Nanette Wong is a creative and savvy influencer when it comes to: fashion, food, music, and art. She makes her living writing blogs, taking photos, and creating video content for a growing list of online and print outlets such as Glam, Chairish, Mode Media, Houzz, Design Milk and Brit + Co among others. This creative career path, however, is only a recent reality for Wong as she previously worked in the public health field. Following her intuition, Wong took a chance leaving this more stable path and pursued an editorial internship position to help transition into a creative career. It's taken her two years from then to now where recruiters are reaching out to her instead of the other way around.
The following conversation with Wong highlights four lessons she has learned along her path to working in her dream field.
#1 - Prepare for the transition and don't do it alone. Have a support network.
Wong set realistic expectations when she quit her full-time job in public health for a three month internship at Brit+Co. Despite the risk of no guarantee of a full time job following the internship, Wong followed her gut instinct. Wong began saving money and crafting a backup plan on where to live if she couldn't find work right away. With San Francisco rent prices, Wong knew she had to adapt her living situation to her new circumstances. Wong suggests even if you don't think you'll need it, make sure you have people who can take you in if it ever gets to that point.
At one point, with her funds nearly depleted and an endless series of rejections for each job she applied for, Wong had some peace of mind that she had friends and family who were willing to let her stay with them while she continued on the path of pursuing her dream career.
#2 - Don't let a lack of traditional experience deter you.
Wong's challenges included explaining to employers in the creative field why she'd leave an established career in healthcare for creative work. According to Wong, "feelings of insecurity is one of the biggest things I faced when interviewing at these places. There is a statistic that women only apply to jobs when they meet 100% of criteria on the listing, whereas men apply when they meet at least 50 or 70%. That resonated with me most— mental insecurity was the hardest thing to overcome. I never felt qualified to apply for these jobs, and a lot of initial rejections didn't help."
Wong suggests despite your feelings of having little experience, to not let that deter you. If you can substantiate your passion with proof through personal projects and outlets such as Instagram, share it. No matter the platform, the portfolio you share is your way of showing a consistent effort toward the career you want regardless of the formal training or traditional experience you may or may not have.
#3 - Set your expectations and prepare for long hours/days.
Wong mentioned though it seems silly in hindsight, she didn't realize how hard the internship would be. Transitioning from a boutique medical office to a Silicon Valley startup, Wong jumped right into long hours and exhausting days. Wong had envisioned tasting new recipes, baking cookies all day, and taking interesting photos with new-found friends at work. Though she was building her portfolio and the cookies were ample, Wong also packed hundreds of boxes and made toilet paper runs. When she worked on her portfolio, Wong also learned how much time and energy goes into producing a single piece of content.
An insight she shared was that people may not realize how tiring creative work is, especially when there's a boundless demand for it. The video or blog post that takes minutes to consume can take hours of effort to produce. Wong suggests that any opportunity you take may end up more difficult and challenging than you expect. Be flexible and prepared to put in long hours and do things that aren't glamorous. The opportunity for growth comes with paying your dues, especially in a startup environment.
#4 - Prepare to sacrifice, but don't sacrifice too much.
Wong states, "there were a lot of moments where I was not proud of myself as a freelancer, as a friend, as a family member, etc. Work consumed me. I think the biggest difficulty was that there were so many things I wanted to do and try, that I often felt I bit off more than I can chew." Taking on every interesting project that came along hurt Wong's reputation when she missed deadlines and her work quality decreased. A damaged reputation is not easy to repair. Though she credits perseverance and drive as favorable traits, she also advocates for a work-life balance. She mentioned, "there was one point when my fiancee said to me, ‘I feel like I only come over to watch the dog.’ I'll never forget that— it was then when I knew something needed to change."
Wong suggests a healthy balance between hustling for your dream career and taking care of your personal life. It seems obvious, but when transitioning careers or working on a passion-based business, work can consume your life. If you don't balance the professional and personal priorities, the transition isn't sustainable.
Wong faced hundreds of rejections after her internship before getting a single success. Wong learned to move on from rejections and not to internalize them. She stated for everything you do whether paid or free, hold yourself to the same standards and follow through. That is how Wong achieved her dream career. Wong now tries all the new recipes she wants, takes the interesting photos, and creates content for a diverse audience that’s growing daily. And she does it as her full-time job on her terms.
So what are you waiting for? Is it time for you to take the leap into a new career? With some preparation and reflection, now might be the time to get started.
To learn more about Nanette and her work, visit her website.