3 Steps You Can Take to Achieve Financial Freedom

I knew financial freedom was the goal when I grew frustrated with having only one source of income last year. I had a decent-paying job, but it wasn’t enough for me to live the life I envisioned. I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck so I knew something had to change.

I started reading personal finance blogs and listening to podcasts to teach myself how to make money work for me. Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The 4-Hour Workweek was a pivotal moment. Here are some key takeaways from each book:

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

by Robert Kiyosaki

a. You’ll never become financially independent from a 9 to 5.

b. The way to wealth is through diversifying your income

c. Invest. Invest. Invest.

The 4-Hour Workweek

by Tim Ferriss

a. You can do more in less time (working remotely, outsourcing, delegating etc.)

b. Time is the ultimate money-making machine

Tim and Robert helped me figure out what to do to change my situation. In short, I had to become efficient at work and I had to diversify my income. Following these authors’ advice, I made a plan.

Most people say they want to be financially free, but they aren’t willing to commit to making it happen. Financial freedom isn’t something that just happens. It starts with a plan and requires determination.

Disclaimer: I haven’t arrived at complete financial freedom YET, but in the past few months, I followed a course of action that’s progressively taking me there. So I know a thing or two about what it takes. To help you get started or keep going, here are the steps you can take. We can group them within broad categories.

Living within your means

If you’re earning less than you’re spending, you’re bound to be living paycheck to paycheck. Take a close look at your bank statements. Are you always stuck with credit card debt? Do you spend a check before you actually get it? Do you make exceptions for stuff because the discount was so good you couldn’t pass?

Track your spending. Have a budget. Stick to it. You’ve heard it all before and it’s not rocket science, but it’s hard. The ideal would be to not even look at the price tag before we get something! But until we get there, we will have to adjust our spending.

If you’re really struggling with this, take these baby steps every day:

Go 2-3 months without Netflix

Can you do that? Use a friend’s account info.

Pay more than the minimum on your credit card each month

Trade a week’s worth of coffee for that extra $10 if you have to. You minimize your interest fee that way.

Put $5-10 aside every week

Make some of your disposable income disappear (in a piggybank never to be found).

To live within your means is to make sacrifices when you can’t yet afford everything you want. This means saying no to using your credit card when you don’t have that sum on your debit card. Forget that extra pair of shoes or eating out when there’s food at home. It’s skipping Uber and taking the train. It’s buying groceries for the whole week and bringing lunch to work instead of dropping $12 on a salad or a sandwich + soda combo. It’s…you get the idea!

Diversifying your income

And well, if you’re not willing to make sacrifices, but can’t afford to live the life you want, you just need to make more money. It starts with diversifying your income – which basically means making money from different sources.

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you know I’ll encourage you to develop a few income streams. I’m a huge side hustle advocate and I’ve been able to acquire the most skills from having them.

When you make money from just a 9 to 5, you’re putting your eggs in one basket – which is risky. You can lose your job at any moment (because business is business and life happens). Even a generous compensation can’t always cover your random splurges or unexpected bills. Instead of waiting to increase your salary by a percentage every six months or so, find other ways to make money. It’s easier and it’ll make you less dependent on your primary gig.

Where to start, you ask? I detailed the first steps to diversify your income here. Next, use these ideas to make a plan.

Get a part-time job

Bartend on weekends. Teach a class. Become a lifeguard in the summer. There are many part-time jobs that can work with your full-time schedule. Having a second steady gig might throw off your work-life balance, but it is another way to make money.

Sell a product

If you have a knack for making things (jewelry, furniture, illustrations etc.), you can earn a few extra bucks from them each month. If not, you can resell thrifted items on Amazon or buy things in bulk and offer a higher price per unit. The possibilities are endless.

Start a side business

Become an Uber or Lyft driver. Rent your apartment through Craiglist or AirBnB. Create an app that helps parents find local tutors or babysitters. Take people’s engagement photos. Start an Etsy store. Sell thrift finds on Amazon or eBay. Promote brands on Instagram. Walk dogs or house sit.

When people think about starting a business, they tend to picture themselves building the next Facebook or Tesla. It’s cool if you have an idea that can change the world, but entrepreneurship doesn’t stop there if you don’t.

Related: 75+ Ways to Make Extra Money

Freelance

Become really good at something then get people to pay you to do it for them. Whether you write for magazines, shoot weddings, direct editorial photoshoots, build people’s websites or design company’s logos, freelancing is a great way to monetize a skill. It’s more flexible than a regular job as it gives you control over your schedule.

Save

Saving as an extra income stream? Who would’ve thought?! Put your savings in a high yield savings account and watch your money grow passively!

Investing

Buy stocks. Purchase properties and rent them out. Collect antiques. Fund a company. It doesn’t matter how you invest, but that you do. You’re basically saying “See you later” to your money. These investments will generate more cash for you in the future. A lot of people don’t invest because they don’t think long-term and they’re afraid to lose their money. Investing is risky, but money comes and goes. To learn more about it, visit Investopedia.

Your turn! What have you done/are you doing to achieve financial freedom? Let me know in the comments!

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3 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Graduated College

College was fun! I got good grades, did a few internships and had a social life outside of studying. You probably heard that your experience is what you make of it and let me tell you – it’s true. I wasn’t the “come to class then go home” kind of student, so learned a lot beyond the classroom. I attended career workshops, networking events and pretty much did my best to make the most out of it.

Still, college didn’t prepare me for the real world. My introduction to the real world was brutal. I was scrambling to land a job after the company I thought I’d work for withdrew their offer. And I had to figure out ways to make money while waiting to hear from employers. I vividly remember this stage. It was a rough rite of passage.

