At 25, I was offered my dream job as the community editor for a large tech company. I had the opportunity to write and share our members' stories, amplifying their voices. I had spent the last five years freelancing for online magazines, working in marketing departments, and taking all the odd content jobs (raise your hand if you’ve ever been hired to write a random screenplay).
I was thrilled to find a position aligned with my passion; just interviewing for this role morphed my tiny spark into a flame, giving me some much-needed energy and breathing life back into what felt like a stalled career.
However, life is funny. I was diagnosed with cancer the Friday before I was supposed to start. Based on my prognosis, it was highly recommended (I didn’t really have any other option) to start treatment immediately—but the hiring manager was not interested in delaying my start date. So, they revoked the offer.
I was more annoyed than heartbroken at the time—obviously, I had a few bigger things on my mind. Honestly, they did me a favor—I could now focus on getting better and dive into more freelancing work, which gave me the freedom to work when I could.
My cancer diagnosis, and the two and a half years in treatment, were a wake-up call to start living. While I was sorting through the rest of my life, I kept coming back to work. I didn’t know what I wanted to do anymore, but I knew I didn’t want to be stuck doing something that took my energy 40+ hours a week.
Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work
The year I finished chemotherapy, I had five jobs in the following twelve months. I tried several roles, including a full-time position at a cause-based company, a full-time role at a high-paying company, finding my own clients through contract work, agency contract work, and finally, full-time at a company filled with people I enjoyed working with.
To truly find where I wanted to be, I wanted to try on as many hats as possible—much to my husband’s concern (though he tried to hide it well).
I loved the freedom that contracting gave me, but I HATED (and I mean hated, not strongly disliked) having to sell myself constantly. The balance of contracting through an agency was nice, but it didn’t give me the freedom I thought it would.
I found the most joy when working with people who gave me energy and inspired me day in and day out.
Once I figured that out, I found a role with a group of people that did just that. The only issue I had was that I wasn’t in the right position for me—I just didn’t know it.
My A-ha Moment
After the rejection from my dream job, I sort of threw content out the window. Writing became something I did in my downtime; I loved to write and even started my own cancer community, but it wasn’t something I thought I could get back into for work.
However, as time went on, my spark for work dimmed, and a nagging voice kept butting me into content conversations that I wasn’t supposed to be part of.
After cancer, I had switched gears and went all-in with marketing and social media, but honestly, I knew it wasn’t the right move for me. I love to write and edit; organizing content brings me joy, building out content structures, working with people to tell their stories, and building new programs around content is my happy place.
But it took me time to get there. Sometimes, you need to do a bunch of things that don’t bring you joy to finally find your spark. I promise I’m not channeling my inner Marie Kondo here—okay, well, maybe a little.
While I thought finding people who inspired me and gave me energy was the missing piece of the equation—I was wrong; content was the missing piece. Once I figured that out, I had a renewed sense of purpose at work, and my spark grew back into a flame. Working wasn’t work anymore—it came so much easier to me, and I didn’t feel like I was fighting an uphill battle to get my to-do list done.
How to Reignite Your Work Spark
I know I recipe blogger-ed you to get to the good stuff. My sincerest apologies but I hope you at the very least enjoyed the journey to get to where you were going. Okay, how to reignite your spark involves several steps and will take a week-- but honestly, I would recommend tapping back into this activity anytime you feel stuck. You might not get a big "a-ha" moment, but it may help you confirm something you knew deep down. Okay, enough stalling, here is my how to*:
1. Starting today, write down everything that gave you energy while you worked (even if it is at midnight).
2. Do it again tomorrow, the next day, and the day after.
4. Ready? After four days of writing down everything that gave you energy, it’s time to go through that list. Find what is similar and start categorizing based on fields, industries, skills, etc.
5. Okay, now you have a list of everything that gives you energy.
If you’re contracting, think about cutting out the stuff that doesn’t give you energy and focus on what does. It’s hard to turn down money, but it’s also beneficial to do what gives you energy. In my experience, I’m able to pump out things that provide me with energy 3x faster than things that don’t…less time on each project with better results sounds like a win-win to me.
If you’re considering full-time, look for job descriptions that highlight things that give you energy. I’m not going to go Glinda on you and say you’re going to find a job that gives you all the energy and nothing that takes energy—it’s a give and take. But, the closer you get to what gives you energy, the easier it is to work through the things that take energy.
6. Keep working on it! Keep refining the things that give you energy and find ways to work them into your daily routine.
I hope these six steps help you re-discover your spark while navigating your current path and encourage you to focus on the activities within your current role, project load, etc., that bring you the most energy.
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