a writer, musician, scientist, medical professional, or someone in the career field that you are pursuing. Look up their story on Google or, if you are blessed to know them personally, ask them to tell you about it. You’ll quickly discover that their success didn’t happen overnight. Chances are, there were a lot of blood, sweat, and tears involved on the journey.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Ursula LeGuin, an award-winning novelist. She showed me a rejection letter that she had once received for The Left Hand of Darkness —  proof that even she had an uphill battle to making her dream job a reality. That conversation with her has inspired and encouraged me for years.

Find a person or two who you admire that can inspire you and be a role model. Let their story encourage you on your own journey and give you hope that you too can achieve your goals.

Go Get It!

These three tips are a good starting point when dressing for the job you want. Whether it’s a dream or goal you’re chasing, or a change in career, if you are intentional in doing these things, you are on the right track. It may not be easy (in fact, I can promise it won’t be), but the people you meet and the things you will learn on the way will make it all worthwhile. Reach for your dreams, have courage, and go get it!

© 2020 Carol Cuppy. All rights reserved.

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