Following our dreams can often be scary; especially when there are so many uncertainties. What will others think of me? Are there tools that can help me achieve my dream? Will my dream job allow me to make a living? It’s hard to take a risk and make that leap of faith to follow our true dream career. So sadly, for most of us, that dream remains a dream.
Reality can be harsh.
Many are satisfied and feel fortunate just to even have a job where they can provide for themselves and their families. But, if you are grinding your days away in a job you have no passion for, I would like to invite you to dream a little further: how could you earn a living from doing a job you love?
So, we asked Parklins Ifeanyichukwu to tell his story about how he made the difficult decision to quit medical school to pursue his dream. And he hasn’t regretted a single minute of it. We hope his story inspires you, and maybe you too, can follow your dreams.
Tell the readers a little about yourself
I am Parklins Ifeanyichukwu, you can call me IC Parklins. I’m a 19-year-old designer from Nigeria. I am a Design Lead & Culture Code Chairman at Chocolate City Group. Chocolate City is one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in Africa.
Young people in Nigeria are tech savvy. They know how to use Google and YouTube to search for how much a wedding cost and to watch the latest videos of their favorite celebrities. But, they’re not aware that they can also be learning platforms. There are so many talented young people out there, but many are unsuccessful, or not at a place they want to be. And I think that’s because of ignorance. That’s why, I’ve made it my mission to inspire designers, entrepreneurs, and especially young people.
How did you end up where you are?
I took on a lot of challenges! In the early stage of my career, I didn’t look at anyone as competition, but only focused on improving myself daily. My target was not to be another person, but a better version of myself every day.
A better Parklins, and not a Zuckerberg.
As a kid, I liked a lot of things. Singing, dancing, drama, basketball, and animated cartoons. So, I indulged in my curiosities to find out what I enjoy more. This was one way I found out my true passion. So what I would suggest is just to try everything you’re interested in that comes your way, and don’t turn anything down. Everything you do will help you reach that ultimate goal.
How did you make the difficult decision to quit medical school and follow your dream of becoming a designer? What challenges did you face on your journey and how did you overcome them?
Having African parents, especially Nigerian parents, they always prefer their kids to be engineers, doctors, and lawyers etc. My parents wanted me to be a doctor. So, it was a very difficult decision to switch from studying medicine to design. Growing up, my parents misinterpreted my intelligence for messing around, I didn’t do or want to do what “smart” kids were supposed to do. If you’re smart, they will push you to those “prestigious” jobs.
Before I even thought about pursuing my dreams, I had a lot of unanswered questions. Can I make a living out of this? Can a designer really be a full-time position? I was doubtful. Many design jobs in my country were outsourced to India back then. I researched the best design schools in the world and it was only when I found The Academy of Arts in California website that I realized a designer can be a full-time job. They listed all the career opportunities you can have by studying design. So I applied. And you know what, you just have to be passionate. Demonstrate your passion through your portfolio.
Research cleared my worries and doubts.
Now that I know the facts, the next point is to ask more critical questions: Which of these jobs will I be comfortable doing even if there is no salary? Which can I do for fun and be happy with? That’s design. I feel like design is sometimes misunderstood. It’s not just making things look pretty, it solves real problems. Just think of something as simple as a car windshield wiper, that design meant that car owners no longer had to get out of the car in the cold to clean their windows. This is what fueled my passion. Being able to do something meaningful and help people solve problems.
Although, this research hasn’t persuaded my parents. I needed to prove to them that a designer can be a real job. I spent a lot of time working on improving my skills and applied to design competitions. I made it to top two in my first competition. I got an interview for a full-time job, but didn’t get it because I didn't yet have a Bachelors in Fine Arts. I was disappointed, but it showed my dad that only with the research I’ve done, I could achieve so much. And they supported my studies.
I convinced not only my dad, but also myself.
I then went on to win three more competitions organized by Stutern and received internship positions. I made a conscientious decision to work at startups instead of established firms. I believe that when you begin your career with startups, you’ll get to see the difference you make. You’ll get more responsibilities to improve and grow. It helped me improve my teamwork skills and enabled me to grow personally as well as professionally.
The final competition at Stutern allowed me to get my place with Chocolate City. Because of my curiosity and experience in startups, my internship at Chocolate City lasted 1 week, after which I was offered a full-time position, and a few months later became design lead.
Any tips for people out there struggling to follow their dreams?
Well, I think that following your dream should be the second step. People are still struggling to even catch their dreams. To realize what your dream is, you should spend time using existing tools to explore your curiosities. Look for a mentor. Inspirations can come from anywhere, especially when you have a role model to look up to.
While it’s helpful to have a mentor, don’t depend on them for everything. You must realize that they will most likely be busy and can’t groom you from head to toe. Don’t go to them for every little question. Do your own research to find out the answers! When you put in the effort, meetings with your mentor will be a lot more valuable; you’ll be asking the right questions to improve yourself.
You can meet these mentors by going to meetups, become ambassadors for companies, and connect with successful people on LinkedIn. Keep an eye out for events near you. If you’re in Nigeria, you may want to check out the events below: http://www.natashanotables.com/2016/01/12/11-conferencestrainning-young-and-creative-entrepreneurs-should-attend-in-2016/
Once you know your dream, just make sure you do the research. Don’t live with your assumptions and doubts, understand the risks. Be sincere and optimistic with the facts. And even if the facts are not great, stay sincere. I wish you the best of luck!
If you want to get in touch with Parklins, his social media accounts are listed below.
Connect with Parklins here:
Facebook: IC Parklins
LinkedIn: Parklins Ifeanyichukwu
Marketing & Communications at Funzi.
Passionate about sharing beautiful stories of inspiring people.