Why it’s OK to have a random career path

career path

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The other day I was on a walk with my dog, which is as great a time for mental wandering as it is physical wandering, when something weird happened — I remembered a part of my life I had completely forgotten about.

I’m not talking about something that happened in a single day, and that naturally faded from memory. I’m talking about something I did almost every day for many months (maybe even a year), and had totally brushed to the back of some dusty corner of my mind.

Has this happened to you before? I wonder if it’s a side effect of getting “older” (I still use that word lightly, since I’m only 30). It would make sense! The more experiences you acquire, the more there is to remember, which means older and seemingly unimportant stuff falls through the mental cracks.

Anyway, the thing I remembered was my tenure as a writer for one of those celebrity gossip websites.

To be fair, it was a bit more highbrow, and it dealt in more than just celebrities. There were articles about music and film and food and other “lifestyle” things.

My “beat” (if you can call it that) was relationships — analyzing celebrity breakups, giving advice, that kind of thing.

I’m not really surprised I forgot about this weird stint in my career — I mean, it didn’t even pay, so obviously it wasn’t all that memorable — but now it’s got me thinking about the random, twisting path that led me to where I am.

THE TIMELINE OF RANDOMNESS

Here’s a snapshot of everything I’ve done in the past decade:

  • 2009: Kristen and I started writing a relationship advice book for college-aged girls while we were seniors in college.
  • Summer 2010: Graduated college, interned for the summer in the PR department of a fine arts museum.
  • Fall 2010: Decided I wanted to go to grad school for art history, so enrolled in community college night courses to learn Latin and German. Did this while working full-time as an Events & Promotions Coordinator for an investment firm.
  • Winter 2011: Hated Latin and German, so scrapped the art history idea. Decided grad school for psychology would be better, so enrolled in online psych classes at the community college.
  • Spring 2011: Still working on the relationships book, I decided we’d have a better chance of getting published if we’d been published before. So I pitched myself to a few online outlets, including the celebrity site. I wrote articles at my full-time job because they never gave me enough to do.
  • Summer 2011: Literally FLUNKED my psych courses. Not because they weren’t easy (they were incredibly easy), but because I just didn’t care. It was the first time I’d ever felt that unmotivated by school, and it scared me.
  • Fall 2011: Started going to therapy, because I was so unhappy and felt broken. Also, I wanted to know if I’d made the right choice in dropping out of psych, because I was still interested in therapy as a career.
  • Winter 2012: Fired my therapist (who was terrible), but did an informational interview with a therapist who also wrote for the celebrity site. She gave me so much insight into the profession, and also introduced me to the concept of coaching. Quit the celebrity site shortly after that.
  • Spring 2012: Quit my full-time job and started nannying for a set of two-year-old twins. Kristen and I enrolled in coach training and launched our first website, which was about life, relationships, and career coaching for Millennials.
  • Fall 2012/Winter 2013: Quit nannying (my $ situation was pretty dire) and started working full-time as an admin at a law office. Finished coach training.
  • Summer 2013: Launched our second website, Clarity on Fire, and started blogging regularly. Kept writing for various other sites to build our audience.
  • Winter 2014: Quit the law firm and went full-time with coaching (which was TERRIFYING and, in all honesty, way too soon. But we survived). Re-did our site for the third time and began focusing on life and career, not relationships (somewhere along the way, the book was scrapped).
  • Late 2014—present: Re-did our site for a fourth time. Launched the Passion Profile Quiz (which has been taken well over 300,000 times now). Got published on sites like Business Insider, TIME, and Forbes. Launched 2 courses. Wrote enough blogs to fill at least 3 thick books. Coached many hundreds of people over many thousands of hours. And, of course, most recently we started a podcast.

So, just in case you didn’t catch that — in the span of about 4 years, I bounced around from book writing to art history to events and promotions to psychology to nannying to legal work and finally, to coaching (and even within that, bounced around more).

THE DOMINO EFFECT IS REAL

I have never known exactly what I wanted to do with my life. When I pitched myself to that celebrity site, I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d never done a real pitch before! I just knew, at the time, that I wanted to write a book. And I figured that a published author should, you know, be a published author.

Was it a tatty little online rag that no one ever read, and shortly went defunct? You bet!

And did we eventually scrap the whole relationship self-help book? We did! (Even though getting that book published had been the whole impetus behind pitching myself to the celebrity site in the first place.)

But here’s the critical thing — the writing gig paid off, even though the original reason I did it fell through.

I got to put a few published articles in my portfolio, which helped me get published at more relevant sites later on, which helped us build our audience when we launched our coaching business.

That gig was part of a chain of events that helped me become a successful coach … even though when I started, I didn’t even know coaching existed as a career.

EVERYTHING IS “FOR NOW,” NOT FOREVER

I’m sharing this now, in particular, because it feels like almost everyone I talk to these days is afraid of making a career move before they have all the information.

There’s a whole legion of people who are afraid that unless they know exactly what they want to do, and exactly how to get there (without making any missteps along the way), they shouldn’t begin.

