Building a Career as a Young Professional

As the late Steve Jobs once said:

 The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. 

My name is Clayton d’Arnault, a 24-year-old aspiring writer.

This piece is a glance into the mind of a young professional trying to build a prosperous career — the journey to doing what I love for a living. Just like many other young professionals who have recently started their careers, I don’t know exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life. What I do know is that I want options. I have many thoughts, ideas, and inspirations throughout the day, and considering that I work a full-time job as a technical writer while trying to keep a social life, it’s very difficult to keep track of everything that runs through my mind. This is an attempt to add a bit of organization to the chaos, as well as an opportunity to give others an inside look at what goes through my mind as a young professional. At the very least this will help me make sense of my thoughts on what I want career-wise, and what I plan to do to reach my goals.

Figuring It Out.

It took a while for me to find my calling.

Between the ages of five and ten, I had already planned to be a professional soccer player. However, if that didn’t work out I always had backups: a paleontologist, an engineer, a sports therapist, an astronomer. I’ve always been one who plans and calculates the risks ahead of time.

By the end of high school, I stopped playing soccer competitively, ruled out everything I planned for myself throughout childhood, and fell back on a skill that I unexpectedly excelled at — writing.

I started college as a journalism major with hopes of working for a modern publication, and though I had determined my niche, I still wasn’t sure I could dedicate myself to writing for the next 30-plus years of my life. After two years of general education classes and a couple collegiate migrations (USF, Miami-Dade, and finally UCF) I buckled under my heavy interest in technology and decided to give Computer Science a shot. I almost failed miserably. For the record, I would like to point out that, though compared very often, writing code and writing text are not synonymous.

Finally, I sat down and compared my interests with my strengths to come up with a career track that I would stick with, at least for the remainder of my Bachelor’s degree. I crossed what I was interested in (technology) with what I was good at (writing) and came up with technical writing. Makes sense right? At the time though, I had no idea it was a legitimate career.

The recipe for my current path: one part premature life planning, one part adulthood, and a dash of realistic life evaluation. Shake well. Serve with a side of uncertainty.

As a kid, I was told I could do anything I put my mind to — which is true — but what they didn’t tell me is that my mind will change constantly, develop new interests, and have a really difficult time committing to one thing.

See, for some people a career path comes easily. There are those who figure out what they love from a very young age and work towards it all their life. Some just have it handed to them. But for others, it takes a significant amount of time and thoughtful consideration just to determine what they want to do and what careers are remotely interesting. That is still my case. Though I may have finally found my calling, I’m uncertain of what I want to do with it; my mind jumps back and forth between the possibilities. Figuring it out is a process, one that I figure will last well into my adulthood.

Gaining the Experience.

The journey to the top of the ladder can be a long one.

The amount of work and experience it takes to get to where you want to be can be a little unsettling once it hits you and when you’re young and eager, it’s very easy to bite off more than you can chew. The very thought of having to wait until I finally get to where I want to be can be extremely frustrating at times — especially when I have the utmost confidence in my abilities. But like I said, not many of us can jump into exactly what they want. It takes a little time and patience to get there.

As I’ve mentioned, I currently work as a technical writer for a financial technology company, documenting software and producing help files for our clients. Not exactly the most exciting subject, but interesting nonetheless, and much closer to my goal of breaking into the internet industry. Previously, I worked as a technical writer for a theme park, covering the mechanical manuals used to maintenance the rides and attractions — semi-interesting, but not my preferred line of work either. I stuck that one out for about a year and a half.

But before I tell you why I took these jobs, here’s my philosophy on building experience:

I feel that a young professional should never settle.

Dabble in everything that may be of interest, narrow them down to a core few, and determine your niche. Use that niche to your advantage, but don’t limit yourself. You have probable cause to experience everything you think you would enjoy doing. Take every opportunity you’re given and use them as stepping-stones to something greater. Get the experience and move on. Never stay in one spot too long until you feel like that’s where you’re meant to be. And once you get bored, just re-evaluate. It’s never too late to learn something new. The least it can do is make you a well-rounded professional.

With this philosophy in mind, I accepted these jobs knowing that they weren’t exactly what I was looking for, but that they were great opportunities to get the experience I need to move further up the ladder. They’re also the same opportunities that have caused me to reevaluate my current career choice, but, more on that later.

Declaring My Goals.

