When I talk to people in my area about career goals, the first response I always get is, “There’s nothing here, get out as soon as you can”. Living in a small town- especially one outside of a declining city like Scranton can feel uninspiring and limiting. The opportunities in a small town are not as vast as those available to the urban communities. Even further than career opportunities, finding things to fill free time seems impossible too. We’ve all seen the meme floating around “You know you’ve grown up in a small town when Friday nights meant driving around the same streets for hours.” It’s true. While I firmly believe smaller areas offer unique benefits that cannot be matched in the city, big dreams die fast in small towns. Below I’ve compiled a very short list of the many tools you can use to begin turning your dreams into reality exactly where you are at.
Education is power, and no one can ever take away the knowledge you have gathered. The first step to growing your future and working on seriously pursuing your passions is to learn as much as you can about the field you want to enter. Even if you cannot afford advanced education, there are so many resources you can utilize for free or at a low cost. Here are some of my favorites:
https://www.coursera.org/ This website offers a variety of courses in anything you can imagine, from business to photography, government to nutrition, astrophysics to foreign language. Some of the courses have a fee, but many are free and they are all taught by university professors. They also offer certifications, which are great resume builders. I took a free marketing course on here a few years ago after my dad told me about the site and had a wonderful experience. It can be a great tool to learn about finance if you want to start a business. It can also allow you to test the waters in a topic if you were thinking about going to school for a specific degree, and wanted to get a feel for what it might be like to study that area.
https://www.khanacademy.org/ Khan Academy is a wonderful tool for students and also another resource to learn about an area that you want to grow your knowledge in. Their resources are free of charge, simple to understand, and engaging. While geared towards younger students, they have entrepreneurship classes, mindset growth classes, and personal finance as well. They also offer a variety of courses in computer skills that would be extremely helpful if you were looking to grow an online presence, or do some creative computer work- a field in high demand that you can find work for anywhere.
https://publicdomainreview.org/ Another great resource for learning on a budget or with limited access to resources! This site monitors when resources, literature, and art become part of the public domain (aka the copy rights expire and it becomes free!). It’s a cool tool to find both work and leisure materials for free.
Beyond learning about achieving your aspirations, you also need tools to put your plans into action. Here are some fun sources that might come in handy for anyone who has an interest in starting a business, building a brand, and growing your passions into a career.
https://buffer.com/ This site allows members to manage all social media accounts from one central platform. You can review traffic stats to your pages, and even schedule the sight to post your content at prime times for you if you won’t be available to do it yourself. You can begin with 3 social accounts for free or upgrade to 8 for 15 dollars a month. It’s a great tool to help out businesses get organized and analyze social media to maximize their potential with an online presence.
Fhttps://fontstruct.com/ Font Struct is a free site where you can create custom fonts to spice up your business’ website, your business cards, or create a signature style of writing to help you with the branding process.
https://99designs.com/ Essentially, if you need a logo designed for your business, self brand, etc., 99 Designs is a life saver for the artistically limited. You submit a request describing what you have in mind for your logo, book cover, site header, whatever you need, and artists will fill the order and compete for your business. You look at the designs and only pay for the one you pick to use.
https://wordpress.com/ If you want to start a blog or build a website but are unsure how, I would highly recommend beginning your journey with wordpress. I am far from tech savvy, far far far from tech savvy. My mom had to connect my laptop to my wireless printer because I could not figure out how to set it up, and was on the verge of tears in frustration. WordPress is so user friendly that even I am able to manage a blog. It also has a massive community of users which connects you to limitless resources when building your site, and comes with the assurance of reliability.
I also found a few sites to help you focus and work on productivity. Simplifying your life and getting organized can clear away room in your mind to begin working on more important, bigger goals.
https://ifttt.com/ IFTTT stands for “if this then that.” The site allows you to link your technologies and apps together to keep you organized and up to date on anything that interests you. It’s a cool and free way to connect your apps to work together and eliminate some of the extra steps from your day.
https://www.any.do/ Any.do is the ultimate calendar app. You can create a to do list in a central space so nothing gets forgotten. You can also link other apps like email to immediately add meetings or requests directly to your list so you won’t forget to go back later, or have to leave the screen you’re currently on to grow your list. Anything from planning your day to groceries, Any.do is a perfect way to start getting organized with out paying 35 dollars for a fancy planner you’ll probably lose next week anyway.
Finally, I found some great resources for when your environment isn’t providing the inspiration you need to keep creating and working towards your goals.
https://www.pinterest.com/ Pinterest is old news, but I utilize it everyday as a source of inspiration. It’s a personalized experience to the max, full of incredible ideas for personal and professional growth.
http://www.languageisavirus.com/index.php#.XD4itlxKjIU Language is a Virus is a unique tool I recently found to inspire and motivate writers. Whether you enjoy writing for personal expression, or want to pursue the craft as a profession, or need help with ideas for an essay in school, this site is full of prompts and resources to light your creative spark into a full flame.
https://wepresent.wetransfer.com/ We Present is a site that provides back stories to works of art, music, writing, etc. They tell how some of the most incredible creations on this world came to exist. Reading about the creative process of others might help you build or refine your own.
https://www.artistsnetwork.com/ Artists’ Network is a site that posts inspiration, articles covering all things art, and posts dates for art competitions. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to get creatively inspired, grow their artistic abilities, and learn about the art community.
The physical opportunities available to you might be limited due to your location, finances, or situation. The internet has a variety of useful tools that you can take advantage of for free or at an extremely low cost to start taking over the world, even if you live in NoWhereVille right now. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Reach out to people in your community who have found success, and learn from them. Reach out online to the people you admire and learn from them. The internet has opened an unlimited resource of knowledge and connection for people to be whatever they want to be. You might not be able to move to LA and become the next Food Network Star, but you can amass a huge following on YouTube with your own online cooking show, that might even bring in more viewers than the T.V. chefs. You can create an album and release it on Sound Cloud. You can open an e-commerce store if you can’t afford to rent out a building, or don’t live in an area where you would get enough traffic to sustain a brick and mortar store. You can do anything you want, right where you’re at.
If you have any favorite online resources for personal, creative, or career growth, leave them in the comments! We would love to see what else is out there to explore!