Abandoning the idea of a traditional career: Here’s why I’m doing it

Before I give you the break down of why the traditional  “career” thing isn’t for me, let me give you the back story:

For two years I have beat myself up over not knowing how to answer the “What do you want to do” question.  Two. years.  I prayed that the answer would appear to me magically. I looked for signs, I read book-after-book, and when I fell asleep at night, I would close my eyes and wish with all my might that when I woke up in the morning I would know. That I would have an answer. That I would finally be able to tell people “THIS!” “This is exactly what I want to do!”

It never happened.

I continued to berate myself and wonder, “what is wrong with me?”  If you have felt this way before, you know it is suffocating and the ultimate embodiment of living your life through limiting beliefs.  It wasn’t a good feeling.  At the time I didn’t know what to do, so I soldiered on.

So, how did I reach the point where I decided being on a career path was no longer for me?
Strangely, it happened when I was having a conversation with a friend who has pretty much known what she’s wanted to do her entire life. (Don’t you just hate those people?) We were talking about job stuff when she started questioning me as to the next steps I planned on taking in my career. I pondered this question for a second, before rambling off a list of attributes that I would like a job to have, and the particular skills I would like to use.  My friend stopped me. “Amber,” she said. “Those are not job titles. What title do you want to have?”
I told her I didn’t know.
She went into the whole “ What are your passions? Your goals? Your strengths” routine.
She even told me to take a moment to write these down.
I laughed.
Why?
Because I’ve been making that same, damn list for two years.

I told her that I had been there, and done that. She asked me what conclusion did I come to. Again I rambled off a list of characteristics. I could tell she was getting frustrated with me.  I was getting a little frustrated with her, honestly. I mean, it’s not like I had not already asked myself these same questions. Why couldn’t she accept my answers?   Then she said, “So…you don’t want a career…you just want a job?” And I said, “Hmm…I want meaningful experiences that I can make money from.”

That, people, is when the light bulb went off.

Finally, I got  it. No, I don’t want a set career, there is no set title I am aiming for, to me that means nothing. I want experiences I can be happy about, experiences that I can profit from, and experiences that leave me feeling as if I am making some type of difference in the world.

So what changed?
As I have continued to spend time working in environments that embody the spirit of ladder-climbing, I’ve grown stronger in my beliefs that it is okay to look for a life outside of the narrow confines of how our society determines what is “normal”, and what you should do.

There are some people out there who want to climb to the highest rungs of the corporate ladder, gathering accolades as they shimmy along. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, if that’s your thing.  But if that’s not your thing, if you’ve never really wanted a corner office, then guess what? That is okay too!

A career does not have to mean a set trajectory. For the so many people out there trying to figure it all out, and asking themselves daily, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?” I say, stop it.  Let it go. You are not going to figure out tomorrow, or today what you want to do with the rest of your life. But, you can figure out what your next experience should be.  And if you are smart enough, which I know all of you ARE, then you will figure out how to profit from that experience. You will take the experience, embrace it, and embody it. You will effin’ own your experience. No ladder needed.

Now, the experiences that you string together may have titles.For example, one day I hope to be the creator and editor of an online magazine, but I harbor no illusions of thinking that will be the only experience for me, for the rest of my life.

It all goes back to not defining yourself by the job that you do. Embrace your uncertainty and run with it. If you happen to stumble upon something you think you can do for a while, hey, go for it! And be comforted in knowing that when you are ready for something new, it is totally possible. Live life and enjoy your experiences. Those are the things that will really shape you as a person.

Got something to add? I would love to hear it.
If you like this post, the highest compliment you can give me is to share it with your networks.

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  1. #1 by Sherelle on January 3, 2011 - 10:06 am

    Amber,
    I LOVE your blog! This is soo me too…I don’t feel that my purpose in life is to sit at a desk filing my life away, and taking orders from someone who knows less about the company than I do. I’m working on doing my own thing …just want to write and inspire others.
    Congrats to you!

    • #2 by amberinnyc on January 3, 2011 - 11:29 am

      Thanks so much Sherelle!

      I feel like there are so many people out there who feel this way. Please let me know when you get your projects underway!
      Go forth and be fabulous :)

  2. #3 by Danny Lamas on January 4, 2011 - 6:52 pm

    PREACH AMBER!!!!!!

  3. #4 by Yogi on January 19, 2011 - 4:37 pm

    It took me a very long long long time to figure out what I want to be when I grow up…and please believe have a lot of slashes in my “title”….i know I want to be in the film industry i’m just fascinated with movies….I love to watch them, I love to be in them, and now I’m about to embark on the ever so creative and exciting task of editing them…I also intend to invest my time and efforts into community programs that I feel are needed…starting with my hometown, I intend to have foundations to help those in need, and I want to even jump into the Franchise business….no corner office for me….I’ve always wanted to be on my own schedule and eventually I will get there! Making money everyday whether I choose to work or not is the ideal life for me….one I intend to make my reality!

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