You may have a job you love or aspire to have one, but just haven’t gotten there yet. Perhaps you think “someday” or that it’s out of reach, but as the women below will tell you, it’s not impossible to go after your dream career — and actually get it. After all, what are you waiting for?
Below, 10 women reveal how they achieved their dream career. We don’t know about you, but to say their stories are inspiring is an understatement.
1. “Not taking ‘no’ for an answer”
– Melissa Scott, 50, founder, Modefywear
“I got my dream job the old-fashioned way — knocking on the door and not taking ‘no’ for an answer. I have always loved the Olympic Games and knew I wanted to be a part of it. I would go to as many of the executive events as possible and made myself the person who everyone knew. I got in as an international marketing director within the Japanese Olympic Committee and, from there, have done almost all things Olympics. After 20 years of living this dream, I realized that I had an even bigger dream — and that was to have athletes wearing apparel that I designed. So now I’m an activewear designer, Modefywear, with Olympians wearing my stuff.”
2. “Never giving up”
– Meredith Jaeger, 35, a USA Today bestselling author
“I got here through hard work and never giving up. I wrote my first novel in my 20s, and while working full-time. I took novel-writing classes in San Francisco at night. But, after hundreds of rejection letters, I had to shelve that first novel. I tried again with a second novel, then a third, all while working full-time in demanding 9-to-5 jobs and writing on the weekends. Finally, after six years and hundreds of rejection letters, I signed with my literary agent, Jenny Bent. When I was 34, she sold my debut novel, The Dressmaker’s Dowry, to HarperCollins. Since then, I have become a mother, written and sold a second novel, Boardwalk Summer, and became a USA Today bestselling author!”
3. “I created my dream job”
– Chanté Griffin, 30s, owner of You Go Girl Productions, which produces content for print and digital publications
“After working in several different industries, I couldn’t understand why nothing ever felt like a great fit. Even though I worked in the non-profit sector for most of my career, doing work that I enjoyed, I never felt completely at home. Everything became clear to me in the spring of 2014, when the national talent development specialist at my non-profit evaluated me and said ‘I don’t think that you will ever be happy working for any organization.’ She was right. I quit my job that summer to start my own entertainment company.
“I got my dream job by quitting my 9-to-5 to work for myself. In other words, I created my dream job. Today, I write and perform for a living. It’s the most challenging job I’ve ever had because I am the CEO, CFO, COO, HR director, and IT worker. Although I work with contract workers, I am responsible for keeping the ship going, and I absolutely love it. Creating for a living — telling stories and sharing ideas — is what I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a teenager. Most days, at some point during the day, I say, ‘I love my life.’”
4. “I asked myself three questions, including, ‘If I were to die now, how will I be remembered?’”
“I am a personal growth expert and mentor. I speak, write, and conduct workshops on personal growth and create tools, techniques, systems, and frameworks to build people’s capacity and teach them how to grow themselves in a way that promotes mental and emotional health and well-being. I got into my dream career of personal growth by asking myself three questions: 1) ‘If I were to die now, how will I be remembered?’ 2) ‘What bugs me most in the world?’ 3) ‘Who do I admire most?’ For instance, when I asked myself the first question, I was faced with the reality that life is short; if I wasn’t doing only that which I was born to and specifically equipped by God and life to do, then I was doing an injustice to why I was here and wasting my precious life.”
5. “My dream career started in my dreams as a teen”
– Ginger Lavender Wilkerson, 37, LMFT, teen expert, and Mompreneur
“As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), I get to work with some amazing teen girls and help them manage life’s stress and, at the same time, empower to move beyond them. I launched my career from my struggles as a teen girl to fit in, and to want better amid family woes. My brother went to prison when I was a preteen, which changed our entire family. This was a pivotal moment that sparked my journey to help young ladies similar to myself, to reach beyond their family troubles, and maximize their full potential, despite the odds. My dream career started in my dreams as a teen: I dreamed of one day helping girls just like me.”
6. “I said ‘yes’ to everything”
“How I landed my dream job is simple: After graduating from college, I started as an intern for Union Square Media, and from there I worked my way up within the organization. I quickly learned that saying ‘no’ to a task wasn’t going to get me a full-time job, so I said ‘yes’ to everything — from pulling stat reports and writing blog posts to even tidying the office and everyone’s workstations. My efforts paid off.
