On Career Transitions: Cutting Through The Noise and Embracing Focus

Over the past month, I’ve thought a lot about time management, priorities and focus – hence my slight silence on the blog besides sharing postcards. This thinking exercise isn’t anything new – it’s been a regular occurrence ever since I embarked on the rewarding but demanding journey of transitioning from the law into travel photography and now writing.

More recently, however, I was reminded of the importance in learning and shifting priorities to go farther in this new field and make the best use of my talents.

These thoughts were triggered by TBEX, when I realized during and post-conference that I was sitting on potential and what I needed the most was focus. Focus on learning from the best – whether it means taking classes, workshops or attending the best of conferences – and focus on consistently seeking out opportunities and knocking on doors.

With all of these thoughts on my mind on the plane home from Colorado, an amazing opportunity came my way.

I opened my email to find a message from a fellow blogger currently on a trip around the world. In the email was a link to an ad for a travel writing gig, one for which she thought I was a perfect fit.  It did sound amazing and I knew I was qualified. A year ago I might have let fear or doubt take over, but after TBEX I realized that my true love is for travel writing and photography and not blogging full-time per se. I left feeling inspired and ready to push harder.

I spent the entire weekend drafting a cover letter and crafting a travel resume (the last one I wrote was for my legal experience and most of my travel-related gigs so far have mostly come from my networks). I edited, proofread and perfected and hit send. What’s the worst that could happen, I thought?

Within a few days, I received a response: I was selected for an interview. I was so excited, I must have read the email at least five times. Then I thought, well why not me? Ha.

Fast forward, a week after my one-hour phone interview, I was selected for the next step. I had just under 14 days to submit a near 50-page proposal.

I can’t quite describe the feelings of excitement, anxiety and adrenaline that came over me all at once. I was so excited and grateful to prepare this piece that I lived and breathed it for two weeks, all while I juggled my full time legal gig (I still consult as an attorney when I’m back in the US half the year).  Still, it didn’t prevent me from completing the work and I even had one day to spare for editing and perfecting.  I was  >>proud of what I put together and amazed at what I had accomplished in less than two weeks.

When I eventually sent the package in, it was late Sunday evening and two weeks of my life had gone by working on this project, with a little family time in between.

What did I cut out? Social media chatter and blogging three to four times a week.

It hit me, right then and since then, how much I could achieve if I had a self-imposed deadline and kept pressing on every single week. If I applied the passion I know I have and the resources available to not only better my skills in travel writing and photography, but to craft ideas week in and week out, to plan those big “dream” project(s) and to keep making steps forward. And not to confuse travel blogging with my dreams, because for me, blogging is merely an outlet to showcase my work and to inspire others to travel. Somehow, I temporarily lost sight of this and had turned it into another job.

When you’re a freelancer transitioning into this field, there are all sorts of distractions – from reading fellow bloggers’ sites, feeling the need to comment and reciprocate weekly, posting on your social media pages and still working in your previous field to supplement income. In the end, it becomes hard to focus on your big goals and easy to lose sight of just how much time has passed. But it’s imperative to keep track to succeed. To cut out the less important matters.

And while it may seem selfish to want to fully prioritize your work and push your progress -it really is not. If you’re like me and made huge sacrifices to pursue your passion – it’s a must to put 150% into your new field and prioritize. For myself, it means cutting down on online blog reading, spending less time on Facebook and instead reading the kind of travel writing I need to learn from, attending the kind of conference that will help me grow and improving my travel photography by being out there shooting.

Over the next months, while I will occasionally enjoy reading blogs and websites, I feel the need to give my all to my new field, the way that I did with the opportunity of a lifetime that came along three weeks ago. I’m not sure what will come of the latter (cross fingers for me folks and throw in a prayer) but regardless, I’m grateful for the new focus it gave me and for reminding me of the reason why I embarked on this journey in the first place.

Taking this renewed energy, I pitched a photo essay to one of my dream outlets a couple of weeks ago and got a yes. My piece will be out the third week of August and I can’t wait to share it with you all. I’ll still keep posting photos of course and will blog as I feel inspired. But in the meantime, I’ll be behind the scenes learning, networking and taking a couple of massive leaps of faith.

Stay tuned.

 

Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma has contributed writing and photography to CNN Travel, New York Magazine, AFAR, American Way, Travel Channel, BBC Travel, and others. She’s the new author of MOON BELIZE for Moon Travel Guides, and is completing a second title, MOON BELIZE CAYES. A serial expat, Lily’s lived and studied on three continents, including Africa–from her native Ethiopia to Côte d'Ivoire––and Europe, and is fluent in four languages. A former attorney who ditched the office for the road in 2009, she favors all things culture, adventure and storytelling, and escapes Washington DC’s winters every year. Lily also runs her award-winning travel and photography blog, Sunshine and Stilettos.

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9 Comments

  1. Lovenia 30 July, 2012 at 7:45 PM #

    I wish you all the best in getting that wonderful, dream-gig! You’ve definitely given me something to think about myself. I started this quest to teach abroad b/c of the opportunity to travel/live abroad and give myself the time and creative fuel to write my fiction…and during the process of making it happen, I’ve hardly written any fiction. And I can see, in the name of maintaining my blog (and other distractions) that continuing to happen if I’m not careful. Thanks for this post, because it has definitely reminded me that I need to constantly be on the watch for the periods when I let myself get caught up into doing, and thinking about everything else, but the thing that started this whole moving abroad business in the 1st place. Something I’ve been really guilty of lately…

  2. Lebawit Lily Girma 30 July, 2012 at 7:52 PM #

    Thanks much for the wishes Lovenia!

    And I’m glad this helped. Definitely keep in mind all the distractions, but don’t be too hard on yourself yet. You just moved and need the time it takes to adjust and settle into a new country and culture (to say the least!). But once you’ve done that, keep your eye on the prize(s). :-)

  3. Lebawit Lily Girma 30 July, 2012 at 7:54 PM #

    In fact, reading your comment reminded me of another point: don’t wait until things are perfect to write or start a chapter of that book or pitch that gig. Keep learning and focusing but also keep producing. Tomorrow just isn’t promised.

  4. Lovenia 30 July, 2012 at 10:15 PM #

    Both of your points are great… b/c at the end of the day, it’s all about balance… just gotta make sure that I strive for that, and I think things will be alright :-)

  5. Diana 30 July, 2012 at 10:40 PM #

    This is so on time for me right now. I have been struggling these last weeks about the time I am putting into my blog as opposed to pitching and working on projects. Thanks for this perspective. Congrats on the photo essay gig and best of luck on the writing gig! Lily you keep inspiring me.

  6. Andrea 31 July, 2012 at 12:34 AM #

    I wish you all the best and I will keep my fingers cross. Happy for you Lily!!!

  7. Lebawit Lily Girma 31 July, 2012 at 12:21 PM #

    Diana, thanks I’m happy you found it useful. And I understand what you mean – things change all the time, the key is to keep adjusting and listening to yourself, as opposed to following the herd. Thanks for your kind words as always and for your support!

    Andrea thanks so much – I truly appreciate your constant positivity and support! Hope we get to meet one day!!

  8. Andrea 2 August, 2012 at 3:24 AM #

    Lily, I’m sure we will meet some day in Jamaica…

  9. Lebawit Lily Girma 2 August, 2012 at 9:20 AM #

    Andrea, we just might!

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