Navigating Uncertainty: Trusting Your Career Path
The Next Step in Your Career Path Only Becomes Clear When You Move Closer to It
Dream careers are built one decision at a time – they are not simply handed to us on a silver platter; they are meticulously crafted and carefully curated through a series of purposeful decisions and strategic choices that shape our unique career paths. Once we discover our north star, or our dream career, all we are left to do is trust and follow. However, trusting the process of our career path is not always easy. We need to learn to navigate uncertainty, make tough decisions, and embrace both the unknown, even when the destination seems uncertain.
When I started my journey to reinvention, what I wanted above all else was certainty.
Certainty I wouldn’t fail
Certainty I could earn money again
Certainty I wouldn’t regret my decisions
Certainty everything would ultimately work out
On the journey to reinvention, it isn’t always clear how all your decisions, successes, and failures will connect. At best, your choices make sense in the moment. Nevertheless, you can’t predict how they will fit into the journey until you walk further down the path. You can only really see a little down the road at any given moment on the journey.
Walking the Career Path to Reinvention
Just imagine yourself walking on a dark path in the woods late at night. It’s completely dark and the leaves of the trees block most of the moonlight. You have a flashlight and turn it on, but the light only shines a small distance in front of you. It’s only enough light to reveal the next few steps and as you move, more of the path is illuminated.
This is what it’s like to walk the journey to reinvention while trusting your career path. With each decision or step you take, you can see one or two moves ahead, but the full path never becomes illuminated. Only when you’ve walked for some time can you look back to fully appreciate the path you’ve taken. You have to trust that as you begin to move, you will be better positioned to decide on future moves.
What often happens, though, is that if you cannot see what’s ahead, you might just stand still and collect as much information as possible. The problem is that you can’t discover the new information unless you make a move. As you move, you shine light on new information, opportunities, and resources. The path to reinvention is impossible to fully map out because no two reinventions are alike. That said, the journey to reinvention is more common that we tend to think. Often we look at other people’s career paths, and they look like perfect straight lines. This gives us the impression everyone else had it all figured out.
Dream Career Paths Are Anything But Predictable
In his 2019 book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David Epstein shares a relevant finding from The Dark Horse Project, a Harvard University study of how women and men harness their individuality in order to achieve success. According to Epstein, most people in the study shared that their career paths tend to look like perfectly constructed and smooth lines when you zoom out. However, if you zoomed in, you would see the individual zig and zag career moves that often only made sense at the time. Furthermore, this study revealed most careers tend to follow these less planned paths even if mainstream society nudges us to believe careers must be planned well in advance.
Since I started on my journey to reinvention, I have quit jobs, been fired, and gotten laid off. In my personal life, I have dumped and been dumped, been married, divorced, and married again. Zooming into individual moments of my journey, they felt unexpected, devastating, fulfilling, and everything in between. However, when I zoom out, the dots I chose and those chosen for me look like perfectly timed moves.
Embracing Challenges in Your Career Path: Trust Yourself to Make Tough Choices
Whether you are the one making the decision or having the decision made for you, the important thing to know is the journey to reinvention has many twists and turns. Difficult decisions must be made to leave opportunities that are great but no longer serving you. Feeling like you’ve invested too much to quit will happen because we are hard-wired to feel that way. Furthermore, the right moments along the journey don’t always happen when you think you are ready. Other times what seems like a great opportunity might no longer be right for you.
To Build Your Ideal Career Path You Might Have to Quit a Job You Love
Every year, I have to decide whether or not to renew my contract at the university for my part-time teaching role. In 2021, after my best year of teaching, I was excited to renew the contract. However, I realized that continuing to go on this career path meant putting off becoming a full-time entrepreneur. The thought of quitting my teaching role was painful because I identified as a teacher and loved working with students. It also felt as if I was throwing away something that I had worked so hard to achieve. On the other hand, teaching took up a great deal of time I needed to bring my business to life.
I took time to evaluate this difficult decision and considered my tendency to be drawn to structured roles and stable objectives. I realized I was drawn to the structure of employee roles and the certainty of the paycheck. After all, most of my professional life had been spent as an employee. However, to build my own business, I would have very little structure and certainty, especially at the beginning. This would be very uncomfortable, but necessary in order to be aligned with my new passion and purpose. While teaching was a passion, my teaching role at the time was not aligned with my next goal in life—to build a business that helps people all around the world reinvent themselves.
After a great deal of consideration, I made the decision to resign from my teaching role at the university. I found certainty in the idea that leaving this role behind was necessary in order to create a pathway to the new life I wanted to build and shape my ideal career path.
Trust That the Best Decisions in Your Career Path Aren’t The Easiest Ones to Make
While the decision to leave was difficult, I felt a deep sense of relief. It was as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders, and I was free to pursue my next reinvention. However, you only get this feeling after the decision is made. The dots had always connected before and I had no reason to believe they wouldn’t connect again. I had faith I would find a way to make it work.
And in a way that I could never predict, I found myself back at the university less than a year later, in a newly designed role that aligned with my new passion and purpose, helping graduate students reinvent themselves from employees to entrepreneurs by launching their very first business prototypes and experiments.
Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, says:
“…you have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
This is precisely why it’s important to trust that the moves you make and those made for you will connect down the road, shaping your career path. You have the power to make them connect and can only do so as you walk the journey to reinvention. By embracing uncertainty and trusting the process, you pave the way for new opportunities, growth, and the realization of your desired career trajectory. Remember, each step you take contributes to the intricate tapestry of your unique career path, leading you toward the fulfillment of your dreams.