To get a great job, you need to find a way to stand out. Standing out at your current job, however, can be tough since you're told what you need to do. For that reason, your personal projects are where you need to focus.
Picture: Ross Griff/Flickr
As photographer Thomas Dagg explains, your day job is where you go to get paid. But your personal projects are how you develop a unique voice or identity. Especially in creative fields, this voice is necessary to stand out from others in your industry. It's also personally fulfilling because, well, it's yours:
Personal projects are what I live for. I can't explain the hunger I have to create. It's just there, gnawing at the back of my mind. If I have any free time, you can bet that in some shape or form, my mind is focusing on a personal project. Commissioned work can be really fun with the right people, especially if you're hired specifically for your own style of shooting and thinking, but completely personal work is just pure expression. I think it's the one way you can really show who you are -- it's what separates you from other shooters. There are a lot of photographers who can take a beautiful image, so creative work helps you define yourself as an individual and not just a button pusher.
Your job may not always allow you the creative freedom you need to develop your ideas. However, your time is your own. It may feel like you don't have the funding, the time, or the energy to invest in a personal project, but keep in mind it's how you distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack.