Career Questions

According to Timehop, a year ago I was asking myself the same questions I am asking today. Which, I see as a problem.

My Twitter monologue a year ago looked something like this:

  • I was asked today what’s on my professional #bucketlist & I have no idea. What am I even supposed to be doing with my life professionally?
  • Some days I think it’s school counseling or speech-language pathology…
  • Some days I think it’s corporate communication…
  • Some days I think it’s teaching history or politics…
  • How do I figure out what I’m doing with my life?
  • My personal #bucketlist is easy & so long. Professionally? I’m truly stumped.

Unfortunately, I am still asking myself similar questions. So maybe I have the wrong approach? Maybe I should be looking at what I love doing instead of trying to pinpoint a “dream job”?

  • I love reading. Specifically historical fiction and nonfiction.
  • I love helping people.
  • I love making people feel valued and important.
  • I love feeling like what I did that day matters and wasn’t just mindless paper pushing.
  • I love writing.
  • I love organizing.
  • I love baking & cooking.
  • I love planning trips, traveling & exploring.
  • I love thinking about the importance of words – especially in the rhetoric of popular culture surrounding current events and legislation.

I just don’t know how any of this translates into a career.

Graduating high school I was full of so much idealism and was so naive about the world. I was very sheltered and had larger than life dreams. I’ve definitely toned down since then, and my dreams of changed as I’ve gotten older. I no longer want to be Secretary of State one day, though I love reading about the men and women who have held that position and seeing how seemingly small choices by one have influenced the actions of the individuals following in their path. I love learning how the actions of history have created the modern international political landscape.

When I graduated college my dreams had changed. I wanted to become a Communications Director for a senate office and maybe work in the press office of a presidential administration some day. I wanted to shape rhetoric around policy and find ways of connecting constituents to the men and women who lead them in innovative ways where it actually felt like their voice was being heard in some capacity. I still love reading political speeches and watching C-SPAN. I love looking at how legislation is discussed within the halls and chambers of Congress compared to how it is talked about by the media and then how its talked about in coffee shops by people who haven’t followed an issue all the way down. I love seeing how the power of rhetoric influences the way people perceive and talk abut things in their day-to-day lives. I love laughing at or feeling provoked by political advertisements and how the images and stories people choose to share in that platform shape the way their campaign and character are discussed.

However, the path I have taken has not led me in that direction, and honestly now I don’t want to work on the Hill. If you look at my list of what I love above, politics isn’t what drives me anymore. Yes, I am still interested in it, but it no longer holds the allure it once did. It is so far removed from actually helping the family next door, that I don’t know I would find value and fulfillment in that work.

My first job out of college was in direct sales at an in-bound call center. I hated it. The people I worked with were lovely and the company tried to take really good care of their employees, but I felt drained and defeated every day in that role.

Following that position, I entered work as a program coordinator at a global non-profit. I adored the team I worked with and feeling like what I was doing actually mattered. We were working on programming to equip parents and families to do life better. We held focus groups and had constant conversations with our constituents to learn what areas of parenting they wanted assistance with, what topics intimidated them compared to where they felt confident and developed tools and resources to meet them in their need. My favorite project I worked on from concept to execution was helping parents engage in honest conversations about human sexuality at every stage of development and showing that talking openly and early about age-appropriate topics made it much easier when the child was an adolescent for their to already be an  open dialogue in place, so that both parties felt comfortable tackling questions the child may have. It felt like what I was doing mattered and that I was helping people.

During that time I also began work on a master’s degree in marriage & family therapy. I loved being a student again. I also loved the work we were doing around family systems and adolescent development. I hated the work we were doing with couples. Working with couples was challenging in a way that I didn’t expect; it was difficult to separate the tension I was dealing with in their relationship from how it mirrored the tension in my own relationship at the time. That experience taught me I definitely did NOT want to be a couples therapist. I know many amazing people who are, that I look up to a great deal and thought I wanted to emulate, but couples work is just not for me. So, I took some time off from pursuing that path until I could figure out how to move forward.

I know that my current role as an administrative assistant is helpful and valuable work and helps keep the department running smoothly. It involves good communication and organization skills, as well as good people skills. I just also know this isn’t what I want to do forever.

So, I guess writing this all out just has me struggling with what I should do with my life. I feel like I am getting to the point where I need a clear path for my career.

Do I expand upon my minor in nonprofit administration and pursue a masters degree in public administration and work in the administrative side of the nonprofit world for an organization I believe in?

Do I pursue some form of counseling either in mental health or school settings? Do I work with people’s emotional needs and mental health issues? Do I pursue school psychology and help students connect to resources to help them succeed academically?

Do I pursue something closer tied to my first loves – history, politics and rhetoric?

The answer is I don’t know. I am trying so hard to learn what I want to do with my life and how I want to contribute to society. I just struggle with how to take my list of what I love doing and turn it into a career.

Do you have any advice for me?

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5 thoughts on “Career Questions

  1. In my experience, your career path can take many twists and turns and this is normal. I worked for a temp agency for many years and we saw so many professionals coming to us because they didn’t know what they wanted to do with their careers after getting degrees and trying various jobs.

    You may want to explore setting up informational interviews with professionals in fields that interest you before you start investing in schooling, etc. Set up meetings and ask them what they like about their career, what they don’t like, what it really takes to get started in that career, etc. Informational interviews could help point you in the right direction.

    For me, it has come down to truly embracing and enjoying the job I’m in as much as I can. I focus less on finding that “dream job” and making my current job my dream. I look for opportunities to grow and learn and expand.

    I’m currently working for myself as a professional and business coach, which is something I wanted and planned for years. I love it because, like you, I love helping people and developing others. I want to know what I do matters, and I want to help others get as much enjoyment and success from their careers as they can!

    Good luck to you!

    Chrysta

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    • Thank you Chrysta! This was very helpful in my processing! I think being surrounded by so many friends who have their master’s degrees and PhDs can sometimes make me feel overwhelmed and like I’m not where I need to be, but I think focusing on how to make my current role a “dream” job is a good place to start – especially looking for avenues to grow my skill set to make me a stronger employee.

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  2. Do what you love the most. Life’s too short not to. I know that’s cliche, but seriously – it’s true. My dad was a second career teacher. He waited his entire life (almost) to start teaching, then put in a good 15 years in the classroom. He was the happiest person I know, even though he had to get up at 5:00 every morning. Personally, I find influencing the next generation of leaders the most rewarding work I’ve done (I’m a college counselor and run a non-profit). I’d rather focus on the little people rather than worry about the big people problems. All that being said, look for balance. Love on that new husband of yours. Make sure you’re taking time to build a life with him, too…. because again, life’s too short. ❤

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    • Thank you Sara! Right now I decided to enjoy the holidays and these first few months as a newlywed. Working for a university and being surrounded by people who are constantly doing big things, while being given the opportunity to go back to school for a steal has me itching to do something, but if I’m not 100% sure, i don’t want to waste mine & my husband’s time…
      I appreciate all of the advice so much – its been really therapeutic to reveal this insecurity of mine.

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      • Taking advantage of a good deal for an advanced degree? Probably worth it. I REALLY want one, but don’t want to leave my husband to do it and don’t know if the ROI is “really” worth it for my career path… but no one can take it away from you. 🙂

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