I saw a blogpost recently titled, “Your Career Path Isn’t a Straight Line – So Stop Getting Upset When Things Don’t Go as Planned.” In the post it said that, “Careers these days aren’t so much about climbing the ladder, but about bouncing around a jungle gym.” I like the image and another idea in the post stating that it’s okay that the path isn’t straight or even always appearing to be headed in the right direction. Often it’s when we veer off the obvious path that we learn new things, experience obstacles and develop the GRIT to overcome them.
I spent my twenties working at a non-profit arts organization, making very little money but gaining incredible managerial experience. When I shifted into human resources and started my career in Corporate America, lots of those lessons were both applicable and helpful.
When I was promoted during my first year on the Corporate job, of course the first thing I did was call my wife to tell her the good news. And the first thing she did was call her mother to prove that marrying me hadn’t been a colossal mistake. Her mother’s response was, “If only he hadn’t wasted all those years in non-profit just think of where he could be today.” My quick-thinking and brilliant wife replied, “If he hadn’t spent all those years in non-profit getting valuable experience he never would have gotten this opportunity in the first place.” I’m a very lucky man.
The takeaway is that there is no wasted experience. Take the opportunity that’s in front of you. See where is leads. Be prepared to meander, just remember what your ultimate goal is and where you think you want to be someday. There are 18 named routes to the top of Mount Everest and several others that are as yet unnamed and unclimbed. Maybe you’ll forge your own path. Maybe you’ll follow in the well-worn footsteps of others. Either way, my advice is to take some chances and enjoy the journey.