Think your day job has nothing to do with your dream job? Think again, says Erika Napoletano, a Chicago-based marketing consultant and author of The Power of Unpopular: A Guide to Building Your Brand for the Audience Who Will Love You (and Why No One Else Matters).
"The type of work I get paid for [as a consultant] has everything to do with what I want to do full-time in five years." Her goal? Get back into acting.
In addition to helping brands strategize, Napoletano gives keynote speeches and writes every day. "Just because I have to earn a living doesn’t mean I can’t take the best parts of those things and apply them [to something else]," she says.
We spoke with Napoletano to find out how moonlighting can help prepare you for your next act. Here are her four tips:
For Napoletano, it’s acting. "I left performing back in 2004 and realized that it’s my life blood. It feeds my soul. While some folks see them as vastly different paths, there’s a ton of overlap between being a marketing consultant and running an acting/performing career . . . and I’m way ahead of the marketing and hustle curve," she says.
For those who are unclear about what’s next, Napoletano suggests taking a class. "Take a chance, give yourself permission to fail in front of people. You never know," she says. Since she runs her own business, Napoletano has the flexibility to take classes when they’re offered and work with clients around them. But having a 9 to 5 job doesn’t mean you can’t take steps now to reach the next stage of your career.
Some of Napoletano’s clients are looking to make the transition from corporate America to something else. Many people believe what they do in their free time is different from what they do at work, Napoletano notes. "It’s really not," she says.
Napoletano says one of the biggest assets she takes from her day job is the work she does to become a better keynote speaker. She strives to make her speeches entertaining so people pay attention. It’s that same work ethic she brings to her writing and performing.
"I went through life avoiding criticism," Napoletano says. Now, she’s learned to embrace it. "It’s another set of eyes," she notes, and it’s particularly helpful when it comes from someone who’s already doing what you want to do.
"Find people who love your brand of crazy," she suggests. Not everything will hit, but you’ll get good feedback. Hoping in your heart is one thing, she says, but hoping with people who can help you turn your hopes into possibilities is better.
"I’m really hungry . . . to learn the skills that light me up inside," Napoletano says. When she wakes up, she’ll try to go to the gym, walk her dog, and spend the first two hours of her day working on her business—one hour on finance, one hour taking care of her creative side, like trolling the Internet for story ideas for a column she’s working on or brainstorming a solo sketch. "I try to make myself my first client every day," she says. "I’m feeding my bank account, creativity, and heart at the same time."