Work Like A Writer / Hustle Like A Woman
The age of finding a decades-long career for a solitary company with the expectation of retiring from said company with a sizable pension is gone. The likelihood of finding a job out of college like this the same way generations before us did is pretty slim. Even if this was still readily available, it is also just as likely that you wouldn’t want it.
More and more, its common to find that people are embracing the ability to do many things and excel at multiple trades. While working a steady job, they find the time to pursue freelance work, or sell a product as a side hustle. Experts in their field decide to give back later in their careers by balancing their daytime jobs with adjunct work at community colleges. Whether it’s because of a need for more income, or just a desire to have some professional variety, we are adding more to our career biographies than ever before.
Back in November, Forbes ran a feature shining a spotlight on this very reality. Millennials aren’t afraid to leave their jobs. While the Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers may say this is due to Millennial entitlement, the Labor Bureau statistics indicate that Millennials and Boomers have similar turnover stats in their 20’s (we’re not talking bouncing from job to job after two to six months, rather having the confidence and foresight to recognize that you’ve outgrown your current occupation after two to five years).
We recognize now that choosing a career path in high school, sticking with that plan for four to six years in college, and still committing to that decision for the 30 to 50 years of professional working life is not very realistic. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age 40, and this number is projected to grow. Are you part of this average?
There are many reasons and motivations to unpack when analyzing why a person might leave their job, but the fact remains, it doesn’t hurt to be able to do more than one thing. In fact, it can be the secret to a long, satisfying, and productive career.
We women are finding new and creative ways to attain professional success on our own terms This could be in direct response to a work climate that historically hasn’t done well to respond to the strengths and needs of women in the workplace. Rather than accept the status quo, some women are finding ways to break barriers and shatter ceilings from within. Others are braving their own paths, and some still, have found a way to do a combination of the two.
Our featured woman has brilliantly synergized her talents to work in a mix of settings. Both a storyteller personally and as an academic, and a technical and UX writer for major corporations, she’s flexed strengths from both sides of her brain to create a working life as a professional writer. Anyone who lives the life of a writer understands the heft to that title -- to writing professionally.
Still, this woman couldn’t ignore her desire to leave cubicle work in pursuit of something more. She had aspirations for the life of an entrepreneur, a business owner, who could hone her craft to benefit others in their businesses. She sacrificed safety and security and measurable success at a corporate job to pursue a passion that offered an uncertain future. That alone is worthy of a celebration, but what makes this woman’s story all the more remarkable, is her willingness to share, through writing, her journey along the way for others who may draw encouragement from these shared experiences, both good and bad.
MEET ALLIE, A WRITER FROM ESCONDIDO, CALIFORNIA.
Allie, what life events and experiences led you to your current job?
I’ve always been a writer. Maybe even before I ever considered using that as a label for myself. I wrote stories and poems as a kid, but didn’t seriously start pursuing writing until college. It was always something I enjoyed, but it took a long time for me to figure out how and where to use it as a career. I think it’s something I’m still figuring out as I go. Even taking a creative writing background and translating it into marketing copy and more technical writing was something I never expected to be doing.
Now, I currently am a UX Writer at GoPro where I write the content and messaging for the mobile app experience. It’s a job that, in a weird way, uses a lot of creative writing techniques. I’m constantly thinking about diction, creating a clear tone and voice as well as working with very limited real estate. It’s a role that I enjoy because there is always something new to work on whether it’s writing more technical copy for support pages or marketing messages like app notifications.
Tell us a little about the business you started, A Writing Box.
After working in the corporate world for a few years, I decided to start my own business. It has been a crazy journey to jump ship in a sense and not really know what might happen next. I spent a lot of time networking and trying to build my own client base. And a lot of time figuring out what kinds of projects I wanted to be doing. I realized that I love helping companies find their brand voice--whether they are just starting out or needing a rebrand. There’s a lot of work that should go into a brand defining who they are and how they’ll communicate that to the world. Once you figure out that piece, it’s what drives your content from your website to your social media, blogs, etc.
Even though I’m currently back in an office role, I’m constantly brainstorming and evolving the entrepreneurial side of my life. I maintain some of my own clients and am even starting a new side project that may be the beginnings of a podcast and could evolve into something else. That’s the thing about starting a business and getting the ‘entrepreneur bug’--you are constantly thinking of and trying new things. It may have started with A Writing Box, but where it goes from there is still up in the air.
Where do you think your passion for writing come from?
My passion for writing started with reading. With stories of things and places that don’t exist in our world or society. I have always been big on fantasy and science fiction—anything involving time travel, alternate universes or magic. A Wrinkle in Time was one of my all time favorites as a kid. And of course Harry Potter. As I grew older, I realized the power of writing. Of being able to say or express things in a compelling way. It’s about having a voice and helping give a voice to others by helping them say the right things in the right way.
