Daniel Hall

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The Linear Path Myth

It appears that a linear process promises to be easier.  We’ve been exposed to the idea that life’s process consists of going to school to get a job, to get a house, to work for a long time (hopefully get promoted), to retire, then to fade away.  This linear process is then further applied to each of the ideas I just mentioned, especially the idea of “get a job.” We often don’t think of getting a job, but getting THE job. The one job/industry that you’ll stay in for decades until you get a cheaply decorated retirement cake. Some degrees/industries have a linear career trajectory, such as medicine, engineering and a few others…and that still doesn’t guarantee that you’ll stay in that industry. For instance, the famous TV therapist Iyanla Fix My Life has a law degree. On a more local level, Three Spirits Brewery in Charlotte was started by an Emergency Medical Physician — no lie, look it up. However, your current interests will open doors for new interests that open doors for newer interests, so on and so forth. I’ll go as far as to argue that one who expects a linear career path in an ever-changing job market (let alone life) is insane. More realistically, that person may not be aware of the idea of transferable skills which allows them the ability to transcend industries, job roles, etc. A non-linear career path can catapult one into ideal possibilities beyond their awareness as long as they’re willing to extract valuable skills from their experiences.

Photo by Pxhere

Transferable skills don’t just serve you after you’ve collected career developed skills, but before you even enter the industry you’re interested in.  It’s about flipping a narrative about flipping burgers into your favor. Experiences working in retail, coffee shops, volunteering, etc. can produce skills your future employers will value, and your major doesn’t limit your career path as much as you think either. Make sure to enjoy your major while seeking professional development opportunities.

Key Ideas:

  1. Create your own professional narratives: Flip that narrative in your favor. You’ve gained something from your past experiences that employers are looking for. Don’t minimize your experiences, find the gold in it. For example, working in retail requires attention to detail, customer service support, demonstrated product knowledge, assessed customer needs, etc.
  2. Build a Smart Supportive Network: Go to the University Career Center. They can guide you to resources for your disposal that you may not even be aware about, allowing your process to be more efficient.
  3. Know Yourself: When you know yourself, you realize that you’re more than your major, understanding that your major is just an aspect of you. Being introspective may not come as natural to some people, but that’s why personality tests exist. Jobzology is a great assessment that costs money, but the University has already covered that cost for students. Take the test while it’s free as it provides insights to your personality, values and industry-related cultures that may be a great match for you. Once again, it’s free.

 

The Plague of Perfectionism

Perfectionism plagues most people on a daily basis.  For example, a lot of us place a heavy emphasis on making the “right” decision to avoid being wrong.  Making that “right” decision even appears in the mundane moments of our daily lives, be it selecting that right photo of the million identical photos in our library before posting it, finding that right movie on Netflix, checking online reviews for that right restaurant, etc.  And what’s funny is we invest so much time in making that right decision that we may not ever end up posting that picture, watching that movie or visiting that restaurant due to feeling frustrated, exhausted or just postponing it for another day. And collecting information on a topic is great, I’m all here for it, but I’m addressing the issue of continually researching and analyzing due to fear of making the “wrong” choice.  In other words, paralysis by analysis.

Photo by Pixabay.

You can view your choices as having consequences or opportunities.  And yes, all choices have consequences, but I use the word opportunity to create a contrast for the negative connotations associated with the word consequence.  In this case, I use the word opportunity in the sense that it is a positive consequence. Most importantly, how you view an outcome is completely up to you. What if there is more than one “right” answer, or dare I say, what if there is no “right” answer?  Life is not this linear equation that exists within the binary of right or wrong. We as people change, careers change, situations change — and there is nothing wrong about that. We may hesitate on a decision due to gathering more information to avoid making a mistake — such as ending up in a major or industry that we absolutely hate — but if you hate it you can change it, meaning you can redirect yourself toward a new goal, view it as a lesson and do better next time, and however else you can twist a “mistake” into something positive.  There may be a lot of pressure on you to get it right, but trust that you will as long as you keep trying while giving yourself time. Keep gathering information, but at some point we all have to be willing to learn from taking action instead of always being right. One of my favorite quotes is: “Successful people don’t make the right decisions, they make their decisions right.” So alleviate yourself of making the right decision, take action today and focus more on making the best of your decisions.

 

Ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Get over yourself.  Being right all the time feels good to the ego, but doesn’t represent a mindset that is strong or mature enough to grow.  Be brave enough to be challenged and come back even stronger.
  2. No shame.  Alternatively, being wrong or making a mistake hurts the ego and some people may try to make it worse by shaming you.  You cannot let the opinions of others have that much of an influence over how you view yourself and your journey. Learn to self-affirm. People that usually shame others are weak and need to create emotional hierarchy in order to position themselves as above to aid their insecurities.  And some people just suck. You don’t have to be like them, live your life.
  3. Ask for help.  You don’t have to know all of the answers at once.  Asking for help can be scary, but you miss every shot you don’t take.
  4. Learn stress management.  Meditate, do yoga, learn kickboxing, journal, run, make art, do something that relaxes/comforts you.  If you’re open to guidance in this area, then UNC Charlotte’s Center for Counseling and Psychological Services offers a variety of workshops on stress management. Failing (though I prefer to say learning) takes a lot of emotional stability, and you can’t flake out after a few losses (or lessons).  Get knocked down and get back up.

 

Definitely give the University Career Center a visit for assistance in effectively gathering information and resources related to your current interests.  The career center offers a variety of assessments that aid in self-awareness which helps finding majors/careers that are best suited for you. And if you already consider yourself highly self-aware, then great, the UCC will assist you in understanding the process of actualizing your goals.  Schedule a few appointments with an advisor to assist you in taking effective action.