Passion May Come After a Zig Zag Career Path!

Career Path photo from ShutterstockI think it would be worthwhile sharing a bit about my background as it sheds light on how a person can find their passion. My career path zigzagged and it wasn’t clear to me until now that every experience was necessary for me to arrive at my passion, which is what I do in my current work as a career coach and writer! I often felt confused and frustrated that my jobs weren’t the exact right fit but in hindsight I know that each one was necessary for me to acquire certain skills that were the prerequisite for what I do now, which is my passion!

After graduating from college with a bachelors in psychology I had lots of opportunities… not exactly… Fortunately the eighties was a good time to graduate from college and it was relatively easy to find work if you performed well in college. In hindsight, majoring in psychology was actually helpful when it came to thinking and writing analytically and was a huge asset for interviewing. Having a good sense for people and assessing their needs, I was able to land many jobs in sales. I opted to work in computer sales, as that was the hot new industry at the time: After a year I sold the most IBM Pc Jrs in the state of Michigan. I know what you’re thinking… what was that? Or, if you happen to know a bit about the history of computer hardware, you’d say… that was a lousy piece of equipment. That being said, (in all fairness to me), there weren’t so many great options at the time and for word-processing and spreadsheets, many people found it a reasonably priced solution to their small business’s needs. In turn, I learned how to analyze customers’ needs, overcome objections and find solutions to their small business problems with a computer and related software (albeit not the most sophisticated one).

Recognizing that my upward mobility in the company was limited as a computer sales person, I went back to school for my MBA at University of Michigan and while in school I worked for Unisys at their world headquarters in their Executive H.R. dept. I worked on developing the company’s succession plan, helped write their internal career path plans, collaborated on an employee rewards systems and then for my last project I wrote their US marketing plan. Working for Unisys developed my appreciation for working for a large company with huge resources, taught me a great deal about HR (Human Resources) and marketing research, which helps me today in my work as a career coach.

Upon finishing my MBA I moved to DC and joined my family’s business as a legal recruiter. This experience helped expand my sales skills and my appreciation for the recruiting and hiring of top talent. It also taught me some valuable lessons about working for a family business, which has its pros and cons. One of the pros for me was that I was able to work from my “satellite home office,” become financially independent and support my husband through all of his medical training. I could close deals from my apartment, skip off to the pool or take a run in rock creek park and still have flexibility to attend classes and even continue recruiting on a flexible schedule after I gave birth to my first child!

After my son was born, we eventually moved back to my hometown and again from my “home office” I enjoyed working. But now I decided to launch my own business as a marketing consultant and began writing strategic plans to help companies grow. All from my kitchen table, between naps and play dates, I identified small and medium-sized business that I thought hadn’t fully exploited their potential.

You can see I’m getting closer and closer to my work as a career coach. My favorite job was working for Backroads, the largest travel company in the world (at least it was at that time). They were best known for finding back roads for hikers, cyclists and sea kayakers around the world. I loved writing a business plan for Backroads and was thrilled to have enjoyed many of their trips from the wine country to the Gulf Islands and most recently in the Canadian Rockies. After this stint from home, my next job was a widely different one: I was recruited to serve as the marketing director for my kids’ school. I believed in their mission and thought it would be interesting working for a non-profit.

Although I enjoyed these various roles and developed new skills at each place, I never felt that I had found my real passion or purpose in life. In fact there were many times that I secretly envied other people who had found their calling even if it were in a field that I had no interest in.

It’s only recently that it all makes sense to me. I needed to have all of these experiences (minus working as a personal trainer and step aerobics instructor which has almost no tie in to my current work other than realizing sometimes you need a break) that helped me develop the skills and confidence to branch out on my own and excel at what I do today. Each one of my previous jobs served as a prerequisite for my current job that is my passion! I combine my background in psychology, marketing, entrepreneurship, strategic planning, research, HR, recruiting and career path planning with my understanding of what it’s like to work for profit in a large firm, a family business, a mid-size firm, and for a non-profit and as an entrepreneurial career coach, author and freelance writer giving insightful career advice to my valued clients and readers.

So as you can see from the evolution of my career, your passion doesn’t always come right away in fact it can come after hard work, developing valuable skills, identifying a gap where there’s a need for support (or a solution to a problem) and then being appreciated for your contribution that can lead to finding your true calling and your passion. I have only one regret and that’s not realizing that all of this was necessary for me to help others and enjoy the privilege of being a career coach whose truly found meaning and purpose in my job. So if I can help, even one person, alleviate their anxiety about not having found your passion yet, I’d find that rewarding.

Don’t get so caught up in finding your passion that you miss out on the learning experiences that could ultimately lead to it! You may already know your passion and if you do, that’s great as your path will be more obvious. But if you don’t know it yet, relax, it can come later and you’ll be glad you opened yourself to every experience along the way leading up to it.