My career path has been more of a winding road than straight highway. I started out with a psychology degree, heading toward medical school, only to end up at art school studying fiber design. Even after two amazing, frenetic years at Savannah College of Art and Design, I realized I still hadn't found the right career.
I started exploring on my own rather than spending more money on school. I completely failed at self-learning in the beginning.
It hasn't been without its pitfalls. But, I got it right along the way, and I'm now an entirely self-taught user experience (UX) designer working at a great company with some of the most talented people in the industry. Looking back at my successes and failures, I've formulated a list of processes and mental frameworks that foster success. I hope by sharing them, it may empower someone else to explore new career options without feeling like going back to school is the only option.
Here are five tips to succeed at your self-taught career path.
1. Find your why
Read your answers and decide if this goal is worth pursuing. If you're serious about it, you'll have to give up some Netflix time and happy hours. Are you willing to make sacrifices? If so:
Post your answers somewhere visible in your home. Daily visualizing where you want to end up drives inspiration. Find people in your new field kicking ass. Follow their social media and blog -- even put their picture somewhere -- anything to remind yourself that they were once where you are and pulled through it. Don't fear reaching out to your heroes on social media. They're happy to advise people just starting out in their field.
2. Own your priorities
Keep a time journal for two weeks. Set a timer to go off every 15-30 minutes and record how you spent your time. This will help you determine how to make space for your new goal.
3. Seek out mentors
If you don't have a formal mentor, join a professional group in your new field. Being around those people helps with staying motivated, getting answers to questions and sourcing jobs. Online communities -- like Dribbble, for designers -- are also great tools.
When meeting people in the field, absorb as much as possible. Observe how people talk about the industry and listen for clues into their success. What industry books are they reading? Who do they find inspiring or look up to? This can help you on your journey.
4. Show enthusiasm and practice every day
As I first learned UX, I was enthusiastic about everything. If my mentor suggested a project, I'd readily do it, even if I was nervous about my capability. This made my mentor want to give me additional work and guidance, essentially giving me more from the mentorship. It showed I was serious and respected his time.
Practicing every day fast tracks learning. Refreshing the concepts in your mind daily not only makes neural connections permanent, but it also makes learning sessions shorter, keeping your brain happier.
So, be excited about your new craft and face challenges with gusto. People notice subtle cues. Use that to your advantage.
5. Embrace the awkwardness
When learning to code, I sat down several times , burned through tons of content and got so exhausted and overwhelmed that I procrastinated for weeks before trying again. The result? I forgot most of what I'd learned and had to start over. Once I accepted the process, I had a breakthrough in my understanding.
Learning pushes you out of your comfort zone. Try to embrace this feeling and, remember, it's temporary. The more consistent and dedicated you are to training, the faster this awkward phase will pass.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors