The Non-Linear Career Path

What I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me

I was having a conversation with one of my friends the other day about her starting a new job and being nervous about it. She told me she was in a state of confusion because she’s still trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

My response to her was “sis…that’s normal AND it’s okay. I wish someone would have told me that you don’t have to have everything figured out all the time, nor do you need a plan for every single step.”

My career has been all over the place. I like to think of myself as a real-life Barbie…you know how Barbie has had literally ALL the jobs, that’s me. I’ve been a certified nursing assistant (CNA), a waitress in a retirement home, an air traffic controller/janitor/painter/admin in the military, insurance claims examiner, administrative assistant, security officer, cashier, and just about everything under the sun in the world of human resources (HR), which is why I can speak to you on these topics. The point is, my career has not been linear and you shouldn’t expect for yours to be either.

Hear me out on this…I believe that life is a journey of self-discovery. I understand why society encourages career ladders and uniformed steps in life, i.e., go to college, get a job, get married, have children, etc. etc. It’s to provide structure and stability. However, I don’t know about you, but I tend to be a renegade and veer off the well-traveled path of life. I mean all the random jobs I’ve had, my experience in the military, my desire to not have children, doesn’t necessarily align to society’s path, but it does align to who I am and that is what’s most important. Despite seemingly good intentions by forcing paths or roadmaps on people, this does the opposite of providing peace, structure, and stability. It causes stress, uncertainty, anxiety, etc. Realistically, it’s rare for anyone to have a linear career path, at least these days. So why are we still encouraging people to go through the motions and stick to a specific path? No two people are the same and so no two journeys will be either.

We are all searching for things that align to who we are. When I enrolled in college, I originally started off as a pharmacy student, then changed to pre-med, and then switched it up again and got accepted into nursing school. I ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology…nothing close to medicine but I am proud of my accomplishment and I studied something that I wanted to learn and was able to make it work for me because it aligned to who I am.

I said all of that to say, follow your own path. Life isn’t linear and you shouldn’t expect your career to be either. Check out my post on career well-being, this will better help you to do some self-reflection to see if you are aligned to your career choice and vice versa. It sounds fluffy and dream-like, but whatever you’re doing in life should be aligned to who you are. Stay committed to your journey of self-discovery, everything will come together, you’ll see.

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