True Story: I Have My Dream Job

What it feels like to be working your dream job
This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of Emma and how she left a job she hated for one that she totally, totally loves. How fantastic, right?
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi there. I’m Emma, 29 and I am from New Zealand. I grew up in what the Rolling Stones described as the ‘asshole of the world’ – Invercargill. I now live in Nelson, via Wellington and Dunedin. In my spare time I love to hula hoop and go for long walks.
I spend lots of time looking for houses I would like to live in (we are trying to buy our first home), plan my impending nuptials, look after our two kitties, play Lady Gaga on my cello, pretend to play the banjo, and hassle my fiance about getting a puppy.
What did you study at university? What were your first jobs out of school like?
I always loved playing music, and really just wanted to do that all the time, so when I finally got to the University of Otago (after failing high school and taking a year off), I had decided on doing a bachelor of music, endorsed in contemporary music.My confidence was really shot after failing school, so Uni was a big risk for me. Once I had passed my first 6 months, my confidence went up and I decided to do a second degree in Film and Media Studies.

How much did you hate your previous jobs? What did you hate about them?
Well, some days were better than others. Payday was always a highlight! I worked mainly in hospitality, going from working in a trendy bar which I hated, to a completely kitsch restaurant that I loved. It was never meant to be longterm however. At uni, the goal was to work in order to have money to be social, and that’s about it.

After I graduated, I took a job working in an office. Things got pretty boring. Gone were the days of partying, and I was stuck in a job that had loads of responsibility that I just didn’t want.

I justified taking the job so that I could still work on my song writing and perform live gigs, as I had been doing throughout my studies, but god, the daily grind was a bit monotonous. Overall I hated my previous jobs because I was just floating on by, being a robot, and waiting for 5pm to come around.

Did hating your job affect other aspects of your life?
I found that after 8 hours in front of a computer I didn’t have the energy to go out afterward, and became a social hermit pretty early on in the game. All I did was work-gym-home-sleep on weekdays, and I didn’t feel like the intellectual part of me was getting fulfilled at all. Work was also frustrating. There would be massive deadlines to meet each month, and I was working with numbers all day and inputting data – NOT my favorite thing in the world.

What made you decide to quit your job and go back to school?
I had heard about music therapy through my sister, who is a clinical psychologist in Ireland. It sounded amazing, and my sister said she could absolutely imagine me doing it. I always had a bit of a sore spot about spending four years at university, and not doing anything with my qualifications, and this looked like a good opportunity to get back into it.

I had a look around to see where music therapy was offered, and the only place in New Zealand where you can train as a music therapist is at the New Zealand School of Music, in Wellington. I had to audition for the course – there are only about 8 spaces a year – and I got put on to the waiting list. Resigned in the fact that I had not been accepted, I decided to buy a ticket to the UK.

About a month later I got a letter in the mail telling me I had been accepted. So, I went to the park and wrote a list of pros and cons, and then called my Mum. By the end of the week, I had canceled my trip, and written a letter of resignation to my boss. I remember being so scared about leaving Dunedin and my paycheck behind, but determined to use my brain again!

How did the people in your life react to your decision?
They were amazingly supportive. Mum and Dad offered to help me financially, as Wellington is a lot more expensive to live in than Dunedin. Their contribution meant I could just concentrate on completing my Masters. A lot of my friends were planning to leave Dunedin to move to Auckland, so we were all in the same boat. I really had no one holding me back, so I sold all my belongings, found a flat, took my cat to my friends’ house, and drove to Wellington all by myself. (The cat flew up later 🙂

While you were in graduate school, did you ever question your decision to leave your job?
I absolutely did. At the beginning it was amazing learning all these new skills, meet new people, be in the big city and be on placement. But, as the year went on and the assignments got harder and harder (and I got poorer and poorer), it became really difficult and stressful.

In that same year, Mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer. I absolutely did not want to be in Wellington any longer, I wanted to be close to my Mum in Invercargill. I organized to be transferred for my second year to Dunedin (a 2 hour drive from Invercargill), but Mum insisted I stay in Wellington to get the best out of my course, and did not want to be the reason why I sacrificed all the work I had done.

