The Modern Career: The Unconventional Road to Success

For most of us, the pressure of going to college/university, picking a major, and following a related career path, has been chiselled into our brain. A lot of our parents have worked in the same job, for the same company, for twenty to thirty years or more. Our parents will, or have already, retired with a full pension, and will die knowing that they lived comfortably doing the same job their entire lives, without ever having, or following, a craving for something more.

But we are not our parents. We have grown up in a vastly different landscape. The world is a different place than it used to be, and younger generations seem to crave something more than just 8 hour work days and full benefits. I am not saying every young person is following a non-linear career trajectory, but more people are following more creative pursuits, and going down the road less travelled than ever before. Some might even say that despite our job market being increasingly more competitive than the decades before us, our generation is happier and more fulfilled with our careers than generations before us. While some traditional things are still important, for many of us, we see that there is more to life than Keeping up with the Jones.

Sarah Milan created her own business known as Sarah’s Soaps to fulfill her needs for natural, preservative and chemical free skin care. As a result, she began creating handcrafted, natural, vegan, artificial free body lotions, bath soaks, and soaps.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I saw myself in my future career, so I struggled with what to take in school. I wasn’t driven towards my program, so I always searched for new creative outlets to explore. I was searching Pinterest one day and came across soap making. It was one thing that I never actually heard of anyone doing so I gave it a try and instantly fell in love with how practical yet artsy the process is.”

Her goal was to create a good product that would also be good for your skin and overall health. By doing so, she also was able to contribute to her local community in Niagara. She sells her products at a local craft market, salons, as well as online on the official Sarah’s Soap website.

“For me, it has totally been worth it. I am the kind of person that chooses to do things based on happiness – if something will make me or others happy I am going to do it. Life is too short to sit at a boring desk job day to day. That is just not for me. I am a creative person, and I need to be hands on,” says Sarah. “Since I have started my business I have met so many amazing like-minded individuals whom I have inspired and taught me so much. You can tell when someone is passionate about what they do, it shows.”

My Experience

What I’ve learned recently is that it’s okay not to have all your ducks in a row at 24. I’ve also learned that it’s okay not to follow a conventional career path. You are not confined to be defined by one single thing. You can be a server and a journalist. It’s allowed, and totally doable. You can be an owner of a business and also an aspiring opera singer if you want, and doing that doesn’t make you any less of a person, or mean you are less intelligent, or that you will be any less successful in life.

When I finished school, I felt this innate pressure to find a job in my “field.” The pressure wasn’t necessarily from my parents, but from comparing myself to this idea of what I felt I should be doing. I was serving tables and applying for jobs, and the more interviews I had, the more I realized two important things. One that I didn’t want to work Monday-Friday from 9 to 5 and sit at a desk all day. Two that I didn’t want to work for someone else. I realized I was the creator of my pressure and stress. It was my life, and I was allowed to do what I wanted. Why should I spend my life doing something I don’t like? I would rather be happy and follow my passion for creativity rather than conventional, and I think a lot of people are starting to view their career path in a similar light.

The Moral of the Story

At Novella, many of us are in this together. We chose to follow our passion and work for Novella while balancing other jobs to help sustain ourselves. We do it because we love it, and it makes us happy, and it’s what we WANT to be doing.

So, stop apologizing for doing what you want and following a career path that is seen by some as non-traditional. It’s your life, not theirs. And at the very least, at least you’ll know you tried. There are so many cool and amazing people doing amazing and creative things that would never have been considered, or even possible twenty years ago, so why not be one of those people? For fear of sounding cliche, just remember, you will always regret the chances you didn’t take.

As for Sarah, her advice for those who are struggling with the urge to follow a “non-traditional career path” is simple.

“Just do it. It is super cheesy and cliché but it is true. A career is a career at the end of the day, so why not do what you love?”

Sarah Milan, Sarah’s Soaps

Breaking Barriers: Women in Photography

Mellow guitar chops, sounds of change clanging, and laughter: a Calgary’s Starbucks hasn’t changed its daily playlist, which satisfies those who escape their offices to find inspiration over a hot cup of coffee.

A photography intern Della Rollins was sipping her Americano and watching a woman flipping through the pages of a Calgary Herald. Rollins quit her public relations job before she went on a year-trip and she didn’t have to escape her office anymore. No more high heels and crazy hours, she thought, continuing to watch the woman.

