Sprint Stories

Sprinter Story: Marlene Dirven

When we met Marlene, she was frustrated. She kept talking about starting creative side projects that would allow her to devote time to her love of art. But through Life Sprint, she realised it might be possible to have her cake and eat it too. Here Marlene shares how she got one step closer to landing her dream job.

When I was younger, I used to dream of my dynamic career in a yet-to-be-defined field.

But as soon as I graduated, the search for an inspiring job seemed like a confusing maze rather than a fun adventure. I stumbled on, hoping that someday, somehow, I’d find my ‘dream job’. 

I found a well-paid job in an ambitious young company, they’d won awards and caught the eyes of big investors. I loved the responsibility and the travel, but there was always a niggling feeling - something I suppressed, scared that I wouldn’t find anything better - that this job wasn’t forever.

I knew I had to make a change when my daily complaints evolved from: “I’m not learning anymore, and I need some more intellectual challenges,” to: “I don’t want to be doing this job a year from now,” and finally: “I’m exhausted, I’m stressed, I have no inspiration, I can’t sleep.”

So in November 2019, I took a long look at myself: What should I be doing with my life long-term? 

I asked myself the obvious questions:

  • What kind of career do I want?
  • What activities make me happy?
  • What skills can I contribute to society?
  • What side projects can I start to make my life more fulfilling?

And I took to the internet to go through the usual resources:

  • Career tests (Briggs-Meyers, High5, 123)
  • Inspiring TED-talks (Emilie Wapnick, Emma Rosen, Tali Sharot)
  • Articles and books by successful people and those I respected (Warren Buffett, Einstein, Jeff Goins, Ken Robinson) 

But nothing helped me answer my question of what change do I need to make to become professionally satisfied. Why? Because:

1. Dream careers don’t exist, you have to create your own space

Did you know that 80% of all jobs don’t exist in vacancies? Most roles are created by individuals who push to develop something that works for them.

My notion of my ‘dream job’ was vague, based on fragments of past activities and experiences that I’d enjoyed. So how could I move forward from my current position to something unsolid and potentially non-existent?

and 2. Generic resources can only go so far

I watched a lot of Ted talks, and I really wished some wise scientist could turn the camera and say: 

“Marlene, I know your personality and background. You will be happy and successful using your full potential as a biologist-slash-architect-slash-pianist. (So go back to university!)”

But, of course, these wise people couldn’t advise me fully. They don’t know me, and there’s only so far general guidance can go because it doesn’t take into account your background, experiences, current position, ambitions or dreams.

Time for action

In December 2019, after a month of going round and round in circles, I heard about LifeSprint, a personalised, guided career course that helps people #getUnstuck within four weeks. 

This sounded like something I should try.

I began the process determined to become a side hustler, to launch my own creative project I could run alongside my day job. Then, together, I’d have creativity and security. That sounded pretty dreamy to me.In the first session, I felt so relieved and validated talking to others struggling with similar challenges, and to receive the personalised support and input of two design thinkers. I quickly realized that they, Matt and Rakesh, weren’t going to tell me what to do though; I had to figure it out myself, guided by a buddy from the group and design-thinking practices we learnt during the sprints.

I discovered that - in order to unpack how to harness my creativity in a professional way - I first needed to confront two personal challenges, which seemed to lie at the foundation of my stuckness: my indecisiveness and my unrealistic strive for perfection.

For me, these traits have proven to be the enemy of action and therefore of creativity and productivity.

I noted down in big, black letters: TAKE ACTION. MAKE MISTAKES.

I had to define a goal that would bring me closer to my dream career that I could achieve in the next 3 weeks. I gave myself the challenge of figuring out if my dream job existed, so I decided to interview 12 people with ‘creative and strategic’ jobs

It had been something I’d been longing to do: ask people ‘from the field’ for their personal advice. I would be able to understand how they spend their days, make money, and grow in their career paths. Once I understood that, I could check how that would align with my idea of a dream job.

In the following weeks, I researched interesting profiles in LinkedIn and requested a chat, phone call or coffee. 

I contacted 30 people, and after three weeks, I had talked to 16 people who were kind enough to share with me some insights into their daily lives.

From these talks, I even received 3 job offers.

But then I heard about a ‘creative and strategic’ job, via a friend of a friend. Someone from the company reached out to me, and after a great chat, I received yet another job offer. I hadn’t set out to change companies: what should I do?

I had to make a decision, and familiar thoughts raced through my mind: What if I make a wrong decision? What if I regret it? 

The role was more aligned with who I am as a person, and what my life goals are. This was the perfect, real-life opportunity to take action.

So I accepted the offer.

Reflections

The question of what you should be doing in your life is subject to many changes. Life spans over an undefined amount of time, in which you grow, as do your surroundings and your dreams.

Finding your dream job is about finding what moves you today. If that changes next week, that’s ok, and if it stays the same for the next forty years, that’s ok too.

Always remember that there are many opportunities in front of you and many people who will be happy to guide you along the way.

Knowing this helped me to be more at peace with my own eclectic range of interests. And to find a focus within them, to gradually make use of my full potential.

Tiny steps eventually result in a big change: A smile, a question, a chat.

In order to make those steps, try to figure out what’s stopping you from change. Maybe you’re indecisive or a perfectionist, like I was. Maybe it’s something else. Find a way to deal with it, so you’ll feel more at ease when change happens.

Disclaimer

As you may have noticed, I’m promoting LifeSprint in this article as if I’m paid for it. But that’s not the case. LifeSprint is a small startup and, in my opinion, they are on an important mission. So I decided to write this article for them and for anyone who wants to read my story.

If you do think you need that personal push in the back, a motivational side-kick, or a buddy to keep you accountable, Lifesprint is for you.

Thank you, Matt and Rakesh!

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Thanks Marlene! We are so proud of what you have achieved, and can’t wait to see how you grow in your new role!


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