We made a compromise that I would be able to fly home whenever I wanted, which ended up being every 3 weeks or so. It was an incredibly hard time. She is really the one that got me through my studies, and I really wanted to make her proud. I was so thankful that I got to fulfill my promise to her and be with her throughout her illness until the end. Mum passed away in September 2008.

How do you feel now that you’ve landed your dream job?
Relieved? Shocked? Work as a music therapist is quite hard to find in NZ, and you really have to be motivated to find employment and make yourself known in the community. The fact that I had a job ready and waiting for me in Nelson was such a bonus. It was absolutely meant to be, and it is absolutely astounding I get to work with amazing kids and muck around all day playing music. I just can’t quite believe I made it through my masters and can call myself a New Zealand Registered Music Therapist.

What advice would you give to someone who hates their job but feels stuck? Are there any resources that were really useful for you?
Firstly, excuses are sometimes easier to make than actually taking a big gulp and jumping. Remember, you have only ONE life. If you are currently disappointed at the career path you are on, then think how disappointed you will be 20 years from now and you have not done anything to fix it.

Secondly, I found doing some work experience on my lunch breaks and realizing I had “the knack” for working with people helped set my mind at ease, and talking to practicing music therapists really got me saying yes, I want to be this! I am going to do it! Hurrah!!!!

How do you feel about your job? Have any of you taken a big leap into a career change?

photo by joã silas // cc

11 Comments

Stephanie

I totally understand 'taking a big gulp and jumping'. Having stayed in the same job for 8 years, I finally took the plunge.

Unfortunately, for me what I plunged into was not what I expected. FORTUNATELY, my friend sent me this website and now I draw inspiration from this blog! I was even inspired to do my own '32 things before my birthday' list! While my career comes to a standstill for now, I'm making sure it doesn't affect the other side of life…

Thank you so much for keeping this blog! YES WE CAN DO IT!

XOXO S

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Rachelle

I recently did a few posts about this on my blog. I quit my job at a small non-profit, doing event planning, to go to grad school for accounting and be a CPA. Kind of the opposite of most people's career changes! But for me it was totally the right choice. It was terrifying but totally worth it.

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R

I recently quit my job in the public school system, and am in the process of re-evaluating my career goals. This post is so inspiring, and a great way to stay motivated towards finding the job I was meant to have!

It is also inspiring to read about someone who took an extremely creative love (music) and found success in a job that may not have the fame and fortune of being a famous pop star (or cello player), but allows the poster to pursue her dream of music within her career!

Thanks 🙂

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Sarah

So glad you found a dream job! I think I found mine in teaching and it's wonderful not hating work or feeling tired from sitting at a computer all day! I work in special ed and we have a music therapist (art too) and They're wonderful and the kids love them!

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brooke

man.

all signs point to "get the heck out of this crap job." thanks for the inspiration. good for you for jumping.

all the best.

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Lucy Pearl

I really needed to hear this. My current job sucks. It has sucked for a while but the paycheck and being the sole bread winner in the household makes for some though choices about jumping….Thanks 🙂

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Carina

I don't particularly like my job, to be honest… I mean, it's not my dream job, but it's not the worst and thankfully, it's related to some of my interests. I do want other things for myself, but I am really grateful with what I have going for me right now, even if it's not exactly my favorite thing to do, most days.

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Angela

Emma, thanks for sharing your story – I am going to check out your blog in just a moment. I relate to much of this. I went through a four year university as a music major because music is what I do – nothing else makes sense. I got an office job and gigged for a while on the side but eventually lost all my energy from sitting in front of the glowing screens 8 hours a day. I have been sitting here for 4.5 years and sometimes break down crying for no apparent reason. I get very stressed about money, and hustling as a musician makes me tired, but sitting silently and doing data entry (yup, me too!) are worse. I've thought about music therapy but don't know if it's the right course for me – perhaps I'll email you to talk more about it. In any case, I really understand the stuck feeling (I'm seeing a lot of people do) and I'm making plans to jump into something new at the end of this year, so wish me luck/pray for me. Congratulations on finding work you love!

Reply

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