Eventually, I realized what made this transition so stressful. There are things I know now that would have made it easier, had I known that then. I wish someone would have pulled me aside and told me everything I needed to know before graduating. Since that’s not how life works, I can only reflect on these lessons and share them with you.

There’s no better time to start something

Especially at the beginning, when things aren’t too intense yet. Most people spend their freshman and sophomore years figuring out what they want and taking general ed classes. It’s the best time to pursue a passion alongside doing schoolwork!

Some students have to juggle homework, internships and odd jobs throughout their undergrad years, which gives them less time to pursue other interests. If you happen to not NEED to work when you’re in college, you’re in the best position to start something – anything. A business, a side hustle; any outlet to express your curiosity. Chances are, you don’t have a lot of responsibilities (mortgage, children, student loans) to worry about then, so you can take risks and not face dire consequences. It’s a unique opportunity to test some ideas and see how that pans out. If it’s successful, it will also create a job for you when you graduate.

I wish I started my freelance writing business in college. I regret not launching my blog sooner or offering to do pro bono work until I built a portfolio. So if you have time (actually, make time), invest in the pursuit of a passion and you’d be surprised where it can take you.

Grades aren’t everything

I used to stress every exam because I didn’t want anything less than an A. I put so much pressure on myself to achieve the very best that I became very familiar with sleepless nights and coffee-fueled cramming sessions. It’s not a bad attitude, but it can take a toll on your health if you don’t watch out for that. I’m not saying you should get by with minimal effort and procrastinate until the last minute, but remember not to kill yourself over an imperfect GPA. You should always strive for excellence, but only when it doesn’t come to the expense of your health (physical, mental and emotional).

In reality, grades only matter if you plan on going to grad school and have to live up to your target university’s standard. Otherwise, you just need to do your best! Had I known this, I wouldn’t have stressed so much like I did over a B in organic chem and even a C+ in microeconomics (yeah, not my forte). Your GPA doesn’t in any way indicate the levels of success you’ll achieve. There’s a growing trend of not including it in resumes because employers don’t care so much about it anymore. So just remember that next time you feel like the world is falling apart because of an exam.

You don’t need to have it all figured out

A lot of us dread the, “What’s next?” question that comes with the prospect of graduation. It’s probably because we feel like we need to have an answer. If you have a plan and things are going your way, more power to ya! But if like most recent grads you don’t have a clear idea, don’t you worry. I can tell you for a fact that you’ll learn the most from not over-planning and being open to detours. I didn’t know what I would do after the company withdrew their offer. I figured I’d just find another job and work. Had that not happened, I wouldn’t have learned how to brand myself professionally and hustle. These are skills that will serve me throughout the rest of my life.

Post-grad life can be intimidating. You have all this free time and you might feel overwhelmed at times. But you will figure it out. Embrace the changes and welcome the lessons! It won’t be easy, but you will look back and want to do it all over again. It’s a worthy part of the growth process.

Your turn! What do you wish you knew before graduating college? Share them with me in the comments!

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How to Leverage Your Side Hustles and Advance in Your Career

Your side hustles – At best, they give you the chance to explore an interest, develop a skill and earn some additional income. At best (that’s right, I can’t think of a single downside to having one), they make you more marketable and help you score more gigs.
You’ll hear that nowadays everyone has a blog or some sort of passion project. Someone once told me it doesn’t make you competitive anymore since everyone else does it. While it’s true that most millennials have some sort of side project, that doesn’t mean they can’t set you apart from others. The question is, how can you use them to get ahead?
 
Most people tend to keep their side hustles secret. They’ll never make it on their resume or LinkedIn profile. It’s a mistake. Your personal projects are just as relevant to your career as your primary job. Here’s how you can leverage them to achieve your professional goals:

If you want to land more gigs

Perfect your craft then sell your services
 
Consider your existing skill set and think about ways to upgrade it. You can monetize everything you know these days. You just need to make yourself an expert first. If you write poems, maybe you can learn how to write copy for websites and products as well? If you play guitar, perhaps you can learn how to write songs and perform your pieces at open mics? Perfect your already existing talents then figure out how to take them to the next step. Tackle a new area of knowledge and apply yourself to learning. Wouldn’t a marketer be more competitive if they knew how to design websites too?
Once you turn yourself into an expert, create something. Build an app or a website if you learned how to code. Launch a blog to showcase your writing, YouTube channel for your shooting and editing skills. Let your online portfolio speak for itself. Once you reach a certain level of success, you can make more money from your project itself or by selling your services (usually the easiest way to go). Include our side hustles on your resume, post ads on Craigslist, promote your work to your network and send cold emails.

If you want to get a promotion and/or a raise

Prove your value with numbers
If your side hustle aligns with your job, it makes sense to documents the milestones you reach from doing it. I once worked for a food brand doing community management. After reaching the goals my boss and I had set when I was first hired, I tried to position myself to ask for a promotion. Since I have a side hustle (fashion storytelling) that was directly related to my job, I documented the growth of my personal pages and put down the numbers in paper. I turned them into an easy-to-read file and presented them to my boss when I was making my case. It not only helped that I had exceeded the goals and delivered a great performance, but my boss was also impressed that I was able to do the same thing on my own. Doing this won’t necessarily guaranteed you’ll get a raise (as that depends on many factors that are sometimes outside of our control), but it will definitely put you on their radar when the opportunity arises.
Make a new proposal
As part of my argument to get the raise, I drafted a proposal detailing the things I could accomplish for the brand within a time frame. Since I had increased my Instagram engagement in a few weeks for my personal brand, I suggested doing the same thing for the company. One of the bullet points read, “Gain over 100 followers per week and double the engagement in a month”. I was confident in my ability to deliver and since that matched their expectations, I was given the benefit of the doubt.

