How I Arrived at My Dream Job Despite Battling With Illness
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” — Confucius
This was the plan when I decided I was going to go to fashion school. However, one of the biggest challenges when faced with chronic illness was knowing it would be difficult to find a job in fashion that would accommodate my needs — a “sit-down” job that is rewarding, exciting and pays well — and I would have to accept whatever I could find, even though I’ve never been one to settle. What you may not realize is that it’s hard to get a job in fashion without prior entry-level experience in retail – which is nearly impossible when you’re unable to stand for long hours, can’t do heavy lifting and using ladders is out of the question (due to postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS) — and you were denied the right of passage of a “first job” during high school due to a low white blood cell count (see my article on thyroid cancer for more on this).
POTS and thyroid cancer disqualified me from a lot of things. It can be incredibly isolating when you’re sitting on the sidelines, but what I loved about social media was that I could still be my bubbly self, as it allowed me to have the interaction with other people that I thrived on, even on days when I couldn’t leave my bed. As my “dream job” evolved, this made getting my master’s degree in PR and journalism all the more worth it.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only millennial vying for a remote job in this competitive field. When I dealt with rejection, what I did might surprise you — I refused to give up on my dream. I joined LinkedIn, added valuable connections as though my life depended on it and, sure enough, opportunity found me, and what followed changed my life.
Soon I was “discovered” by Brian, who was looking for someone with experience in my field to bounce ideas off of. I was eager to help and full of good ideas – my hard work and dedication made me indispensable. I became the communications director for Brian and his business partner Matt’s company that they didn’t realize they needed — and to me, this was likely the opportunity of a lifetime. Neither one of us knew at the time that this would be my actual dream job. It gave me the autonomy to carry out my creative vision, while enabling me to work remotely, sometimes from the waiting room at the doctor’s office. But best of all, I was able to use my expertise to create a lifestyle brand and grow our following, while supporting causes I believed in.
But opportunity did not stop there: as I garnered quite the reputation as the local social media guru, I’ve realized even bigger dreams. I had found my niche and I eventually went on to lay the foundations for starting my own business as a consultant, advising new brands on developing their image and expanding their following.
It was through my friends, Brian and Matt, that I met Ben, and everything came full-circle when I jumped on board with a cause that hit close to home — I knew for sure this was my true calling. Ben created a cosmetic company, Amend, which is geared toward men struggling with skin imperfections. This struck a nerve, as I remembered what it was like to feel self-conscious about my thyroidectomy scar — my preoccupation with these feelings had begun to impose an obstacle that was getting in the way of enjoying things I had been looking forward to and from being myself.
In fact, the first time I went out without the bandages was prom — I mentioned this to my makeup artist and she did her best to conceal my scar. I was instantly uplifted and the anxiety went away. But what if I had been unable to ask for what I needed? As a woman, make-up is accessible to me; I could not imagine what it would be like for a guy to feel out of place asking for concealer — since there is, of course, a stigma attached to men’s skin care, which is an unfortunate drawback for many.
You see, this particular experience played a role in choosing to pursue my fashion degree. While it might seem almost unbelievable that my outward appearance had such a profound affect on my emotional and physical well-being, the power of the mind is a complicated thing to understand, as those who are battling chronic illnesses know all too well. From there, I set out to establish Ben’s brand as a source for fashion tips, motivation, skincare topics, etc., because to me, confidence is achieved at different levels: mind, body and soul. It has always been a dream of mine to give back, and this allows me to give others something priceless: self-confidence.
I assumed my chronic illnesses would get in the way of my dream — but now I realize I never had to let go of it after all. To anyone else facing a similar struggle, don’t get discouraged if you can’t find the job you’re looking for. Sometimes you have to find a problem and offer the best solution for it. I found a demand for my skills and made a business out of it. Even though my path was rather unconventional, I got there. And everything fell into place.
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