So, I’m going to tell you what I’ve been telling them:

Start where there’s an opening.

I’ve never had a big plan. I guess I’ve just been unintentionally good at doing the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing (and often failing, flunking, and dead-ending along the way) … until I land somewhere I like.

I’ve just started wherever there was an opening — a hint of curiosity or a mild interest in something — and I’ve pursued it until it taught me what I needed to know or led me to the next point in my path.

I’m not saying that you can’t get clear on your career direction and make smart, thoughtful decisions about where you want to go before you take any action (I’m a coach; I help people do that all day long).

I am saying, however, that at some point you’ve got to become OK with not knowing everything before you start, and trusting that sometimes the next step is only revealed after you’ve taken the first step.

Also … no step is permanent. It is very unlikely that you’ll ever get to a point where you enjoy something so much that you want to do it for the rest of your life.

And hey, for those of you who think that sounds depressing — it’s not. It’s a relief! You’re meant to evolve. You’re not meant to pick one thing and stick with it until you die.

Earlier, when I said that I’ve never really known what I wanted to do with my life, I meant that. I still mean it right now.

For now, coaching works for me. Having my own business feels good. But can I guarantee that what I’m doing (and the way I’m doing it) will always work for me? No. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that at some point, I’ll grow tired of some (or even all) of it.

Everything I do is for now, not forever. I trust that when it’s time to evolve, the next right step will become obvious. And when that happens, I’ll follow the nudge of curiosity where it leads. Because it has always taken me where I needed to go.

What about you? Have you been freaking out about making a career move because you don’t know exactly where you’re going? Share with me, in the comments.

IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU’LL ALSO LOVE …

How you can stop freaking out about not knowing the future

Are you a hummingbird or a jackhammer?

The Adventurer’s Spirit

Much Love,

Rachel (& Kristen)


WANT $50 OFF THE PASSION PROFILE SHORT COURSE?

Starting next Tuesday, May 14 (through Tuesday, May 21), we’re going to be offering a special deal ($50 off!) on the Passion Profile Short Course — our 5-ish hour, totally online, go-at-your-own-pace program that helps you find your career direction in as little as 1 day.

We’re also going to be offering the first 10 people to sign up a free coaching session with one of us! So be sure to check your inbox next Tuesday for the official announcement.

LINKS

Take the Passion Profile Quiz

Submit your question for a future episode of Dear Krachel

Check out our YouTube channel

8 Comments // ADD COMMENT

8 comments

  • Angie

    I signed up but I’ll be in a meeting at work at this time and might miss it. Will this be recorded at all?

    • Rachel East

      Hey Angie! Yes, if you registered you’ll get a replay emailed to you shortly after the workshop ends. 🙂 And FYI, it will expire a week later, so you’ll want to make time to watch it before then.

  • Lorelei Zuccarelli

    Hi! I just decided to change my major more than halfway through my time in college. I’ll be in school for an extra two years but I think it’s the right decision. I am slowly trying to figure out my life and I think I’m taking it in the right direction! Thanks for the awesome blogs!

    • Rachel East

      Good for you, Lorelei! A think a lot of people wish they’d had the guts to change their major before the graduated. It’s great that you decided to go against convention and do what felt right to you. That will serve you well throughout your life!

  • Koren

    I’ve been thinking about blogging, coaching, and becoming a doula (the last career recently) but I’m terrified about stability because I have a family.

    • Rachel East

      Hi Koren,

      That’s very understandable! It’s only natural to care about stability when you have a family, and obviously when more people rely on you it can change what kind of decisions you make.

      I clearly don’t know much about your situation, but I’ll make an educated guess — It sounds like there’s probably a common thread behind your interest in blogging, coaching, and being a doula. If I were to describe what I think that might be, I’d say it’s probably something about helping people to do life (or certain aspects of their life) in a more conscious way. You’re likely the kind of person who likes helping people discover new truths and have “aha moments,” and that shows up in various ways.

      So, because any of those avenues might allow you to delve into that underlying thread, I’d start where there’s an opening. You don’t have to make a big change at first; you can start where it’s easiest or where it’s most convenient to your family situation. Blogging doesn’t cost much (if anything)! You’re totally allowed to try that out, and see what happens. There isn’t much risk involved in dipping your toes in that water.

      And if you’re interested in coaching, you can explore that, too, without making any big commitments. One good way to do that is to reach out to coaches and ask them how they got started, where they trained, and what the experience is/was like. (If you’d like to email us, we’re happy to share our experience with you — contact@clarityonfire.com) 🙂

  • Craige

    Kristin , nice post.

    I think the biggest regret most young people make is that they don’t try things enough, dabble in different careers before they settle on something.

    It’s actually not immature to do that. The worse thing is being settled and trapped into something you hate, despite being invested in it (college degree or just many expenses and family livelihoods tied to your income).

    Experimenting is part of living and you have more experiences and stories to tell.

    Think of best consultants, you really think they’d be that experienced if they just did one thing. Explore and be more