What To Do When Your Career Lacks Purpose

What To Do When Your Career Lacks Purpose

I didn’t always know what I wanted to do with my career. Growing up, I was never academic and even today, as I type this, my dyslexia takes over and I have to re-write the sentence a few times. But I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I was taught from a young age that if you want something you have to earn the money to buy it. So I got my first job when I was just 13 years old and throughout my high school years I worked for a video store, a clothing store and a takeaway shop just to earn enough to be able to buy what I wanted. When I finished high school I kept working in retail. It was easy to get a job in retail as it used my key skills I had at the time (selling and communicating). Plus, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do long term.

I also didn’t think I could achieve much else at the time. This is because I didn’t fit in the school system’s education box and consequently I didn’t get good grades. In fact I almost failed high school.

Following high school, I had a number of “jobs”, including waitress, retail manager and even a swimsuit model, but nothing that felt like a career path. I guess you could say I had lost my way during my early 20’s.

There was nothing I was passionate about, from a job perspective. However what I did love was learning about personal development and the mindset. My mum introduced me to the movie The Secret in 2003 and I was inspired by this new way positive thinking. (Although the movie did get a lot of criticism for focusing too much on the wishful positive thinking and not enough on the action that goes with manifesting your dream life.)

After watching that movie, I took initiative to find my purpose. I enrolled in personal development workshops and wanted to further my skills in business, so I also attended marketing, business and even corporate finance workshops.

Image: Pinterest

It wasn’t until I started my first tech project did I start to really find that feeling of I think I’ve found something that really excites me and challenges me at the same time. I was 26 and my girlfriend and I came up with this idea for a dating website. I wasn’t single at the time but my friend was, so the website was called Fancy My Friend. We had no idea what we were doing so it’s not surprising that we did everything wrong: we hired a developer in India and wasted $15,000 in time and money.

Following Fancy My Friend I created an app called Fancied. I raised about $300,000 in funding and had a deal with a national media company which would mean we would be able to promote our app directly to our target demographic. Things were looking very promising, but then Tinder entered the market, and was a viral machine that we just couldn’t compete with. Despite gaining thousands of users in the first two months of launch, we couldn’t scale as easily as we’d hoped, so we had to keep improving the backend which required more development work and more money. Eventually the media company pulled out of the commitment due to Tinder being so prominent in the market.

We closed down the app in 2014 and it was really hard to admit defeat. I hit a low because I felt like I had failed the people who were supporting me. However, I’m a huge believer that with every challenge comes an opportunity for growth, and it was from that experience that I founded my current company Hatching Lab. I had learnt a lot through trial and error such as making sure you validate your idea early with customers, learn tech speak and how to hire the right people and skill sets. I had also come across other non-technical founders who were looking for startup guidance and technical services so I pulled together a team of developers and UX designers who I’d built trusted relationships with and we started to help entrepreneurs validate their idea and get their product to market.

Hatching Lab has been running for three years now and over that time we have worked with a number of entrepreneurs and corporates. One year into building the company, we were profitable but I felt something was missing. As much as I love being part of the development of new ideas, it had been a lonely experience being the only female in my team. I love dressing up, socialising with my girlfriends but the startup life can be isolating and ALL of my good girlfriends weren’t in tech or understood what I was talking about most of the time. Tech startup land comes with so many buzzwords and lingo that baffles non technical people.

But the universe was listening when it heard me asking for direction to take my company and work on something I’m truly passionate about. I knew I wanted to be in tech, but I also wanted to combine my love of learning, personal development and helping women in business so it was two years ago I met my fellow Poppy Renegade Co-founders, Sali, Tania, Charlotta through my good friend Vanessa. I first met Sal to talk about the idea she had come up with to empower women at a coffee shop in Potts Point and we hit it off immediately.

The five of us come from different backgrounds: Tech, Startup, PR, Corporate and Fashion. But we all saw a need to help women be the best version of themselves and succeed in their life choices. That is when the idea for Poppy Renegade platform was born.

If you’re visiting this article via  the Tech Ready Program – you’ll know it is an eight week program designed to help non-technical female founders start a tech business. It has been a vision of mine since I started out in tech five years ago. I remember sitting at my desk obsessively working late one night on my startup and trying to find information and researching what it takes to build a successful tech business, and thinking there really needs to be a central place for women with no background in tech to go and learn about this stuff. But most importantly connect with other women to share the journey with.

Over the past five years I have worked on 20+ software or design projects helping bring to life innovative ideas and validate them with a market. I’ve brought together my network and industry experts who are also passionate about seeing more women start and build successful tech products in the market.

So looking back on my story, the experiences and lessons that helped shape my future and purpose are:

Skills, education, personal and professional development, tech startups and helping women in business.

If I can give you any takeaways from my journey to help you find your own career purpose they would be:

  1. Look back at the last 10-15 years of your life and write down what were the common themes in the career and life choices you made. Then write down what you would love to do if you had all the money in the world. I also wrote some tips here on how to find your purpose.
  2. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks – you don’t yet know why you were meant to have that lesson and how it is meant to serve your life.
  3. Invest time into your own personal and professional development. If you feel lost about what you want to do with your life, try new things, take a break to clear your mind.
  4. Learn to meditate. It will help you to see a clearer direction and path for your life, as well as help you manage unwanted stress that comes with uncertainty.

This article was originally published on Poppy Renegade.

Christie Whitehill
Christie Whitehill

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