To continue your education and move up the ladder 

Seek every opportunity to learn 
“I’m done learning now” – said no one ever (or should no one ever say). No matter where you are in life, your education should never end. It’s part of what keeps you competitive and helps you make better decisions. If you’re employed, try to get your company to sponsor some classes or provide tuition reimbursement. Even if you can’t get these benefits, make that investment in yourself. It can be the difference between you becoming a manager in a short amount of time as opposed to 4-5 years.
If you’re still hesitant to start a side hustle, ask yourself What is there to lose? Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to pursue a passion, make money, advance in your career and become more fulfilled.
Your turn! Do you already have side hustles? What are they and how have they helped you in your life and career?

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5 Important Career Lessons Most People Learn Too Late In Life

Study hard and get good grades. Everything else will fall into place. That’s what we were taught to believe about our professional life. A lot of us have internalized this advice and probably realized that that’s not really how things work.

You can achieve a stellar GPA and graduate from one the best universities and still find yourself unprepared for the real world. That’s because some lessons aren’t taught in classrooms and knowing them early on can make a huge difference in our careers.

If you’re reading this, it’s not too late. Here are some important career lessons you can benefit from now.

a. Success is not linear. Most of us have an idea of the path to follow in order to reach our career goals. The traditional view of success looks like this:

1. Go to a good school

2. Graduate with a stellar GPA

3. Get a good job and do well

4. Get promoted

5. Go back to school

6. Climb up the ladder

7. Live happily ever after

Sounds simple right? In reality, we don’t arrive at our goals by following a straight path. More often than not, we take detours (in the form of breaks, setbacks, moments of regression etc.) and figure out how to get back on track.

Take Chris Sacca, American venture investor for example. He turned down the opportunity to invest in Airbnb and Dropbox, thinking they wouldn’t be successful in the long run. Seeing how these companies went big, many would consider these moves to be a failure. Yet, Chris is now a billionaire with investments in Twitter, Uber, Instagram, Kickstarter etc. He’s the perfect reminder that you shouldn’t let your mistakes define you. You don’t need to have it all figured out from the start. There are external forces that will often interfere with your trajectory. Fret not. You can always recover from a setback. What is important is developing an attitude that embraced change and knows how to turn “failures” into learning opportunities.

b. Your career is what you make of it. No one is going to give you anything unless you earn it. As an intern, you may get hired if you show you’re a team player and hard worker. Want that promotion or raise? Make sure you’ve exceeded your supervisor’s expectations and continue to align yourself with the company’s goals. Some things may be outside your control, but you have a say over your performance and the amount of work you do – which ultimately will bring you closer to your goals.

It’s important to remember not to get comfortable and let your growth become stagnant. If you hit a wall at your job, find a better opportunity (only after attempting to fix that, though). Want to make a  career transition? Start doing your research and network with industry insiders. Hate the thought of working for someone and dream of starting a business? Do it while you don’t have a mortgage or a family to feed. Or, spend all your free time on executing your idea until you make enough money to be able to quit.

c. You can create your own opportunities. When it comes to making moves in our career, we tend to wait for permission. We wait for a job to get experience instead of acquiring that experience on our own. We wait to get a raise instead of diversifying our income and becoming less dependent on that in the first place. We wait until “the universe gives us a sign” to  after the very things that make our heart beat.

It’s a trap we so easily fall into when in reality, we are the only ones who can give ourselves permission to do something. You can go make videos on your own and hone your editing skills. You can take a photography class and start shooting your friend’s engagement. You can enroll in a coding course to move to the next phase of your career. Be proactive when it comes to your personal and professional development. You can accomplish much more in a team than by yourself of course, but do not let the absence of help handicap you.

d. You don’t get what you don’t ask for. I was at an event a few weeks ago and wrote down a very powerful piece of advice. One of the panelists said, “The answer to the questions you never ask is always no.”

A lot of us don’t get what we want because we don’t know how to ask. Or rather, we’re too afraid of rejection. It’s cliche, but the worst case-scenario is hearing no, then you just find someone else to say yes. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to go to people and express what you need help with. Together is better than alone. Of course don’t be one of those people who only know how to take. Make sure you’re contributing to them just as much as they are contributing to you. But do not let your pride get in the way of your progress. You’d be surprised how people are open to sharing their experience and giving advice.

e. You should always update your skills. Whether you’re an intern or a senior executive, your education never stops. Your dedication to learning will be the difference between you staying stagnant and you moving up the corporate ladder.Think of yourself like a smartphone. Upgrades maximize your performance. Don’t get comfortable with a job that you forget to make yourself marketable. Nowadays, job security is obsolete. Technology is disrupting the workplace, replacing jobs and creating careers. I wouldn’t be surprised if robots eventually replace bank tellers just like self-driving cars will replace bus or taxi drivers. You can’t afford to be left behind. Always think about learning new skills and adapting to current times. Like Robert Kiyosaki from Rich Dad Poor Dad would advise, invest in yourself so that you stay ahead of the market.

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What I Learned From Doing a One-Month Rejection Challenge

Whether it’s in our professional (for a job or for a promotion) or personal life (by our significant other or a prospect), being rejected sucks. It’s hard not to take it personally because it puts our ego on the line. My, mine’s been bruised so many times I’ve lost count! Hate it or love it, it’s an inevitable part of growing up.

