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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 being in your 30s doesn’t quite count as old). 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 …
Rachel (& Kristen)