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How to Navigate a Career Path That Looks More Like a Winding Road

By Sarah Nelmes, Professional Recruiter


“What do you do?” may be one of my least favorite questions. What do you mean, what do I do? What do I do for work? For fun? For leisure? Can you be more specific? From a young age, most of us have career goals. We want to grow up to be teachers, firefighters, ballerinas, actors, astronauts, designers, or businessmen. Like Mom always said, you can do anything you set your mind to.


But as you get older, sometimes that career path isn’t attainable for one reason or another. Does it mean you’ve failed if you haven’t fulfilled your dream of becoming the Queen of England? No sweetie, it just means that Kate Middleton got to William first. But in all seriousness, there seems to be some existential pressure that exists around making a career out of your creative passion, and if you’re not jumping out of bed every morning to go off to a job that fulfills you, you’re not successful. I call bullshit.


The first step in figuring out how to find that passion and fulfillment is to pinpoint what works and doesn’t work in your current situation. Are there parts of your job that are great? Does it allow you to do things outside that fulfill you more? Sit down and objectively assess where you could make small changes that get you to your long term goal. Subscribe to a new publication, join a new club or group, or take a class. There’s no reason why you can’t be perfectly successful and live a happy life with a job that doesn’t fulfil you 100% creatively. It’s ok if some days you feel like you could have done more, and it’s also ok to just collect a paycheck. There is nothing wrong with going after creative pursuits outside of your day job. Don’t let society or social media make you feel like you’re underachieving because your work life isn’t Instagramable. We all know that’s not real life anyway.


As we grow and our interests develop and change, so do our goals. If you do decide you want to shift gears and have your main moneymaker be something you’re more passionate about then I have great news. There are lots of ways to get started while still makin’ paper.


If your goal is to have something you can monetize, there are plenty of places where you can work part-time that offer benefits while you pursue the side hustle of your dreams. Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, Home Depot, Whole Foods, UPS and Staples, to name just a few, are all businesses that provide benefits to their part-time employees. Whether you’re going to school to learn new skills or you’re the CEO of your own startup, you can keep tacos in your tummy, shoes in your closet and health insurance while you pursue your passion. Or, can you go to your current employer and negotiate a way to pursue a side hustle while still adding value to them? Sometimes just asking might surprise you.


Don’t stress if you’re still figuring things out. The secret is that almost everyone is! That’s one of the best parts about life- finding your path, and if you ask for help, you might find some new allies along the way to take the journey with you.


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