I used to get frustrated when someone would tell me no, especially when their reason didn’t make sense to me. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to know why, and other times, you just have to carry on without closure. People say no for different reasons and it’s healthier to focus on the only thing we can control – our reaction.

Rejection challenge

So, I’ve learned how to deal with the word no through a one-month rejection challenge. Basically, I intentionally put myself in situations where people were likely to reject me. For four weeks, I did something outside of my comfort zone that forced me to go talk to people.

Week 1 – I invited strangers out for coffee.

Week 2 – I volunteered to speak at a workshop in front of a big crowd

Week 3- I asked my network for help

and

Week 4 – I competed in a poetry slam.

The outcome? 2-3 people accepted my invite. The audience at the workshop was really supportive and gave me some great feedback. Most people in my network didn’t end up helping me, but a few of them did, and I didn’t win first place in the poetry slam but made some great friends that night.

Here are 3 important lessons I learned from doing this one-month rejection challenge:

There is ALWAYS a silver lining

I wanted to win first place at the poetry slam, but that night, I gained something much more valuable – public speaking skills and a few more people in my network. You’ve heard the cliche, “When a door closes, another one opens” and probably rolled your eyes at it, but it’s true. Sometimes, you work hard for something only to find out it’s not what you really want. Your dream company might not end up being the right cultural fit after all and that’s okay. The important thing is to learn to look on the bright side because there is always a silver lining. ALWAYS. Even when it doesn’t immediately manifest, it’s still there. Also, just because it’s not something tangible (say a job, an opportunity etc.) doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable. Self-awareness is key and every experience – at the very least – serves the purpose of providing more of that.

Help is always within reach – an email or call away

After doing the rejection challenge, I realized that I used to underestimate how much people were willing top help. Truth is, receiving help is simply a matter of asking. You might feel weird about it like you’re bothering them, but it can be worth the interruption. You might find that you’re not alone in a particular situation. At any point in time, there’s always a community of people experiencing the same difficulties as you and coming together usually just takes one person reaching out. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If someone says no, chances are, four other people will say yes. You just have to find them.

Take it from me, I used to waste time thinking of multiple ways to solve a problem – when teaming up with someone would’ve been more efficient. Be willing to contribute to other people’s growth too. Just remember, together is always stronger than alone.

Rejection is rarely personal

You might kill yourself trying to figure out why you didn’t get a job – thinking maybe you shouldn’t have worn that blazer to the interview or shouldn’t have asked that question – when the company could have just not had the budget for it anymore. People are weird. They harbor biases and fears that influence the way they interact with others. And this is why you shouldn’t assume every rejection is your fault. This attitude can not only damage your self-esteem, but it can make it harder to deal with the many instances of rejection.

Sure, you can think about what you’ll do better next time, but just know that rejection often has to do with factors outside of your control. So it’s best to focus on your circle of influence (as Stephen Covey from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People would say) – your thoughts, attitudes and actions.

Doing the rejection challenge was an incredible learning experience. Truth is, it was more about me building up the confidence to put myself out there than it was about these people’s reactions. It desensitized me to the effect of the word no. I used to hate it, but now it’s my motivation.

So, are you up for a challenge?

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3 Ways to Channel Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

The internet is flooded with stories of people who quit their 9 to 5 to follow their dreams. You remember Tiffany who left her day job as a lawyer to explore the world and become a travel planner or Myles, the director of sales who gave guitar lessons on the side until he made enough money to do that full-time. There isn’t a shortage of guides that show you the steps to take towards becoming your own boss. Entrepreneurship is in vogue these days. The influence is so ubiquitous that you might start to feel like you’re doing something wrong if that’s not your goal.

When most people think about it though, they picture the end result before they even consider the journey. They imagine a CEO laying on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean and making money while she sleeps, but not the long nights she spent couch surfing and testing prototypes. No one can deny the perks of owning a business – unlimited income potential, freedom to travel and decide how to spend your days etc. The strongest appeal is the control it gives someone over their own time, but that all comes with a fair share of sacrifices and hard work.

One thing is clear: entrepreneurship is not for everyone. The constant hustle and bustle is a challenge only few are willing to take on. Maybe you prefer having more structure in your days or you’re more of an enabler. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to work for someone – though mainstream media might make you feel differently.Self-awareness is key to figuring out what works for you. And this is why this article will also speak to my multipotentialites with regular jobs and who don’t necessarily want to start their own company.

Deep down, I believe everyone is an entrepreneur. It doesn’t necessarily take running a business to manifest that. As Doug McCormack once said, “No matter what your profession, you are a business owner. Your business sells labor and manages assets to support the spending needs of your family. Labor is likely your largest asset and must be actively managed just like your finances.” If we think of ourselves as startups, we are all in the business of developing our abilities. And in the words of Bertie Forbes, “If you don’t drive your business, you will be driven out of business.”

Channeling your entrepreneurial spirit

More than anything, entrepreneurship is a growth mindset, a proactive attitude that anticipates change before it happens and always looks for ways to innovate. As FlexJobs CEO Sara Sutton Fell puts it, “an entrepreneurial spirit is a way of approaching situations where you feel empowered, motivated, and capable of taking things into your own hands.”

Most importantly, having an entrepreneurial spirit can help one realize their full potential. It’s a driving force that pushes you to think like an owner and continuously learn.

How do you develop that mindset?

At work

Use your expertise to streamline a process or creatively solve problems

Few companies give you the opportunity to take initiative as often as startups do. At my old job, one of the interns stood out by creating a database that kept all our records in one place. It was much needed, but no one had the bandwidth to do. He used his knowledge of Excel and coding to build the tool. It was all within his area of expertise. By championing the idea, he demonstrated leadership that eventually got him promoted.

