What To Do When You’re Bored With Your Niche, & How I Became a Web Designer
This month’s Word Carnivals topic: “Every once in a while, you look around you and nothing seems to be in its place. That’s when it’s time to burn everything down and start from scratch. This month’s Word Carnival topic covers the sticky business of getting bored with your niche and what to do with yourself once that happens.”
I have plenty of advice on that. I’ll begin, by telling you the story of how I became a web designer.
My first introduction to the Internet, was an old boyfriend in the ’90s, using a computer to talk to people on BBS boards about the actor Bruce Campbell. As much as I LOVE Bruce, I didn’t get the point of talking to random strangers about him. Otherwise, I had no clue what the Internet was.
Now, I always wanted to go to college. But we didn’t have the money for it (and the government said my parents made too much money…holy crap were we broke…I bought my own stuff…so that was hilarious in a sad sort of way). We did not know that I was supposed to apply to colleges before my senior year, or if my parents were turned down for financial assistance, I could do it on my own. I had the grades; I was an honor student. But I was one of hundreds of honor students at a large high school, so no one noticed that one of them hadn’t been admitted to a college yet.
So after high school, I purposefully worked my way from fast food, to retail, to bank teller, to temp, until I was hired as a secretary (because my mother had supported the family tolerably well as a secretary most of my childhood). Meanwhile, I went to school when I could. In fact, after high school, I went to Austin Community College for 3 semesters and bought an old Volvo with the money I’d saved up through childhood to teen.
Then, from around ’96 to ’98, I finally got a job as a secretary for several art departments at a well-known publishing company that makes school textbooks. One of the 3 art departments was the Multimedia department. They were making the early foray into educational CDs, and websites.
My boss encouraged me to sit in on all meetings and learn. Which, I would have done anyway. I’m that kind of person. I learn everything about what the people I work for do, and how to do it, and my job, and everyone else’s job, until I get bored and have nowhere to go, in which case I move on to a new job to learn new things.
At first, it was all gobbledygook. In time, it began to make sense. I read the department trade magazines. And over time, I slowly learned web design theory. In fact, since my job would help pay for college, I took the VERY FIRST Multimedia class ever offered at Austin Community College, so I could better understand the people I worked with. And: I was developing an interest in it.
In time, I felt I’d learned all I could learn, and there wasn’t anything else I could do at the company without a college degree. So I moved on to a new job as a Research Admin at another company, generating leads for a sales team, using primarily the Internet.
I went from a Mac environment (where I learned everything about Macs that I could) to my first Windows 95 environment. I dove into that computer too. In time, I became the unofficial office tech support. One day, I realized I knew more than the ACTUAL support guy.
When I had a chance to move to Kerrville, TX to be with family, I moved. (The company shot down my telecommuting proposal; there was never any need for me to be in the office but one manager liked it so much, she asked to keep it).
Once there, I eventually got a job at the local telecom, doing telephone tech support. Apparently I learned in one day what most learn in 3. I did that for a year and a half. Since it was small town, sometimes I went to people’s homes to fix their Internet problems.
I also started my own business: fixing computers. And started doing rather well. I also began teaching basic computing at the local senior center, and the Kerr County Independent School District hired me to teach adult education for computers.
After a while, again, I got bored. I realized I was not liking fixing computers. It was a pain and although I was good, didn’t really enjoy it.
So I thought about everything I had learned as a secretary about websites, bought a few books on HTML and an awesome book, Web Pages that Suck: Learn Good Design by Looking at Bad Design. The book is old, but still relevant.
Also, I learned about another User Experience and Usability expert, Jacob Neilson, and have been on his email list ever since 1999, when I decided to make my first website.
In a weekend, I had my first site. It was ugly, but it was a website.
By 2000, I had my first paying customer.
Then, I moved back to Austin, and was hired by a local business to make websites, do occasional computer troubleshooting, and teach adult education classes at The University of Texas. I subcontracted for them, and ran my own business on the side (no non-compete, we were cool). And there I was: professionally making websites, continuing to learn everything I could about doing business online and ALL elements of what makes a great site. In time, I learned other important subjects such as website security and marketing.
So that’s my story. And that’s what you do when you are bored with your current job: find a way to slide sideways into something similar. Or, go out and learn something new or even go to college.
Oh, and I finally fulfilled my promise to get my college degree before age 35. And then a few months later, I was pregnant…with twins! Which is what happens to women, the longer they wait to have kids. It’s not just fertility drugs making multiples, but so many women waiting until later in life to have kids. 35 is the starting point and the odds of multiples go up every year of a woman’s life.
Of course, that’s when we found out it ran on both sides of my family a generation or so back, I’d just never met any of them, and my husband’s side had them too.
And my parents, who by that point had been divorced for around 15 years (but on good terms) each said in a separate phone call to me: “Wow! You really DON’T do anything halfway, do you?!”.