I never envisioned a specific career. As a child, I dreamed of being an author, getting married, and writing for the rest of my days. Instead, I found myself working with a global nonprofit and tucked my manuscripts away to focus on learning everything I could about fundraising.
And I loved it. My passion for writing was put to good use. But I also realized I didn’t want to stay in that organization forever, so I handed in my notice and took a hiatus before starting in sales with a consulting agency.
These are a few lessons I’ve learned as a woman building her own path.
This was hard for me but here’s the truth: the organization you work for will never be as loyal to you as you are to them. You might work for incredible companies but at the end of the day, you need to be your own advocate.
One organization I worked with had a culture where no one got promotions - I decided to see if I could change that. I created reports on the growth we saw from my strategies, approached the head of my department to ask for a promotion, and was pleasantly surprised when they agreed.
Build your case for the value you bring to the table and stand up for your career.
Don’t waste time on projects that get you nowhere.
Many women accept projects they are overqualified for (or underpaid for) simply because someone asked them. Be humble and if you need to chip for a friend or boss, of course, do that. But don’t be lulled into apathy by your comfort zone.
One of my mentors recommended an excellent book called The Brand You that discusses building your portfolio of “wow” projects that you’re passionate about. Rather than spending time chasing a paycheck or title, spend time pursuing “wow” projects.
Be thoughtful about your work and ask questions like:
• Am I learning a new skill-set?
• Can I learn from someone I admire?
• Does this broaden or deepen my expertise?
• Is the paycheck helping me reach my goals? (Sometimes I take work that doesn’t advance my career but gives me flexibility to invest in a passion project.)
If the answer is no more than one or two of these, it’s time to reevaluate.
“And then there’s the most dangerous risk of all, the risk of spending your life not doing what you want, on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” - Komisar.
This lesson I just started learning from my brilliant photojournalist sister, Hailey Sadler.
I have no issue buying shoes or a plane ticket or a delicious dinner. However, I never thought about investing financially in becoming an author until Hailey encouraged me to apply for a writers’ workshop. That led me to a conversation with a friend about editors. I did my research, hired an editor, and I’m thrilled to take steps towards doing what I love. Don’t ask anyone else to invest in your dreams if you aren’t willing to.
How can you proactively move towards the career you want?
Maybe it’s learning a new language like Hailey did so she’s equipped to interact with and show respect to people in the regions she works in.
Maybe it’s buying software to learn editing or finding a friend in the industry you’re interested in and taking them to coffee. Whatever your passion is: Invest your time. Invest your finances. Invest your creativity.
Do not give the dregs of your energy to what you care about most. It’s difficult, but don’t wait for the perfect time. The truth is: you make time for what you value.
This is hard in our culture, even in the new normal. The Power of Moments talks about the importance of high-quality leisure. We often substitute high-quality leisure (cooking, kayaking with friends, learning a skill, or gardening) with low-quality activities (like vegging in front of the TV or social scrolling).
The purpose of rest is refreshment.
Find a couple of practices that truly refresh you. Jess, a wise mentor and friend, gave me good advice on finding creative energy: be inspired by an outlet or medium different from your own. If you need inspiration for your art, read or cook. If you need inspiration for your work, go for a walk or get coffee with a friend.
Careers in America are very formulaic. It’s expected that you will always choose the higher-paying job and climb as high on the corporate ladder as possible. But there’s incredible value in widening your skillset. Don’t be afraid if your career path looks a little less tidy than your peers.
My wild and wonderful Aunt Lori gave me some advice: plan on having at least five “careers”. She recommended viewing your career in chunks over your life where you try different industries. (If you know exactly what you want, then run after it.) But for most of us who are figuring out how we can make a difference, don’t be afraid to pivot.
Really ponder the life you want. What brings you meaning? What gives you joy? What makes you feel alive? Pursue your passion with the conviction that God placed this desire in you and invest in building a meaningful career.
Ellery Frost believes in celebrating joy and creating connection through food, art, and stories. She's a passionate world traveler and writer who partners with nonprofits and humanitarian organizations to bring their stories to life. You can find her at elleryfrost.com and follow her love affair with food on Instagram @therealpersnicketychef.