It seems that some people are able to have a very straightforward career. They finish school, graduate at university and start their dream job in the same field they studied for. They then proceed to obtain career advancements and become important experts, before finally retiring and writing a few books about their wonderful life. If you’re one of these people, then good for you. However, for most people, things are far from straightforward. And you’re left wondering why your path has quite so many unexpected twists and turns when all you wanted was to graduate and get a relevant job like everyone else…everyone, right?
So how do you save yourself from ending up dissatisfied with your career, and with life in general? Some people would just accept that things haven’t gone as planned and make the best of it. Others…well others have a secret weapon. They keep trying. And they keep an open mind. You may be thinking that it’s fine to keep trying as long as you’re well off enough to do so. You can afford to relocate to a different place, or to take a second degree. But actually, money is not the key to success. It is enough to have the will to keep going.
Others…well others have a secret weapon.
They keep trying.
And they keep an open mind.
I will give you an example from my own life, and I will tell you about the lessons I learned from it. Perhaps you will find my story useful. Perhaps it will inspire you to keep trying when you feel stuck and lost.
At school I was convinced I wanted to be a scientist. Work with astronauts, space missions, that sort of thing. I was studying at the Science and Technology high school and my path was set. Two years later I quit school because of my sciences teacher, and decided I never wanted to have anything to do with science again. I graduated from high school with A levels in History, Literature and Languages. I became a bit lost, and didn’t really know what I wanted to do anymore.
When it was time to choose my university degree I followed this advice: “pick a course that interests you, whatever it is. Any degree will get you a good job in areas you’re not even thinking of yet”. So I picked…archaeology. I loved it, I got back into sciences again, and I particularly enjoyed studying about bone remains and the preservation of objects in different soils. Still, I’m not an archaeologist. And as the financial crisis struck whilst I was in the middle of my studies, there was no way I was going to get a decent job after majoring in archaeology anymore. I decided I would just enjoy my studies, and then deal with the problem of finding a job later.
I moved to Norway. I became a ski instructor. I had lots of irrelevant part time jobs whilst I was studying. I graduated and applied for a PhD, but never got in at my university, and because of my life situation, I was no longer able to relocate to another town and accept a PhD from somewhere else. I got a job as administration assistant in a large multinational company. I hated it. I found it boring, useless, irrelevant and requiring zero brain work. I knew I should be grateful for a nice and cosy office job, but I hated it. When I left, I vowed I would never work in an office again. I would never allow myself to be forced to sit in a cage and perform the same robotic tasks day in day out again.
For years I worked as a ski instructor in evenings and weekends, I loved it, but financially it wasn’t enough. I landed a dream job managing a livery yard, and thought my life had finally taken a new and definite turn. I learned how to train horses, how to manage people, how to run a business. It was hard work, it had nothing to do with my degree, but it was not an office job and I loved it. Life got in the way and I was forced to leave. I’d started a second degree in Equine Science, which I was forced to quit.
Once again, I was lost. I worked one more season as a ski instructor. I moved to Italy. I became an English teacher and scraped a living by driving for miles to teach a few classes. I set out a million CVs, but Italy is a hard place to land a job in. I applied for all kinds of jobs. From shop assistant to marketing manager. I was even going to accept being a waitress again at the weekends, and teach English whenever I could.
I finally got an interview for the marketing manager position. Another office job. I knew I wasn’t going to like it. But I was going to take it anyway, life had become so different, I could no longer choose, I was giving up.
Luckily, this wasn’t the average prison like office job that I had experienced in the past. I was given a deal of freedom, I was able to organise my work as I wished. I was able to challenge myself. I had some experience with marketing, but I decided to learn more. I took some courses, I became really engaged again and I slowly began to love my office job. My willpower returned and even if I found some days really boring, I kept going. I kept learning, trying, experimenting. And I turned it around: I now love my job, I think it’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Despite vowing never to work in an office again, I really enjoy my days and my work now.
The lesson I learned is this: never give up, never stop trying and, above all, never stop learning. Nowadays it’s easier than ever to keep learning. Universities offer free online courses. Experts in various fields share their knowledge in youtube videos. Knowledge is all around us and freely available. So keep an open mind. If life gets in the way of your chosen career, again and again, accept the change and keep going. But don’t be passive. Search for knowledge, for learning, expand your skills. Life’s twists and turns are not a burden, they are a wonderful way of discovering new and fulfilling paths that you never thought existed.