If you’re sitting at work frustrated with the speed of the internet, maybe you can work with the IT guy to find a solution? Or if your boss always makes you manually look for contacts at a specific company, you can probably create a spreadsheet that stores all their info in one place? Whenever you take the initiative to fix a problem at work, you are acting as an intrapreneur and making yourself more indispensable to the company.

Look for opportunities to train or manage a team

Being in a leadership position can help you flex your entrepreneurial muscles. If your role doesn’t allow you to do so, volunteer to train the new hires or supervise their day to day. You might take some load off your boss’ shoulders and stand out as an employee. Most importantly, you will learn how to deal with (or prevent) crises, roll with the punches, improvise solutions and develop your interpersonal skills. You will feel overwhelmed at times and ask yourself why you signed up for it in the first place, but the lessons will be invaluable in helping you better work with people.

In life

Tap Into Your Creativity

You probably never thought you could make art on a canva until you went to that paint & sip event or write a poem until you attended that workshop. Within all of us exists the infinite potential to create. It’s just a matter of experimenting with things until some of them stick. And once they do, focus on honing what you already know. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Take a chance on yourself!

Did you notice that more people are coming to you for fashion advice? Maybe it’s time offer styling services or start a YouTube channel! Do you know more about something than the average person? Think about how you can share that information with others and maybe monetize it! It could be as simple as a blog or an event series. An entrepreneurially minded person is essentially always looking to start something. They’re always observing, noticing problems, questioning what already is and figuring out how to make it better.

Related: How to embrace your entrepreneurial spirit

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3 Things Multipotentialites Should Look For in a Job

Finding a job is hard. Finding a job you love is even harder, especially if you’re someone who can do many things and have different interests and passions. It’s no wonder millennials switch jobs more often than previous generations. In fact, 42% of us change jobs every two to three years with 60% of us constantly open to new opportunities. This might have to do with the fact that only 29% of millennials reported being engaged at work, according to a Gallup study. Yet, our expectations aren’t very different from those of older workers.

I would imagine multipotentialites account for a big portion of the remaining 71% of millennials who aren’t engaged at work. It’s harder for us to be satisfied with our job mainly because we can’t picture ourselves doing one thing forever. So it’s not uncommon to find ourselves in Steve Jobs’ shoes when he said, “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Whether you’re gearing up for a career change or looking to move up the corporate ladder, here are five important things to look for in a job that will nurture your mutlipotentiality and lead to your growth and satisfaction:

Related: 3 Actionable Tips to Leverage Being a Jack of All Trades and Land More Gigs

You have the opportunity to wear different hats

A cross-functional role will allow you to exercise your multidimensional personality and develop a wide range of skills. It will challenge you to stretch your potential and discover new options. The startup I worked at in 2015 had a rotation program which gave interns the choice to work in different departments after each quarter. I first joined their Operations team, switched to sales then settled in the marketing department. Yet, we still had a multidisciplinary approach when it came to problem solving. It was very challenging, but it pushed me out of my comfort zone and think outside of the box.

Startups or small companies tend to foster a more collaborative environment. Say you work as a social media manager of a digital media company. Maybe you can take the initiative to work with the editorial team on certain projects? If your day to day slots you into a routine, it’s up to you to be proactive and expand your portfolio. You will also become more marketable as a result.

You fit the culture

When it comes to your career, it is not enough to love what you do. It’s crucial to be in the right environment, surrounded by people you can learn from and contribute to. The best companies don’t just have employees. They have mentors and coaches, people who are genuinely there to support each other. And they can only do that if the owners share these principles. Culture is the personality of a company. It’s what keeps employees engaged and gives them a reason to brag about their job.

Tech startups are known to have a very laid-back culture: casual dress code, cross-functional roles, beer parties on Fridays or exclusive concerts, nap rooms and ping pong tables…you name it. It’s no surprise these jobs are so competitive! Still, it’s not for everyone. You could be doing what you love and getting paid all the money in the world, but if you’re not comfortable in that kind of workplace, you will not be happy. So it’s all about identifying what you’re a fit for. At interviews, ask questions that pertain to the office culture. What is your boss’s managerial style? What are the people like? Do they work together? If you could get a tour of the office or chat with different employees, that’s cherry on top of the cake!

Here are key characteristics to keep in mind:

a. A spirit of innovation and an openness to ideas

As multipotentialites, we have a lot of ideas. We are constantly challenging ourselves to think creatively and merge our interests. So it’s important to be in a working environment that embraces new ideas and encourages employees to take initiatives.

Ever heard of intrapreneurs? Investopedia defines them as inside entrepreneurs. In other words, they are “employees within a company who are assigned to work on a special idea or project, and they are instructed to develop the project like an entrepreneur would.” If a company trusts you to the point where they invest in you like that, you have a golden opportunity to carve your own path – without the risks associated with going out on your own.

b. Flexible working conditions

Does the company put their employees first? Then their policy will reflect that. Sometimes, you’ll want to work from home and other days you’ll feel like going to the office. Can they accommodate that? When you’re juggling multiple projects, having the flexibility to work from anywhere is a huge help. You’ll likely be more efficient since you’ll save time on commuting.

c. Talented and supportive team – aka “friends”

Humans thrive on social connections, so naturally, we gravitate towards the people around us – classmates, colleagues, teachers etc. There’s nothing like having friends at work! How many times have you heard someone say that getting to work with some people is the best part of their job?  When you’re part of an awesome team, it affects your engagement, productivity and overall happiness. In fact, in a LinkedIn study,  57% of 18-24 year-olds reported being more happy when they have friends at work. 50% of them said it makes them feel more motivated and 39% of them felt more productive as a result. This shows that career happiness is linked to the relationships you have at work.

