Guest post by Zeit Member and Writer by Marshay
I always loved writing. As a child, I wrote plays, poems and short stories. However, I did not really think about it as a career path—it was too much fun! Additionally, the only writing I really knew was fiction writing and I didn’t know of many contemporary writers of color. As a result, I felt it was better to emulate my parents and find a job with a more steady career path, perhaps education or the law.
But I stuck with writing in some ways. My passion for writing was just tucked behind my other career goals and aspirations. First, I decided to major in English literature. I figured it was a broad major that could expose me to various types of knowledge and perspectives. Besides, I started college wanting to become a lawyer. An English major is good preparation for the study of law.
During the second semester of my sophomore year, I took a class on writing for the nonprofit sector. During the class, we developed forms, flyers, and other documents for the community. The fact that I could use my talent in this way to support the community was new to me. That class influenced my career path to this day, as that was when I moved away from the idea of being a lawyer for good in order to focus on the nonprofit sector and writing on behalf of the community.
As I started my career in the DC area, I started to drift away from my main goal of writing in the nonprofit space. As anyone who works in the sector knows, you wear many hats and often wear them at the same time. Thus, I became proficient in fundraising, event planning, and program design over the 10 to 12 years spent in that industry. While I started out writing documents, fundraising material and so forth, my career morphed away from a writing focus into more of a program development and organizing focus.
But as we all know too well, things changed in March 2020. My organization had to pivot to virtual events, manage loss of income, and renegotiate expensive contracts. I will be honest here—this was difficult for me. With the increase in uncertainty, the stress of constant changes, and the addition of new programs and initiatives, I began to burn out. I felt overwhelmed, adjusting to working from home, spending time with my husband, and supporting worried and stressed out family and friends. I felt that I was not serving any community, and was certainly not serving or honoring my talents and desires.
As the pandemic wore on, I began to think about ways to get back to center and how to return to what made me happy and supported my community. How could my talent serve others in a straightforward way?
By the time I learned about the Zeit program through the tech website Elpha, I was sure of the following:
I found an open and welcoming community via my Zeit career exploration cohort. I met fellow writers, marketers, tech professionals, and others with the same questions and concerns I had. We supported each other via our career pitches and I learned to be clear and assertive on what I was looking for. I was intuitively matched with others seeking a job change and it was nice to feel supported on this journey of career change. I also received help on my resume and other career documents that increased my confidence.
While I think that the pandemic pushed me to take the concrete steps toward the future I wanted, I also think that many people experience a sort of mid level career reflection and change. As you gain more experience and responsibility, I think that it is natural to think about trying something new career wise. In some ways, I believe my career pivot began when I finished graduate school in nonprofit management, as I was exposed to advocacy work and the importance of clear communication with donors, stakeholders, and the public. However, I think Zeit helped me focus my goals and gave me the tools necessary for an action oriented, clear, and community supported career change. I am able to take that valuable experience I gained to this point and can now really focus that in a powerful and self-directed way.
So, how did my pivot turn out? As with many things, my own life has made a pivot! I made a plan to focus on and seek a career solely focused on writing in the nonprofit space. That is still my goal, but I am balancing this with an emotionally difficult separation and divorce, while moving into a new home.
In some ways, I am starting over completely, at the cusp of middle age. It is not what I expected to happen within a few weeks of turning 40!
I recognize the opportunity I now have to determine my own path in career and in life on my terms. With the support of online communities like Zeit, as well as family and friends, I am designing a career—and life—that honors my talents while addressing the needs of our communities.