I think now is as good a time as any to discuss and layout my goals (because up until now, I’ve never actually written them out). I have a lot of goals that come to mind in the grand scheme of things, but to keep it concise, I generalized and broke them up into three types of goals:

  • Short-term — create a reputation for myself as a respectable professional, develop my portfolio for future opportunities, and learn as much as I can about everything that interests me.
  • Long-term — work alongside technology with the internet as my medium. I want to work in an industry that I’m genuinely interested in, for a company doing revolutionary things, with a modern, startup environment that keeps me engaged.
  • Overall — love what I do. I want to be a well-rounded professional who enjoys waking up for work. I never want to be stuck at a dead-end desk job dissatisfied with what I do.

Currently, I’m focusing on short-term because it’s the key to the other two. Once I build a respectable reputation for myself and develop my portfolio, I’ll be able to take advantage of multiple opportunities to work in an ideal environment, at a company that I’m excited to be a part of, and potentially open doors that lead to my overall goal.

Initially, my long-term goal was to land a job with Google, or any tech company for that matter; companies like Microsoft, Samsung, Apple (though I’m not an Apple fan) or internet-based companies like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Reddit. The list of places goes on. But the more I think about it, I realize that the only type of writing I’d really be doing at these companies would be, well, technical writing. And I’m not so sure I want to stick with it. It’s the one underlying question that haunts me daily.

Do I want to continue on with technical writing, or will I change directions to one of the many other careers that are beginning to catch my interest?

Who knows, maybe I’ll change my career to UX/UI or web design and join a startup. Maybe I’ll stick with writing but go the journalism route, writing for a tech blog or magazine. Maybe I’ll go down the road of advertising and write persuasive content for consumers. Perhaps I’ll end up starting my own tech-based company or copywriting business, or even writing a few books. These are all possibilities for me, and at this point, it’s a toss-up.

Building the Future.

So, how am I going to reach these goals and what do I have to do, learn, or experience in order to make them a reality? And how can I progress in such a way that I have different options? I don’t have a definitive answer to either of these questions because of all the surrounding uncertainty. But, I do know that this website is the first step to figuring it out.
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I see this space as the starting point of my journey towards the overall goal. It’s my way of creating an online presence — I’ll build a respectable audience through these blogs and the various social media platforms I’ll be interacting with along the way. From there, I’ll build my portfolio through guest blogging and other freelance services, study and learn new things to add to my repertoire (powered by various online channels and my own determination), and continue to work my way up in experience until I finally get to a place where I don’t mind waking up in the morning. And if that feeling ever wears off, I’ll move to the next thing. This is all ideal of course. It sounds so clean and polished when written out, but I really have no idea what’s in store for me, or how it’ll all play out. I’m sure all the questions and thoughts I have about building my career will be answered as I go through the motions of developing as a professional.

It shouldn’t be too surprising to tell you that all these thoughts I have about my future can be overwhelming at times; stretching myself thin trying to learn and experience everything I can as quickly as possible. The curse of an all-too-eager 20-something-year-old.

Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself to balance my priorities, slow down, and take everything one step at a time.

Bottom line, one opportunity is merely a stepping-stone for the next. This website is one step of many in establishing a notable presence as a multifaceted, professional writer.

I just want to love what I do, and the only way for me to find that out, is to go with the flow and experience it all in stride. There’s a much bigger picture involved here, and I’m very ambitious.

This post was featured in Personal Growth.

6 thoughts on “Building a Career as a Young Professional

  1. Hey man, remember me? lol we had a class at MDC. I read your blog and wow, great job! this peice resonated with me. We’re on the same boat regarding not knowing what we want to do for the rest of our lives. Due to so much uncertainty, I decided to start looking for answers within. in all jonesty, you are the answer. I recommend a lot of reading, mindfulness mediation, and reflecting. What’s more, don’t think its weird to consult yourself, (sometimes you need expert advice) 😉 lol. Good luck brother. God bless .

    1. Of course I remember you man! We had speech class together. I really appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I’m glad someone could actually relate to what I’m saying. I’m sure everything will fall into place as I work my way through everything, it can just be frustrating sometimes. But regardless, I’m excited to see what the future holds. Thank you for the advice and kind words. Good luck to you as well my friend!

    1. Hi Rachel! Thank you so much for reading. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. Anything in particular about this post that really sits with you?

  2. That’s an excellent article clayton! I’m happy you are representing the Suriname dream! God bless you. Hopefully we have some parbo next time your in town!

  3. Hey Clayton remember me? Haha

    Miss you bro. Great post right here. I can definitely relate except for the bit about Apple (die-hard Apple user over here). Just got to keep working hard and like you said everything will start falling into place. Anyways good luck with everything that you’re doing and I hope to read more. Much love.

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