 They invest in your education

Suppose you struggle with a particular area of your role and would like to improve, you would benefit from your company putting in place a library of resources to help you hone that skill.  Whether it be online courses, tuition reimbursement, paid off-site seminars and workshops or training sessions, educational opportunities at your job will help you excel in your career. They also pave the way for horizontal mobility, which is intrinsic to professional development. My old startup used to host bimonthly lectures on a topic that was relevant to the industry. They had also purchased a library of courses for us to use if we wanted to master a particular skill. Their prioritization of employee success made me feel even more connected to the company.

Don’t trade your time for just dollars. Cultivate experiences, grow as much as you can and build valuable relationships. A job is what you make of it. As Earl Nightingale said, “Jobs are owned by a company. You own your career!”

When considering your next job offer, remember this from Brian Tracy, “If you wish to achieve worthwhile things in your personal and career life, you must become a worthwhile person in your own self-development.”

Do you have advice on other things to look for in a job? Let me know in the comments!

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How to Make Time For All Your Gigs

Whether it’s to actualize a passion, make extra money or explore an  interest, millennials are consistently taking on side gigs. More than other age groups, we are pushing the boundaries of what we can do and concretizing our full potential.

In a study, Career Builder showed that nearly 39% of those 18-24 and 29% of those 35-44 reported making money on the side. We are effectively leveraging our ability to do different things to add to our skill set and make more money. This can only work to our advantage as it also makes us more marketable. As Career Builder’s Chief Human Resources Officer said, “Side hustles not only provide financial benefits to workers, but they make them more attractive candidates to employers, especially in a competitive job market.”

Multipotentialites exist in greater numbers than we think. I’m willing to bet most people you know have at least one other thing going on. Know that classmate who now works in advertising? Chances are, she does photography on weekends. Remember your old chemistry professor? She probably takes ballet classes after work.

I currently freelance as a social media strategist for a startup and write for 4 different publications each week. Somehow, I still find time to manage my blog and YouTube channel, explore New York City for inspiration and hang out with friends every now and then. When I share everything I do with people, I often get a “Wow” in disbelief. Their eyes open in amazement as if I was a superhuman. The truth is, I’ve just been figuring out how to effectively spend my time. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I still procrastinate like everyone else, but I’ve been better at making every day count.

When handling different projects, time management is key. It’s good to have endeavors that don’t relate to each other, but if you don’t cultivate discipline, you will not be able to sustain them. Here’s how I integrate everything I love into what I do:

I Work From Home

Let me preface this by saying that I only work from home because I freelance full-time. I sometimes miss the social aspect of being in an office, but working from home has its perks.

Commuting used to take 2-3 hours each day. It’s a good chunk of time that I now use to either sleep more, do some exercise or mentally prepare myself in the morning. When you don’t have to rush to work or overdose on coffee, you tend to have a better start to your day. Doing that naturally predisposes me to being more productive.

If you have the option to work from home, you should try it. It’s not for everyone, but I can say I get more done when I’m in my natural habitat. And not just for my main job, but for my side projects as well. I still follow a regular 9 to 5 schedule and I use my lunch break to either write a blog post, update my social media pages or work on a new video.

I Apply What I Learn From One Endeavor to Another

My endeavors complement each other. From doing social media strategy for startups and small business owners, I learn tactics that I can apply directly to my own social media platforms. For example, I recently learned how to optimize Facebook ads for maximum conversion by running a few campaigns for a client. This is a skill that I won’t have to learn when I decide to run ads for my own blog.

Even if your endeavors don’t relate to each other, they can teach you a transferable skill or give you access to a network that can advance your career. A financial analyst can leverage his attention to detail and the data-driven side of his brain to, say, conduct lab experiments. A real-estate broker can possibly use his selling capabilities to create marketing campaigns.

If you look beyond the surface, you will most likely find an underlying theme behind everything you do. Make your jobs and side gigs work for you!

I Spend My Leisure Time Productively

If you tell me that my leisure time is meant exclusively for leisure, I’ll agree with you. But I can’t help it. When I take a break, I usually do something that helps me get better at my side gigs. For example, I listen to blogging podcasts when I can’t bring myself to write a blog post, browse articles online or read a book when I’m experiencing writers’ block or go explore a random part of the city to take pictures for Instagram or create content for Snapchat. These are all considered my leisure activities, yet they stimulate my brain.

I still struggle with unplugging completely and this is why this technique works for me. So I don’t recommend it to everyone. I believe your leisure time is yours to use as you please and that not doing something productive in that timeframe will not necessarily delay the process of achieving your goals. Because my gigs naturally fit into what I do, it’s harder for me to find a balance, but I’m working on it.

My Sister Holds Me Accountable For Getting Things Done

It’s good to have someone to remind you of what you should be doing and keep you on track. That’s who my sister is to me. We run the YouTube channel together and it’s a great way to hold each other accountable for maintaining it. I often joke that she’s an obnoxious alarm clock that comes without a “snooze” button. One needs people like this in their lives. It may add pressure to complete tasks, but you can channel that into being more productive.

For multipotentialites, it’s important to strive for great time management. It’s what will ultimately allow us to make a living and be fulfilled by the things we do. There is no “one size fits all” guide to spending your time effectively, but I hope you can learn from my experience.

How do you juggle multiple projects at a time? Share that with me in the comments!

