What does "career" mean for a new-age dreamer?
It’s no lie that I want to experience it all in life. I think I’ve always wanted that in some form. Nowadays, though, I more so don’t want to reflect on my life 30 years from now and wish I had done something when I’d had to capacity to.
That’s what I’m fearful of.
So I take calculated risks and tend to operate with an “I’ve got nothing to lose, but the opportunity” attitude. It wasn’t always like this, though. Early on in my working life, when I hadn’t built up skills learned in university, or developed any of my own due to lack of autonomy in a professional working environment (internships), I had such little confidence about where my life was going.
Note that I said where my life was going and not where my career was heading. That’s because in our wee 20s, we attribute a large portion (if not all) of our happiness and success to what we’re doing for a living. I mean, it makes sense. For majority of us, that’s what we’ve been groomed to think ‘the truth’ after college. I was certainly one of those people. But because I’ve always been a dreamer of sorts, I’d be thinking about the next best thing when I was in a given working environment. That does speak to my then-inability to settle down (or lack of commitment), I know. But it also speaks to me listening to my inner wanderer looking to explore and create all the stories I knew were meant for me.
So, we’re really talking professional development and transferable skills here. That’s what I’ve taken from my varied working experiences. What were those experiences, you ask? Let’s start at the beginning and look on the surface.
Sales Operations Coordinator for a childrenswear licensee
Business Development Associate for a non profit organization
Sales Assistant for a lingerie wholesaler
English Teacher at an Elementary school
That looks crazy. Like, Nkem, what is the through-line? That’s a question I’ve gotten from my parents, recruiters, and even from myself. You can imagine that leading to stress and low self-esteem when it came to my “career”. I feel confident writing this post because of where I am now in my professional life, though. As a writing instructor, my role hits on the things I was always passionate about and did part time (or voluntarily), but never took on professionally.
I like to say that you can see what a person truly enjoys by what they do that they’re not getting paid for. Let’s look at what was happening under the surface for me in concurrence with the above jobs.
PREVIOUS… Peer Writing Consultant while in college
English Writing Tutor and Mentor at a tutoring/mentoring program
Mentor to a high schooler part of the iMentor program (great program)
Professional Writing Consultant, because why not at this point?
It’s a lot, and I was busy. But it wasn’t until I was let go from my Sales Assistant job that I decided to make the transition into education for better or for worse. Either it would work out, or it wouldn’t, but my heart and mind were always in mentoring and education, so I knew that whatever the outcome, I would give it 100% of my effort. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith.
And that’s what I’ve done. So far it’s paid off and I’m living overseas working at an extraordinary university with extraordinary students. It’s like God took a page out of my journal and brought it to the factory of life for executing.
For those early in their careers or thinking about a transition, I can offer some practical takeaways:
Don’t stop exploring your interests just because you have a full time job. Make time for them where you can.
Network inside and outside of your job scope. You never know what skills or interests can take you to the moon.
Be open to taking on a role you either aren’t keen on, or are very scared of. In either case you will learn something that can make you an asset to any working environment in the future.
Keep in touch with professional connections, with a value-add. People are busy and don’t always have time to engage in casual check-in every month. Make your presence in their lives meaningful to result in mutual benefit.
If you’re fired from a job, honestly self-reflect on what you could have done better and what kind of space is best suited to your personality, skills, and working style. Pivot from there.
In the end, I'll refer to the great Hannah Montana and say, life is what you make it - and so is your career. Enjoy it and give it a meaning!