Your career is not static

mm Bill Pace

I want to make an important point: a career is often not one thing, but a series of pivots that sometimes connect to one another and sometimes don’t. What do I mean?

I once made the fairly rash decision to leave teaching after just two years. While I looked around for other types of work in the field of education, I really didn’t know what I wanted next.

After many conversations with a ton of people, I stumbled upon an interim position as an assistant to the dean of students at a college.  They were looking for someone with a Ph.d. (which I didn’t have and still don’t) but they were having trouble landing a candidate.

Meanwhile, the start of the school year was approaching. Mostly out of desperation, they offered the position to me for the school year while they continued the search for a permanent hire.

Fast forward, it was a great job. I probably would have opted to stay on if given the choice, but that wasn’t to be. So, as part of my back-up plan, I applied to graduate schools, with the intent to stay in education at some level or another. When decision time came, however, I decided to go to a business school with a strong emphasis on education, rather than a school of education where I could learn some management skills. Good call. Best two years of school ever.

During the summer between the two years, I worked at a large bank on Wall Street, just to see if I’d like that. No, no, no, no. In a brief three months, I learned that working in a huge company, banking or otherwise, was not for me. I just felt like I didn’t exist.

On the other hand, both my coursework and the summer experience sharpened my interest in learning more about management, still with the notion of applying that learning in some way in education.

Fast forward again. As my second year progressed, I decided that the best way to learn even more about management was to be a management consultant. Odd, huh? I didn’t really know what consulting was, but it made sense anyway. So, after I wrapped up my degree, I joined a management consulting firm, shocking most of my friends and family, given my earlier indifference to business.

Through a series of pivots, my career had taken me places I never could have guessed. And though I stuck with management consulting for a long time, it wasn’t my last shift. When I felt the need for change, I listened, and I’ve been happier – and had a more fulfilling career – because of it. You can do the same thing. Honest.

Bill Pace is Managing Director of ClearlyNext, a guided online career program that helps people of all backgrounds and incomes figure out what to do next.