When I first arrived in New York City more than 20 years ago, I started working in a small business that distributed books in Spanish to schools. The business consisted of just the owner and me, so I had to answer phones, take orders, type up invoices, find merchandise in the warehouse, and prep the deliveries to be picked up by UPS.
When my day finished, I helped my husband–who back then used to clean houses because his accounting degree wasn’t valid here in the States. Once home and while my husband studied English, I would spend my time writing short stories and novels in my second language. They were long, arduous days, but I knew that if I didn’t work on improving my writing in this new language, I’d never get ahead in the field that I loved.
That’s why, with the help of an editor, I devoted various years to perfecting my writing. It was my third job, but I knew it was going to be the the only way I was going to change my future.
It’s a well-known fact that for most of us immigrants, the first few years of getting used to a new country are the hardest. What’s important to remember is that you have to act so that the years don’t pass you by while your situation remains the same. In that case, it’s easy to become depressed and ask yourself why you decided to leave your country in the first place. For those of you who were born here, it’s easy to also fall into a rut. But we have to act–and act fast.
What can you do to change your situation? Here are my suggestions:
1. Recognize that you’re in a rut. If your everyday work doesn’t satisfy you–if it’s just a means to get money to eat and take care of your necessities, then you need to rethink your situation. You want more, but don’t know how to get it.
2. Put aside 15 minutes at the end of your day to learn about something you’re interested in. Whether that means perfecting your English, learning a little more about baking for that long-term goal of having your own bakery, or trying to find out more information on how to enroll in school again, set aside that time.
3. Every night before you go to bed, think about what you’d like to do if you could pick any career. While you sleep, your subconscious will continue working and making connections that will allow you to start working toward that goal.
4. Speak to people you know that are in the field you’d love to be in. They will be instrumental in telling you about their job, career, how they got where they are. Opening yourself up to others will help you get some ideas and even their help.
5. Prepare to take the leap! If your dream career requires any certification or special courses, find out where you can start taking classes and working toward that degree. In general, community colleges offer short courses that are very affordable. And never forget that there are scholarships available even for adults.
I can’t promise you that it’s going to be easy, but your current situation might not be a walk in the park either. (You may be tired, with little energy to do anything else but work, and you know things won’t change long-term if you continue down this path.) But what I CAN promise you is that if you take the first steps now towards your goals and you start devoting 15 minutes a day to thinking about how to tweak those things that are currently not making you happy, things WILL start rolling. Before you know it, you’ll see the opportunities present themselves, trust me.
This article was originally published on Mamas Latinas.