“After my internship, I was offered a full-time job as the assistant to the owner. At the time, the company was expanding rapidly, and there were a lot of necessary tasks that didn’t fall under any one person’s job description. I decided, as a personal investment in myself, I would use this opportunity to learn something new whenever I had the chance and take on those jobs. I took the initiative, hoping that my proactivity would somehow turn into a profession.
“Five years later, I am the Director of Culture for the organization, and I oversee a team of fifteen-plus employees. My career trajectory is not what I expected, but I have to say that I couldn’t be happier.”
7. “I realized my interest in events could lead to a legitimate career”
“After (literally) 10 internships during college, I landed my job as Events Manager at ezCater, a tech company in Boston that helps people place catering orders online wherever they are in the U.S. In those jobs, I did everything from sales cold-calls to fashion shoot prep, but always found myself asking for opportunities to help out at company events. My dad is actually in the event rental business, so I grew up around big event productions.
“Eventually, I realized my interest in events could lead to a legitimate career, and I doubled down on learning as much as I could about the events world by attending events, reading blogs, and reaching out to former internship connections. My first events job helped me learn first-hand at a well-established company, but now that I’m at ezCater, I have full creative freedom to own my program, with an awesome team backing me up. I plan parties, food festivals,and branded activations, and get to travel to cities all across the country representing our always-growing brand. It’s fun, challenging, rewarding, chaotic, and truly a dream.”
8. “Being a client first”
“I landed my dream career at Way Solutions by being a client first. This allowed me to get to know our CEO, Jennifer Way, very well and become familiar with the culture of Way Solutions. Additionally, I had first-hand knowledge of Jennifer’s content, how to apply it, and what extraordinary results one can achieve as a result. Every year, for the last nine years, I’ve asked Jennifer for a job. It never made sense with my career trajectory, but I knew that I wanted to work with her. In August of 2017, the stars aligned and we mutually decided to work together.”
9. “I got to my dream career by focusing on the job title”
“I got to my dream career by focusing on the job title and not necessarily the work I would be doing. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but as a woman of color, this strategy has worked well for me. When I got my first job in politics at 22, they wanted to hire me as a ‘staff assistant,’ but I was a ‘press intern’ and knew if my title did not have ‘press’ in it, I’d be an assistant forever. I said yes to the position on one condition: Yes, I’ll answer the phones and do whatever work you need me to do, but I need my title to be ‘press assistant,’ as I am currently a press intern and want to continue doing press. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I eventually moved up to ‘deputy press secretary’ in about a year. Again, I know this is not the advice most women hear: It’s always ‘don't focus on the title, work hard, and keep your head down.’ But that does not work for me. I have found that if I get the right title, the work and the money will eventually follow — and not the other way around. The right title is not about vanity, but about positioning; position yourself correctly and things will move forward from there.”
10. “I have never felt as passionate about anything”
– Chris Silvers, 48, Chief Medical Officer of HealthReveal
“I absolutely love what I do, and believe that what got me to where I am are years of really hard work, a willingness to reflect and change paths where I needed to be true to myself about what I do and don’t enjoy, and serendipity.
“I serve as the Chief Medical Officer of HealthReveal, a digital health company aiming to improve care for patients with chronic health conditions in order to preempt the development of avoidable consequences of their conditions, such as strokes and heart attacks. I started in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, and decided to focus on computer science for my Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD, and also decided along the way to pursue medicine at Harvard. Just after completing the Harvard Combined Emergency Medicine Residency at MGH and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, I was asked to consult for a start-up company, AFrame Digital, working on advancing care for patients with chronic conditions through longitudinal monitoring of personalized trends (which was related to my dissertation topic).
“I eventually become Chief Medical Officer at AFrame Digital and truly felt I had stumbled upon my dream job, which lasted for a number of years until the company had to close for financial reasons. A former AFrame Digital colleague then heard about HealthReveal and introduced me. Within minutes of meeting the founder and CEO of HealthReveal, I was completely hooked on the company’s mission. I have never felt as passionate about anything.”