Mama, You Have Skills Part One – Find & Hone Your Thing

NightWhen I started writing this post, it was clear that honing skills is an important topic. I’m going to break it into three parts – find & hone your thing, build your “what you do” statement, and figure out your next steps.

I believe experience is the best teacher. Falling on your face and figuring out how to make it not hurt so bad the next time is better.

In this post, I’ll share how I found my thing while giving you some actionable ideas for finding and honing your profitable skill.

Find your THING. 

In high school, I quickly realized that writing was my thing after senselessly chasing singing and being a math star. I can do both of those things with a great deal of effort, but writing and answering questions are my strengths.

So, I went to college to be a newspaper reporter. As I pursued my coursework, I realized I was in the right degree program, but maybe not on the right career path. The day-to-day news pieces didn’t have the creativity I craved.

I enjoyed my political science coursework so much that I pursued a second major. Then I took a class in political reporting. I loved the idea of being a political reporter, but I don’t think I had the passion for the subject needed to pursue the career path. Kind of like singing and math. I was interested, but not committed.

What’s the thing your hesitant to share?

Before I tell you my deep, dark secret career wish, I want you to go write down the thing you would do if money weren’t an issue. That is going to give you a clue to what you should be doing with your time.

Here’s my big secret – I’ve always wanted to be an advice columnist. I LOVE finding answers to problems. I love letters and deep conversations. These things just feed my soul. When I’m in the car alone, I listen to Dr. Laura.

My parents took me on their newspaper route nearly every weekend to help roll papers and to hand my mom bundles. I secretly enjoyed the early mornings because I loved to read advice columns and humor/lifestyle columns by people like Erma Bombeck and Dave Berry. They weren’t exactly taking applications for these columns. So, I knew I was going to have to do something else first.

But guess what? After almost 20 years of honing my thing, I’m getting to live my dream of advice columnist. It’s a more modern version of it, but this blog is that column. I want to help you find answers to your questions and get ideas churning that lead you to success.

Action Item: What do you do when you have unstructured time – without obligation? That’s a big clue for your profitable skill.

Consider how relationships affect your thing.

At the beginning of my junior year, I was pursuing a way to go to Washington, D.C. for an internship. I had a couple interviews set up for some unpaid work, but I was more than a little broke. My reality was scholarship kid at a college I could barely afford. This was going to be TOUGH.

Then, I met him. You know, that guy that blows all your plans to smithereens. 

I’m a pretty practical girl. I’ve turned down most of the riskier opportunities in my life for the more practical. I REALLY wanted this reporter’s life, but I also wanted to see where this relationship was going. It didn’t take long for me to realize he might just be the guy I was supposed to marry. He annoyed my friends. My parents weren’t sure what to think of him, and my team of tiny siblings saw him as a threat. 

Heck, I saw him as a threat. A threat to all that I had planned for my life. His vision for marriage was a wife who stayed home with her kids and drove them to baseball practice in a Suburban. THAT was not me. I was NOT going to just be a wife and mom. I worked too hard to get my education. I wanted to be something MORE.

And then we had the relationship talk. That talk that defines you. He kept saying “if we’re still together.” I finally gathered all my nerve to talk with the threat about the ISSUE. I don’t quit easily. I don’t play games. I wanted to make a life with him. (That last part slipped out a little too easily.)

I wasn’t sure I wanted the Suburban. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to stay home with my kids, but his mindset of doing something beyond the realm of normal excited me. God had plans for us, and I’d asked Him for this man of mine. I trusted that He works things out for the good of those who love Him.

The threat and I got serious, and I kept pursuing that double major and D.C. internship. Every door I walked through was a disappointment, until I walked into magazine and feature writing that spring. My political reporter plans were over.

I’d found my calling in life. I could work for anyone I chose to and work from anywhere. Heck, I was so good at this stuff, I was getting job offers a year before I graduated. It’s amazing what happens when you find your THING.

Success starts with a plan and hard work.

As excited as I was to find my thing, I knew I would need to work for a while before I started my freelance career. However, I did put a plan in place that meshed with the threat’s plan – I wanted to be a mom with a freelance business by the time I was 30.

Action Item: Make an actionable goal for your thing and cover it with prayer.

So, I spent the next six years working as an employed communication professional. I worked for a magazine, a blood bank, a nursing school, a hospital marketing department, and a software company marketing department.

Action Item: Need to work on a financial goal first? Educate yourself on your dream. Pray over it. Plan for it.

In my free time, I read books on freelance writing. I pursued projects with newspapers, bidding sites, and Craigslist ads. I prayed for God to make this dream a reality.

In 2008, I got the happy news that I was going to be a mom. So, the ambitious girl that I am started working on a plan to escape my corporate job when I brought my baby home. We had our beautiful baby girl at the end of September. I was scheduled to go back to work right before Thanksgiving.

I stalled for two weeks and then had to face the hardest day of my life – leaving my baby. We just couldn’t afford for me to stay home yet. I cried. I negotiated. I threatened the threat. But God was working on a plan. I just couldn’t see it yet.

The threat had left his job to start a construction company. I couldn’t understand why he got to go first. It wasn’t my place to understand. I trusted the Lord to build our house, and every house has changed plans.

I figured out real quick that my hospital marketing job was not going to work with being a mama. It was high-pressure and they wanted me to take work home. I was miserable. I found myself sneaking in project work on my pump breaks.

So, I started doing another thing I’m really good at – looking for another job. It took some time, but I had a new job by the time my baby was 8 months old. And I was excited. It was a great company, a great opportunity and about 20 minutes closer to home.

With my new schedule, I had a little more time to pursue freelance work. I was also writing again instead of telling people how to use logos. It’s amazing how a little change in position can bring back your spark.

Hint: You may have to try a few things before you find your thing.

Get training while getting paid.

Something else amazing came of this job change. The environment at my new company was built on entrepreneurship. Everyone was rewarded for taking ownership of the success of the company. You were respected for your insight and creativity.

We had company lunches and spent time reviewing successes and company values. If we needed further education to do our jobs well, we were given access to courses and mentors.

And branching out on your own to start something new was encouraged and celebrated. It was amazing to be part of a vision and not just in a job. God really blessed me by bringing me through this first.

I gained some real street cred in writing and had time to develop relationships outside of work for my freelance business.

What’s Next?

In Part 2 of “Mama, You Have Skills,” I’m going to share the more practical side of making the transition to working at home. I’ll also address how to start something even when you haven’t worked in a job related to your business.

Subscribe to my upcoming Mama Marketing Minute newsletter and I’ll send you a FREE “What You Do” Mini-Workbook to help you find & hone your thing.

Your Turn

Do you have a question about starting a work-at-home business? I’m building a library of FAQs and plan to start a reader question column soon. You can either comment below or send me an email to amandacbrandon at gmail dot com. Be blessed, my friends.

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