Lessons I Learned from Changing My Career Trajectory Three Times

May 29, 2019

What do dancers, police officers, lawyers, and firefighters have in common? According to Alison Doyle, a nationally-acclaimed career expert, these are common job aspirations among children.

 

Photo: Adri Tormo on Unsplash  

 

But do most individuals achieve their childhood career dreams? Yes and no. In December 2018, virtual phone company TollFreeForwarding surveyed 2,000 professionals. Just 10% of participants reported holding their childhood dream job, and, of those individuals, 35% admitted their job wasn’t all their childhood imaginations had made it out to be.

 

Under the pressures of mounting education costs, compounding interest rates, cutthroat job competition, and conflicting family demands, at least some of today’s young adults might feel despair over their childhood dreams. But, as someone who has cycled through three major career changes, this writer is here to share five pearls of wisdom.  

 

Bend with the wind.

 

Having ambitions and goals are important to success. But, if you close yourself off to all other options, you risk being short-sighted and missing out on opportunities. Although it may be difficult to see in the moment, in retrospect, you will find that every job you’ve worked has provided you with valuable experience that opened new doors.

 

Working as a hostess in a Mexican restaurant was not my dream job out of high school. However, the experience taught me skills that landed me a promotion to an event planner, a job which financed most of my college and allowed me to rent my first apartment.

 

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

 

Don’t be too hard on yourself, and be realistic in your goals. Some things only come with time. You might be hungry for a stimulating position with high pay, but certain opportunities require maturity you can’t rush.

 

When I graduated high school a year early and with honors, I felt I had the organizational skills, ambition, and smarts to succeed as an administrative assistant. After three months of hunting, I realized my ego and impatience were only getting in my way where patience and humility could carry me far.

 

In every career aspiration, it’s important to remember you’re never too good for any job. Each job you work can be a stepping stone to achieving your dream.

 

Growth is change.

 

Having a sense of direction and stability is different from being stagnant. If you never change, you’ll never grow. While it is commendable to have and achieve your childhood dream, you might find as you grow older and gain experience that your priorities change. Embrace your evolving goals. Understand that, so long as you are responsible and dedicated to developing yourself, taking calculated risks can be a part of growth.

 

When I was offered the opportunity to move to Chile for a gap year, I took the risk and gave up my dental assistant job. Why? It was a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of living abroad. Not only did I learn a second language, but I rediscovered my passion for writing and gained a greater understanding of what I value most in life.  

 

Don’t be set in your ways.

 

Challenge yourself to experiment with new concepts. It helps you discover parts of yourself you wouldn't otherwise know existed. Just as you change with growth, you will never know until you try.

 

Before graduating high school, I had styled myself as an introvert who could succeed only in a quiet office job. However, three fruitless months of job hunting later, I challenged myself to excel in a busy restaurant environment. To my surprise, I realized that, however much I prized solitude, people skills were one of my strongest professional assets, launching a three year foray into restaurant sales.

 

Be confident in yourself.

 

Being afraid of failure is never an excuse to avoid a project or job. While everyone has natural talents, there are few things you can’t learn with practice and determination.

 

When I entered dentistry, it was out of dissatisfaction with my career options in sales and a ten year affair with science trivia. It was an uphill battle to learn the technical skills I lacked, but, at the end of nine months, I had grown from two left feet into a competent assistant.

 

Don’t give up on your dreams, but remember to be patient and humble. Never be stubborn at the expense of opportunities. Understand your goals will probably evolve as you grow.

 

Most of all, be encouraged to see the silver lining in each cloud. The same survey that exposed a landscape of shattered childhood dreams also revealed that, among the victims, the majority (61%) were satisfied where life had taken them. For them, childhood dreams didn’t define their happiness. And that’s a good thing.

 

Olivia Amici is a hustler who has been writing short stories for fun since high school and editing scientific papers since moving to Concepcion, Chile, for a gap year. Before then, she paid her way through community college while working as an event coordinator and a dental assistant. Once she returns to the States, she is excited to complete her degree in biology at University of Florida. In ten years, she would like to be working as a medical research editor and own an African Gray Parrot and a house in San Diego.

 

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