Suddenly, the woman stopped flipping through and looked at a page with a man with a bike. Rollins heard her heartbeat: the photo was her first publication. This is amazing, she thought gazing around the shop. All these people looking at my picture!

Since then Rollins has been freelancing for the Globe and Male, National Post, and Maclean’s. Work, life, and travel were finally balanced. However, the dream job had its own challenges. Rollins realized it was not only precarious but also not women-friendly.

Photo by Sveta Soloveva

At Ryerson’s journalism conference on April 6th, Rollins and three other female photographers (Meredith Holbrook, Sarah Palmer, and Laurence Butet-Roch) discussed the key problems women face in photojournalism and gave some advices on surviving as a freelancer in Canada.

Last year World Press Photo conducted an online-survey of 1,991 photographers that showed that the field remains persistently male-dominated — 85% — despite recent photo-grads being more than 50% female. According to the News Photographers Associations of Canada (NPAC), only 12% of Canadian photojournalists are women.

“There is a lot of talented men,” said Rollins. “But women are winning awards like Photojournalist of the Year… They do brilliant work. So when you hiring, they should be on top of mind.”

There are not many networking opportunities for women in photojournalism, and, once they are are included, they tend to be assigned to cover exclusively women-oriented issues and events like the Women’s March.

Meanwhile, women’s voices are an integral part of diversity, said Butet-Roch, who has been photographing the indigenous Attawapiskat communities for seven years.

“Our journalism is just going to be better if we have more diverse voices,” she said. “Giving people the opportunity to report on what they want and not just assign the woman issue to a woman photographer or Indigenous issue to an Indigenous photographer. A woman Indigenous photographer being assigned a story on football would be wonderful.”

Freelancing is a job with no guarantees. But today, when the institutions primarily hire men, it seems to be the best career option for a female photojournalist.

“You have to really hustle,” said Holbrook, who has been photographing Palestinian Territories and Israel for The Jerusalem Post and working on different projects with National Geographic. “There are so many things you wanna do and other people won’t do. And you have to keep going and show people that you are still around, even if they are not answering. There are so many freelancers out there. You have to really show why you are different than anyone else.”

All the participants of the panel agreed on the positive sides of freelance jobs, such as choosing their schedule and subjects they are passionate about.

Butet-Roch, who used to be a stuff-photographer for four years in France, said she quit the job because she couldn’t get in-depth photography experience sitting “behind the desk.”

“There were […] stories that I felt I was missing out [on],” she said. “I wanted to be a freelancer and take time to actually get to know the story.”

Currently working on Virtual Aamjiwnaang, an interactive storytelling platform befitting Indigenous practices at Ryerson, Butet-Roch said that she is happy with her decision.

Rolliins, the contributing photo-editor at Maclean’s, said freelancing allows her to travel and work at her own pace. “Freelancing is a blessing that I didn’t expect,” she said.

The photographers shared some techniques that helped them to succeed in freelancing. One of the advices was building multiple skills in photography, videography, and writing “to have the door open” and be able to tell the story in different ways. However, it’s important to focus on one area.

“Have all kind of skills but specialize in one,” said Rollins who also writes. “They want you to do a little bit of everything. But if you are too spread out and not great in one thing, it’s hard to be hired for that one thing.”

A graduate from the Ryerson’s photography program, Palmer, who just got a grant for her project Drunk on Trump, suggested that freelancers keep their websites “light and clean,” featuring photos that represent only topics of their specialization.

Holbrook added that each photo should “speak to the audience” through its description. She also highlighted the importance of social media, saying that many photographers and organizations get connected to each other through Instagram. “It’s [Instagram] is a realistic way of branding yourself,” she said.

Having real photojournalism friends is effective for exchanging skills and, sometimes, equipment. “Find your small group of photo or journalism people who are constantly pushing you and teaching you,” said Rollins. One way to build that network is to attend photo conferences. One of them will be organized by News Photographers Association in the first week of May. All photographers will have a chance to review their work with photo editors from the Globe and Mail, National Post, and Maclean’s.

The discussion ended on a positive note inspiring freelance women photographers to keep following their passion. “As a photographer or journalist, you already have that type of skills that people are attracted to,” said Holbrook. “There’s something important, something that drives you into this area, so hopefully someone will pick up on that.”

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