Professional Development Work-Life Balance

How to Keep Your Dreams and Your Day Job

Written by Miranda Pennington

Kelsey Murphy from the Muse has advice for aspiring globe-trotters and self-re-inventors; she knows from experience the joys and perils of quitting her day job and hopping on a plane to explore a new career while traveling the world. One day, she realized moving to London on a whim wasn’t necessary—there were plenty of opportunities to explore the greener grass much closer to home.


Embrace the Learning Curve

For every new job or challenge I’ve had, there’s been a moment about a week or a month in where I wanted to quit, where the things that stressed me out far overshadowed the things I enjoyed. I was convinced I wasn’t meant to be an editor, a teaching assistant, a writer, a dog-owner, or even a New Yorker.

But in the beginning, nobody’s an expert or a pro, and even if you’re a wunderkind you’ve got plenty to learn on the job. Be willing to screw up, apologize, and learn a new way to do things. The learning curve is even easier to swallow if it’s not a full-time experience—use the security of gainful employment to explore something you’ve always wanted to do on the side in the evenings or on weekends. Don’t let fear of failing keep you from dabbling.


Harness the 15-Minute Intention

If you’re getting swept up in the demands of the minute-to-minute, take some time to refocus on the big picture to-dos. What are you prioritizing? What gets knocked off course by errands or someone else’s urgency?

Try to set aside 15 minutes a day to check in with something important to you, outside your daily grind. Maybe you add it on in the morning, or partition your lunch hour, or have a few quiet minutes right when you get home. There are plenty of productivity apps that can help you mark off the time.


Find a Mentor (A Small One!)

The idea of forging a mentor/mentee relationship from scratch is daunting; I can’t even watch the Karate Kid without my intimacy issues flaring up. But, what Murphy calls a “mini-mentor” can be someone to help you in a small way, with one specific area of your life.

Find one thing you’d like to learn in service of your larger interests, and the right person to ask. It may develop into a larger relationship, or it may conclude with one simple interaction, but either way you’re better off for having sought and accepted help. Plus if you do decide to throw caution to the wind and quit job A in pursuit of passion B, you’ll have at least one potential networking connection!


About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.