Related: The Best Time Management Techniques From 4 Busy Millennials

                 How To Maximize Your Time and Be More Productive

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4 Ways to Accomplish Your Goals in 2017

Maybe 2017 is the year you promise yourself to pay off your debts or visit a new country. Whatever goal you set for the new year, by articulating them, you’ve taken the first step toward accomplishing them. But that’s the easy part.

Identifying our goals is key to reaching fulfillment. It helps us stay focused and gives us a sense of direction. With the new year around the corner, it’s a good time to take a step back and reflect on resolutions that need to be made. But it’s one thing to have a goal and another to make the effort to achieve it. It’s even more important to have a plan for making it all happen.

It’s not uncommon for people to set the same resolutions each year. That’s because they don’t really develop a true sense of commitment. They quickly forget about them after the first few days when all the hype is gone. And I get it, it’s hard. Staying motivated is the biggest obstacle. You usually feel this intrinsic energy at the beginning, but it tends to dwindle as the months go by. There is more to it than sustaining motivation though.

The Problem With How We Set Goals

When it comes to goal setting, we tend to focus on the changes we want to see in our lives, but not on the steps that will lead to them. We aim for things like losing 10 pounds by summer, but we don’t look at what we can change in our diet or commit to going to the gym at least once a week. Or we say things like, “I want to read one book a week” without making time each day to read a few pages.

As James Clear argues in How to Achieve Your Goals Easily, “the problem is this: we set a deadline, but not a schedule.” In other words, we focus on the outcome, but not on the process. As a result, we tend to set goals that don’t take our reality into account and pressure ourselves to achieve them by the arbitrary deadline. We only look at the end goal instead of the building blocks that will allow us to get there. And when it doesn’t happen, we feel like a failure.

How to Set Your Goals

Think about where you are in life. Is there anything you’d like to change? How have your actions in 2016 contributed to your long-term vision? Do you feel closer to where you wanna be? Try to objectively answer these questions.

Did you only work hard for a raise, yet promise yourself you’d diversify your income? Be honest with yourself. We all struggle to create the changes we want to see in our lives, but it’s only by acknowledging them that we can make progress. If your current situation fulfills you, congratulations! I wanna be like you when I grow up!

When setting goals, you’re essentially trying to bridge the gap between your dreams and reality. If you don’t take your current situation into account, you risk falling into delusion.

Take Jamie for example. She has 3 kids and is the only breadwinner in the family because her husband is a stay-at-home dad. She makes about $70K a year working as a communications director at a non-profit and that’s her only source of income. If Jamie makes the resolution to become a millionaire by the end of 2017 without changing anything about her situation, she’s not being realistic. It’s not like she can magically get that kind of promotion at her job. Instead, if she decides to increase her income by $36K, that’s a more approachable goal – and one that can eventually lead to her dream of becoming a millionaire. Breaking it down, she’d need to make an extra $3,000 a month and she can do that if she gets a raise and makes time to freelance on the side. And again, she’d have to take an objective look at her life and figure out these pockets of time.

I’m not saying you should lower your expectations, but rather, stay away from arbitrary deadlines for these lofty goals. Think about what you can do now to create a different outcome and focus on that.

How to Accomplish Your Goals

Photo credit: Marwa Morgan via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Now that we’ve established how to set goals, let’s talk about ways in which you can actually accomplish them.

In the past year, I have set many many goals. Some I was able to achieve and others I’m still working on. I am slowly figuring out the strategies that guarantee results and have come up with a few solid ones:

Be specific

Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. Wishes are nice, but they don’t pay the bills or make us happy. It’s easier to do that with some goals than with others, but you can create a plan for everything. Let’s look at some scenarios:

Example 1: Shaun wants to become a Forbes contributor. Where does he go from there? These are all things he can do to maximize his chances:

a. Develop his expertise

  • Identify his area of expertise
  • Learn as much as he can on the topic (from blogs, interviews, podcasts etc.)

b. Build his portfolio

  • Share his thoughts by launching a blog, podcast or YouTube channel
  • Produce as much content as he can (2-3x a week)
  • Get publicity from smaller publications (Cold pitch editors)

c. Research his publication of interest (in this case, Forbes)

  • Familiarize himself with their voice and try to implement that in his own writing style
  • Look for what they’re missing in terms of content
  • Determine how he can use your expertise to bring value to them

d. Connect with already existing contributors and get their insights

  • Research the content in his specific niche and collect the writers’ information
  • Cold email 2-3 of these people every day and see who responds
  • Invite them out for coffee and ask as many questions as possible
  • Build relationships with these insiders and express his interest in contributing

Shaun can easily just set the vague goal of becoming an influencer. But he knows that’s not specific enough, so he figures out exactly how he wants to do that. Once he establishes that he wants to do it through having a Forbes column, he chooses to be proactive and commit to small, daily goals. With much consistency, he will eventually be able to reach his goal.

Example 2: Cynthia plans to enroll in grad school next year, but before that, she wants to save as much money as she can. A vague goal would be, “I want to make more money so I can save more.” A better goal setting approach would be, “I want to save $12,000 before grad school next year.” For her to make that much, she knows she first needs to make more money at her job or find other ways to make money. Here are steps Cynthia can take:

a. Get a raise

b. Monetize her other skills (i.e. finding bargain deals, travel planning, coupon collecting)

c. Sell a product (i.e. start an Etsy store or resell thrift deals on Ebay or Amazon)

Sometimes, our goals are so grand that they can overwhelm us. Work backwards. From the big vision, determine the small, measurable steps. And by that I mean, outline the entire process. You will not only have a sense of direction, but you’ll be able to celebrate small victories. Create a system and stick to it.

