In this blog, I would like to talk about one of my biggest career mistakes.
I don’t have a traditional career, so to speak. I chose to follow nontraditional routes, delving into entrepreneurship and then proceeding to take various online jobs. However, I believe this mistake that I am writing about is quite universal, as it may apply to employees, freelancers, and entrepreneurs alike.
Let’s travel back in time to my teenage years.
When I was younger, I had an expansive and diverse digital footprint, full of art and creative pursuits.
In my free time, I would write, draw, design, and construct websites. I posted my digital and hand-drawn art on Tumblr. I also maintained a self-hosted WordPress site and participated in blog networks with other teenagers around the world.
My personal websites were my safe space — I didn’t want to let any of my peers at school know about them. However, I did tell some of my close friends who were into coding. (Geeks attract fellow geeks!)
However, self-consciousness caught up with me.
I deleted my older works, especially my old blogs that I felt were too childish or immature. I also allowed my old domains to expire without making backups. I thought web design and development were useless hobbies that wouldn’t help me transition into “adult” life, with brand new responsibilities and routines.
At some point, I even questioned whether I was truly geeky enough to do computer stuff for a living. For a time, I stopped coding completely, having lost the “drive” to do so. I shifted to Industrial Pharmacy, then to Geography, then to Broadcast Communication.
In 2012, I tried my hand at building websites again, but it didn’t feel the same without my old network. I ended up spending more time on social networks talking to other people. Looking back, maybe it was because I struggled so much with my mental health. I was so preoccupied with finding someone who could understand what I was going through, that I lost touch with my creative side. I could no longer find the energy within me to pursue the things I used to be passionate about.
I ended up graduating in 2017 with a bachelor’s in Broadcast Communication. (See the disconnect there?) And yet, that was the degree program I finished after nearly 7 years, because I stuck with it even though I did not exactly love it. (My ADHD diagnosis explains many of the events in that chapter of my life, but that’s another story.)
An empty portfolio
After I graduated, I felt the need to create a resumé and portfolio. But my portfolio felt so sad and empty, in stark contrast to my Tumblr blogs and websites of yore.
When I got my first WordPress-related job, I realized that I could have been doing this for a long time! Compared to content writing, I tend to enjoy it more and get burned out less. Not to mention WordPress jobs also tend to pay more than writing jobs, and right now, I could really use the extra income!
But because I had failed to keep a record of my former web development work, potential employers could only guess what I am able to do!
And there lies my biggest career mistake.
Looking back, I wish I had simply kept my old website data (even just screenshots of them). Or that I would have exported them to new servers so that working copies would be visible to potential employers.
One of the reasons I stopped coding completely was fear of stagnation. I was afraid of losing my ability, so I stopped in the middle of my tracks. Sounds ironic now, doesn’t it?
Looking back, that was merely an irrational thought, fueled by low self-esteem. If I had someone to guide me then, I might have been able to challenge that thought. I might have harnessed the power of baby steps to gradually develop my skills. I would not have felt the need to delete the works that I judged as subpar against my own biased standards!
And who knows, maybe I would even have taken better care of my old data — if I knew it would still be useful later on.
What I didn’t know back then
…is that I don’t always have to be the best at something.
What matters most is that I can do it, and that I have the proof to back it up.
But because I was so afraid of not being the best, so scared of failure — I lost all of my proof.
Mistakes are the best teacher
While I do regret not keeping my old files, I’m doing my best not to dwell on it. After all, past is past, and there’s no turning back time. May this simply serve as a lesson to me, so that I would keep better records moving forward.
And to everyone else who reads this blog: don’t repeat the same mistake. Please keep records of your old work!
It doesn’t matter if you think your work is bad. It may be bad by your own standards, but for others, it could be good enough.
And really, good enough is all you ever have to be! (To get hired, at least.)
Take it from my favorite boys:
The best way to make it through with hearts and wrists intact is to realize two out of three ain’t bad.Fall Out Boy, “I’m Like a Lawyer… (Me + You)
Plus, keeping records of your old work leaves a visible trail of how much you’ve improved — or how much your tastes have changed. That’s always an interesting thing to see!