How to Start Building Your Dream Career On Your Own
And why you can't wait for someone to "discover" you.
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I spent a good portion of my life thinking that opportunities are supposed to fall into your lap magically. We've heard the romanticized stories about exactly that. In my recent TEDx, I talked about how actress Charlize Theron was upset at a bank when she first moved to Hollywood from Johannesburg because she couldn't access her bank to withdraw money. Hollywood manager John Crosby happened to be in the bank at the same time. He saw her throw her fit and signed her on the spot.
Or, equally as serendipitous: Mandy Moore was working on her music at a studio in Orlando when she was 13, and a FedEx delivery man overhead her singing. He sent her record to his friend at Epic Records, and that's how she got her start.
But here's the issue with stories like these: We hear them enough that we begin to believe that someone is coming to "save" us — whether it be a Hollywood manager who's at our bank or a FedEx delivery man who overhears our talent. It makes it easy to put our dream in our back pocket and believe that the right opportunity will fall out of the sky with fairy dust. This is a dangerous way of thinking, because it promotes complacency in our own lives when really, we need to be out there starting our dream careers on our own.
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So, how does one do this? It comes down to vision, traction and a content creation plan that feeds into both. With the right audience, you don't need that TV network, record deal or magic connection to start pursuing the career of your dreams. You can start on your own.
Show off what you can do on your own terms
Rather than waiting for that audition or meeting that may never come, how can you show what you can do now, with the platforms you have available to you? My own dream career is to be a TV show host. When I was seeking advice from Joya Dass, a long time TV anchor and the founder of LadyDrinks, she told me it's all about putting out content now that's reflective of your talents and abilities.
"Nowadays, networks come to you if you have the audience and you're already doing what you would be doing on their show," she told me. So, if you can build the audience on your own, you'll have plenty of evidence that you have a skill set or talent in your dream career and that you're an asset that employers should want.
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This is in accordance with one of my favorite quotes: "Be so good they can't ignore you." Jessie James Decker, country music singer and fashion designer, shared with Lori Greiner on the "Bed Talks with Lori" Instagram Live series that the first thing you should do if you're a singer is to post videos of yourself singing. If you're good, people will pay attention, follow you and share your page with others. We so often think that we first need to be "given the microphone" or the platform to show what we can do, but it begins with taking the initiative on our own and believing in our talents enough to trust that sharing them will get us somewhere.
Build your audience backwards
It's easy to say "just get started," but it's also key to be strategic with our efforts. Sunny Lenarduzzi is a social media marketing expert who has almost half a million YouTube subscribers. When I asked her for her best advice on building an audience for your dream career, she said to work backwards. "The most successful channels and clients I've worked with know exactly who they are speaking to and exactly what they're trying to achieve before they ever record a single video. I emphasize that you need to research before you record," she told me.
"Look at mentors and influencers who have the exact audience you are looking to attract, and study what pieces of content are getting the most engagement from their audience. That will help inform the kind of content you create," she says.
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Essentially, it comes down to knowing what it is you want to say or do, then identifying the audience that most wants to hear it or engage with it. Then, don't stray from that message or that type of content as you begin to build your audience. I experienced explosive growth on my TikTok channel (quadrupling my following from 10,000 to over 40,000 in just over a month) once I focused solely on my niche, which is "creating your dream life." By building my audience backwards, my efforts were more fruitful.
It's admittedly daunting to go after your dream career and show up to an (initially) small audience day after day. But ultimately, if it's truly your dream career, you'll want to do the heart of the work even if no one sees or hears it. In today's social media-oriented world, we have the power to make the most of our platforms rather than waiting to be discovered. If you take it seriously and create consistently, your dream career awaits.
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