When I was first looking for a job, I was quite pleased to have landed a position with one of the top magazines in town. After all, that was my degree – Bachelor’s of Journalism in Magazine Writing. Didn’t sway very far away from what I spent four years in uni for!
You would think that five years down the road, I would be somewhere quite at the top if I stayed on my career path. Editorial assistant, writer, features editor and then at the height of my career then, editor of a magazine.
Today, many years after starting my first job, I am currently a freelancer working from home, editing and writing. While I didn’t veer quite far from my career path, getting here took some swerving, reversing and U-turns that included being part of a fashion brand startup, selling home-made food products, and owning a restaurant (that’s a whole different story altogether) before landing in this “role” I’ve been doing for more than 10 years now – and would like to think I am actually quite good at it.
Why am I sharing this with you? To let you know that it’s OK not to have a clear career path or that it’s no biggie if you are veer from what you set out to do after graduation. Because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is where you’re currently at and if you are happy there. Bonus if you’re doing a not too bad job at it as well.
You may know these people who didn’t stick to their career path. Jeff Bezos worked at several financial firms before launching Amazon at 31. Martha Stewart too was a Wall Street stockbroker before making her millions as a domestic guru. Vera Wang was a figure skater before becoming a fashion designer – at 40! And The Rock – once a popular wrestler now a highly paid actor?
Ultimately, your career path should be a journey to discovering yourself and learning what your passions are and what you’re good at. There should be twists, turns and surprises along the way – that’s how you learn best!
What’s the point then of setting career goals, something we write about so often? Think of it as your aspiration board or a map to be on the lookout for new opportunities. Your goal shouldn’t be so rigid and direct such as “Be a CEO of Company A in five years”. Instead, it should read something like “Be good at what I want to do with my life” – and that can be really anything as who knows where life will take you!
But there are still some rules on how to rock the whole no career path goal in order to reach to your fullest potential. Like these ones:
#1 Take risks
Because you never know if it just may lead you to your dream career. Out of everyone who’s been successful at not sticking to their career path have ultimately taken a huge risk in life that paid off (hello, Amazon…) You won’t discover yourself if all you do is wait for something to happen. You need to get out there – join a running group, sign up for new courses, meet new friends online with similar interests. And while you’re still young, it’s recommended for you to take risks and try something different because you have all the freedom to do so.
#2 Keep your eyes and ears open
In order words, talk to as many people as possible. Opportunities are out there; you just need to be around when they strike. Especially if you don’t like the current path you’re on and want to take a little detour. Expand your circle so that you’re in the know. At the very least, you’ll meet people with interesting life stories that can be inspiring.
#3 Try different things
Writing. Baking. Coding. Designing. Anything that piques your interest. Life is really random and that’s the beauty of it – being able to experience different things and eventually charting your own journey to what your definition of success is. Remember – success doesn’t just mean being great at what you do in the office. You can be successful in other entities of your life!
#4 Be flexible
Which is the beauty of the no whole career path thing – not tying yourself down to one single path that you don’t allow yourself to try other things. Plans change and so will your outlook in life. The faster you realise that you don’t have to conform to just one plan, the faster you’ll see all the different possibilities out there.
Need more inspiration? Here’s a TED talk video about why it’s perfectly OK to not have a plan.