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The Myth of the 'Respectable Job'

by Jide Okonjo 14 days ago in career

What even is a respectable job?

What even is a 'respectable job'?

For most if not the entirety of my life, a recurring statement I heard from my parents, teachers, well-meaning aunts and uncles was: "Work hard in school so you can get yourself a respectable job."

While the sentiment behind the statement isn't necessarily bad, the pressure it puts on young people is something that's not talked about enough in my opinion. In 2021, it's not news that the economic scape is horrible for young people. Classically 'respectable jobs' like doctor, engineer, lawyer, have become highly saturated with people graduating in the thousands every year in these fields. High saturation means high competition in the job market. The end-result: a ton of people who are out of work still trying to find one of these 'respectable jobs'.

But what makes a job respectable? Does the nature of a job make it respectable or the way we perceive said job? Is a respectable job one that brings the most money or the one that demands the most work? What makes a job NOT respectable?

Throughout time the most taboo and disreputable job a person could have is anything pertaining to sex work. Yet, late last year I stumbled upon an article in one of the most respected publications in the world, FORBES. It was a feature piece about an Onlyfans model named Reno Gold, and the article was titled Marketing and Branding in The Web's Red Light District.

If a sex worker can be featured in the most respected financial and business publication in the world, what does that tell you? What it tells me is that a 'respectable job' is a myth. Accolades, feature pieces, and recognition come to people who rise to the top of their fields regardless of the kind of work as long as what they're doing is making money. Period.

People try to act as though the nature of a job is what makes it respectable yet we all know that the voice of the person making $500,000 more than the teacher in the room is always heard louder.

The goal then is not to die on the hill of finding a respectable job, but using the skillset you have to become an authority in whatever field you find yourself in.

My Journey With Writing as an Example.

Immediately I became aware of writing being an actual profession, my dream became 'I want to be a published writer.'

I had the skillset. I could piece together a really good story, hell a really GREAT story. I could stand shoulder to shoulder with the Rowlings and Adichies of this world. Most importantly, I could be one of the very few people in this world who could actually say "I write for a living."

With that dream in sight, I set out to write my debut novel which can I say is one of the best things I've personally ever read in my life (you probably think I'm biased because I'm the one who wrote it but it's actually really good).

After finishing the book, I didn't know what traditional publishing entailed and so I decided to self-publish the book to very lackluster sales.

2019 was a very heart-wrenching year for me. A severe punch to the gut and to my ego. I had a complete book yet I wasn't making any money. I wasn't yet writing for a living.

The thing was though, at the side I was ALREADY beginning to make quite a name for myself in the blogging world because I just so happen to be an encyclopedia of pop culture, especially Nigerian pop culture. I became enthralled with celebrity news, the arts and entertainment at a very young age and still read every newspaper, magazine, blog piece I come across as long as it fascinates me. Sometime in 2015 I believe, I created a little Wordpress blog where I casually wrote about anything and everything from my life musings to trashy celebrity gossip I found to be entertaining. It didn't do much, I didn't make up to one full dollar from it. I eventually left it in pursuit of a REAL job and a REAL career in 'serious writing', but still I had created a Facebook page and a small audience had begun to form.

Fast-forward to the heart-shattering episode with my book in 2019. I didn't know where to go from there. I was working as a tutor at the time and that was helping with a bill or two but barely. I needed something else to do.

Back in June of 2017, I stumbled upon a website called VOCAL who promised they'd pay me for my writing. Another one of these, I told myself but decided to still give it a try. You never know with these things.

I wrote an article called "10 Crazy Nigerian Myths - Part 1". After about two weeks of persistently checking, I saw that the numbers weren't doing anything really. So I left.

About a year had past when I got a random newsletter-y email from Vocal. It reminded me of who they were and I decided to check on updates for my story. It had grown in reads but not by much. I decided to post a few more stories. Again, after about two weeks of checking, the numbers weren't looking good. I abandoned Vocal as a viable way of making money and moved on with my life.

Fast-forward to 2020 after my horrible stint with my novel. I was broke, desperate and needed to do ANYTHING for money. I decided I was going to go into dropshipping. I didn't WANT to go into dropshipping, I didn't LIKE dropshipping, all I wanted to do was write, but that wasn't paying and people on Youtube said dropshipping does so there I was at the beginning of 2020 creating my dropshipping website and Facebook page, entering my payout information when oh, they needed my Stripe email address.

I entered my Stripe e-mail address and was told that it was already being used somewhere else. Somewhere else? I decided to go through my emails and discovered that I had connected my e-mail address to my Stripe account through Vocal. I needed to go back to Vocal to rectify the mistake.

This was three years after my 10 Crazy Nigerian Myths - Part 1 post and when I logged back into Vocal, that story was at about 10,000+ reads.

I. Was. SHOCKED!

I had never done any kind of promotion for it, I had no idea how it happened, but you know me...I wasn't about asking questions, I was about getting that money! I withdrew that money with a SWIFTNESS and when after a few days I actually saw it reflect in my bank account, a bulb in my head lit up. I had just made money from my writing. Not a lot of money AT ALL but money regardless.

I knew this world. I could write about this world. I could write A LOT about this.

So, with a huge leap of faith, I cancelled the domain and hosting on my dropshipping website, got a refund, and put all that money towards a ONE-YEAR membership for Vocal+. This was a huge risk for me, doing 1 Year at once but I knew that if I did just a month, I wouldn't work as hard because I had only 5 bucks to lose. Committing $99 of money I didn't really have, that was sure to light a fire under me to REALLY do the work to at least get my money back.

I started writing.

Every.

Single.

Day.

Reader, it's been one year and some change since I started writing seriously on Vocal and *drumroll*

I have garnered 6,000,000+ reads till date on Vocal.

I now honestly truly WRITE FOR A LIVING!!!

My dream came true. Not in the way I thought. Not by writing novels, but by writing about celebrity gossip, the arts, personal musings. There are hundreds and thousands of blogs that do this already and I don't know WHY exactly I have garnered the kind of readership I have on my own stories but I attribute it to grace, and being passionate about the stories I write about. I say it all the time, 'somebody has to take the job seriously' whatever the job is.

I know that the success of my page will be looked down upon because it's not 'real writing' to some. However, it's 'real writing' to me. I take my job very seriously. Regardless of I'm writing fiction like Adam, Meet Alison or writing a listicle about 7 Hollywood Celebrities You Didn't Know Are Nigerian, I treat every single story with the same level of care and attention.

I have been able to monetize writing about what I know and in doing so, I have created a Facebook following of 67,000+ devoted readers who enjoy the kind of content I write about. If I decided to write a second book today, I know the kind of book I'll write to appeal to my readers and I am convinced sales would be at least better than the ones from my first.

If I had stayed hung up on being one particular kind of writer, or following a 'respectable' path whatever that means, I don't think I'd have gotten the kind of readership I have today.

There is something YOU are really good at, that comes very naturally to you. For me that's writing entertainment and fiction tailored to my readers' tastes. What you're good at doesn't have to be the most 'respectable' or 'serious' thing in the world. If you can find a way to monetize it, I highly suggest you try your hand at doing so. Who knows? It just could be your big break.

**Btw, if you're thinking of joining Vocal+ after reading this, please use this link to do so. I'll love you forever.

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Jide Okonjo
Jide Okonjo
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