We are all challenged in some way when it comes to embarking on a new career or pursuing a passion. Tell us about one obstacle or setback you faced getting to where you are today in your field. How were you able to overcome it and what have you learned from this experience?
Starting my own business offering writing services has definitely been the most difficult challenge so far. It’s not enough to be good at what you do—you have to wear so many other hats and be able to handle your own marketing, business operations, finances, etc. Things move a lot slower than you want them to and it’s such an unpredictable journey. I learned some huge lessons there around being okay with each month, each week even, looking different from the next.
Another big lesson was trying to stay confident and happy with myself when I ran into clients or projects that I didn’t mesh with. When you don’t have the cover of an office job, one bad client or botched project can make you feel like it’s the end of the road. You worry if you’re really cut out for what you wanted to do or simply can’t do it all and maintain a healthy, fulfilled lifestyle.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What does that look like for you?
Totally. It’s something that has been a driving force in many of my major career decisions. To me, it looks like knowing when to walk away from a job or role because it doesn’t make you happy anymore. It’s recognizing that dissatisfaction in the workplace radiates into all aspects of your life. It makes you tired, grumpy, and all around stressed which affects your family and overall quality of life.
Working for myself had the ultimate benefit of flexibility—being able to pick up my son from school and create my own schedule. But the trade-off is that financially things were a bit tighter and we weren’t able to do some of the things we enjoyed doing as a family. I feel like work/life balance is not only different between individuals but evolves and changes with the stages of your life. To me now, work/life balance is being satisfied in my job, having the comfort to travel or share fun experiences with my family, and have the space for myself mentally to continue to pursue passion projects or just breathe.
What do you love or find most rewarding about your work?
The most rewarding aspect is hearing someone say, “That’s exactly what I was trying to say, but couldn’t find the words." When a client or colleague sees something that is a manifestation of what they had in their mind, it’s totally a feeling of achievement on my end. Whether it’s a screen for a mobile app, a website blurb or a company’s mission statement.
What is your philosophy about work? What do you believe is the key to professional success?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately since I’ve gone through some major shifts in the past few months. Overall, I think I’ll always be the type of person who wants to love their job and find joy in it. Will it always be perfect? Not a chance. Even your dream job will have mundane tasks or an aspect that isn’t great. At the very least, you shouldn’t have to wake up every morning dreading your day or carrying the burden of a role that does nothing but stress you out. Work should be something that is fun at times, challenging at others, and ultimately gives you some sense of purpose.
You should value the work that you do and in turn you deserve to feel valued where you work. If those things aren’t aligned, then it might be time to reflect on your situation. I learned these things by being in all different types of roles and industries. I’ve worked as a college instructor, freelancer, small business owner, contractor and full-time employee. All of these come with different challenges and nuances.
Professional success, to me, is finding a balance of something you’re passionate about, something you’re great at, and something that will allow you to live within the means you’ve set for yourself.
How does being a woman influence your approach to your practice and your career? Have you felt any adversity, discrimination or other challenges that you feel were due to your gender at any point in your working years?
In nearly every job I’ve had, at some point, I’ve felt ignored, passed over and underestimated by someone in my workplace. I believe much of this is due to being a woman, particularly a woman of color. People have made assumptions about me, my life, and/or my family based on my race or gender. In response, my approach has been to let my work, or my results speak for themselves—and when that’s not enough, speak up for myself.
I don’t consider myself a particularly assertive or aggressive person, which has worked in my favor sometimes and other times not. I’ve often been caught in that lovely conundrum of being outspoken means you’re a b*tch and being nice to work with means you’re a doormat. I’ve had to really learn to negotiate and sell whether it’s on my own behalf or part of the job. They might not like or respect you, but they can’t argue with facts (most of the time).
Who is one woman that you admire or have been motivated by?
Lately, I have been really inspired by Ali Wong. She’s a comedian who now has two Netflix specials where she performs pregnant with her first and second child. She does an amazing job of making some really bold and really honest statements about feminism, motherhood, and women at work— but in a way that’s relatable, vulnerable, and hilarious. So often, these conversations can be exhausting emotionally, but I’m inspired by her ability to transform some really thoughtful reflections into humor that actually gets a message across.
Before you go, what advice to you have for women looking to get into your profession?
Try everything. Pick up writing projects for friends or family. Take on anything that comes your way and figure out what you really like to do and then start focusing on that. Build a portfolio of all the things you’ve done and find the right job postings or clients who fit your target niche.
Find a mentor. I’m absolutely open to chatting with anyone interested in copywriting, brand strategy or technical writing. If you have someone that you can go to for questions or someone who just understands your pain—it can change everything.
Allie Moreno is a Filipino-American writer, born and raised in San Diego. She received her BA in Literature and Writing from CSUSM and her MFA in Writing from UCSD. Her first book, “Still Prime” explores her identity as a Filipino-American woman, a feminist, and a transracial adoptee. Allie currently lives in North County and works as a UX writer at GoPro. You can find her work at www.alliemoreno.com.