Many people define a career path as a straight line. Choose your career by the time you finish college, if not sooner. Work your way to the higher levels of your field. Get established. Continue to retirement. For others, the path resembles a winding road.
Sometimes a winding road becomes the first step to a long-term, satisfying career.
For example, Meredith entered a competitive doctoral program, intending to become a college professor. Losing interest in her dissertation, she began to explore massage therapy for her own stress. And she began writing a novel.
Friends asked her to give them massages and soon she realized she could charge for this service. Five years after leaving her doctoral program, Meredith is a successful, licensed massage therapist. She quietly abandoned her novel.
On the other hand, some people keep winding.
Tom majored in political science in college. He worked as a newspaper reporter, a community college instructor, an insurance executive, and a diversity management consultant…in more or less that order. He has never collected unemployment and he confidently predicts he’ll find new adventure with every bend in the road.
If you’re on this path, you probably didn’t choose your careers and jobs. They chose you.
What happens when you find yourself stranded? Unlike those who follow more linear paths, you may not have a logical “next step” to take. Your challenge: Assemble your previous jobs and careers into a meaningful pattern. Think of creating a mosaic or a collage.
Most important, those who find themselves on the winding road learn to avoid the wet blankets who pull out a map and say, “Now, if you’d taken this highway, you’d be here”.
Who knows? Maybe you’d have encountered a roadblock or ended up on another detour. And you may find yourself in a place you’d never have found if you’d planned your life in a straight line.
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