Set visual reminders

On your walls, on your desk, on your fridge, on your lock screen or on your car wheel – set visual reminders everywhere. If you can picture it, you can do it. Visual boards work wonders. You can even host a “visual board” party with your friends where you add pictures or other pieces of content that remind you of your goals. Want to learn photography? Cut out a pic of a camera (okay, this may be too literal, but you get the idea). Seeing your goals is more powerful than writing it down.

With that said, having a checklist is just as fine. To-do lists work wonders for me. They help structure my thoughts and get things done one by one. But if you’re a visual learner, find ways to include post-its in places where you’re more likely to see them.

You can even treat your social media platforms like an extension of your visual boards. Fill your Twitter feed with inspirational quotes or the updates of the people you admire. If you want to become a jewelry designer, crowd your Pinterest boards with techniques and images. Save your favorite motivational TED talks or YouTube videos. You can design your environment in such way that it becomes your visual reminder.

Track your performance

Every 1st of the month is like a new year for me. I take it as an opportunity to review the previous month, see where I stand with my goals and determine what to do next. Whether you do that monthly or quarterly, be sure to set some time to track your progress. This will keep you connected with your goals and ensure you’re going in the right direction.

As some saying goes, it’s only when you look back that you can see how far you’ve come. Be sure to check in every now and then and stay in touch with yourself.

Have accountability

When you have people to hold you accountable for your goals, you tend to feel more motivated to reach them. This probably has to do with our ego – which often wants to “prove something” to others and ourselves. A great way to do that is to tell people.

Sure, it’s embarrassing to share your shortcomings, but you’d be surprised by how much support you get once you tell people what you’re working on. Join mastermind groups or document your goals via public blog posts. It will help you stay in track and you might find out that you’re not alone in your journey.

As I once read, “One year from now, you’ll wish you had started today. It’s that simple. Just start.” It may seem like nothing is changing day by day, but when you look back, you will realize all the progress you’ll have made.

Don’t let your goals drown in your daily routine. Change your routine so that you can reach your goals. Most importantly, make some new resolutions each year.

What are your 2017 goals? Let me know in the comments!

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3 Common Naysayers to Ignore When Doing What You Love

Going against the grain, whether it’s dropping out of college to start a business or creatively carving your own path, almost always causes people to raise their eyebrows. Whenever you step out of the conventional norm, you will often face naysayers. Some you can ignore like your old high school classmates, but others you will have to address like your family members or friends.

It’s especially hard to ignore negative comments from people close to you. Sure, you have to be open to criticism, but when it’s not constructive, it will interfere with your progress if you let it. Once you decide to embark on your own journey, you will feel discouraged by the smallest things. In order to keep going, you will have to carefully design your environment. This means surrounding yourself with people who can support your growth and letting go of what won’t serve you. Ignoring naysayers is a big part of that.

Here are three naysayers I’ve come across since I started doing what I love – and how to address them:

1. “You don’t even know if this will work.”

From your concerned parents or other close family members.

Well, that’s the point. What’s the fun in knowing endings before beginnings? How can you really grow if you don’t ever take risks? Our comfort zone is cozy, it keeps us grounded. But when we stay in it for long, we don’t challenge ourselves to keep learning. We become complacent and give in to stagnancy.

Your life is the ultimate experiment. You figure out the answers as you go. The more you try new things, the more you find out about yourself and the closer you get to the truth. As Mark Zuckerberg said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

2. “Wait until you have the resources to make it happen.”

From your close friends.

Maybe you don’t have an established network or a financial safety net, but you shouldn’t wait for these things to come to you. Ever heard of entrepreneurs who built their fortunes from scratch? Oprah Winfrey grew up in extreme poverty. JK Rowling was a broke single mother before creating Harry Potter. Steve Jobs started the largest technology company in his parents’ garage. I can go on about the many people who didn’t let a lack of financial resources interfere with the realization of their lifelong dream.

While everyone’s journey is different, we all have the ability to create our own opportunities. It’s the road less traveled because we tend to wait for things to happen to us, but it leads to the desired outcome. Trust your vision and get out there! No one will care unless you’re willing to put in the work.

3. “It’ll be a waste of time if you fail.”

From your skeptical colleague.

The fear of failure is so powerful it can paralyze someone into inaction if they let it. This has to do with the way we perceive failure. What is failure? Is it not getting a specific result or the fact that you took a chance and became more self-aware? Can one really lose if they gain  new knowledge from each adventure?

No time is ever wasted on things you do with intention. Every new pursuit is helping you build your character. Whether or not you achieved your goal, you developed your skills, grew your network and added to your collection of experiences. How can that be considered a failure? There is always a silver lining. The sooner you realize something isn’t meant for you, the better you can apply your experience to the next endeavor and move on. Remember your thoughts have a direct impact on your actions. If you choose to think negatively about everything that happens to you, you will not show up for the work it takes to improve your situation. Learn how to roll with the punches, and above all, keep going (growing).

Achieving your goals starts with building a strong support system. You have to be mindful of the people you surround yourself with and the things you absorb. Whether you like it or not, you consume what’s around you. Be more intentional about it.

Related: TELL ME HOW YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS AND I’LL TELL YOU WHO YOU’LL BECOME

Tell Me How You Spend Your Days and I’ll Tell You Who You’ll Become

In a world where following a straight line is encouraged, carving your own path is unconventional. If you aren’t satisfied with where you are in life, take it upon yourself to change it. Don’t passively wait for people to hand you opportunities. The road to doing what you love is rocky. It’s lonely and there’s an obstacle at almost every corner.