You Don’t Need A Career Path: How To Shine Without One

Click Here to Read Why It's A-Okay (and actually a good thing) To Not Have A Defined Career Path
As millennials, we're more and more often ditching the traditional career path and pursuing multiple interests at once. The best part is, we can! It's what makes us unique and not an anonymous worker in a big company. But, ditching a traditional career path can have it's challenges, too! Don't let them stop you. Abandom the structure and thrive on your own. Here's how.
As millennials, we're more and more often ditching the traditional career path and pursuing multiple interests at once. The best part is, we can! It's what makes us unique and not an anonymous worker in a big company. But, ditching a traditional career path can have it's challenges, too! Don't let them stop you. Abandom the structure and thrive on your own. Here's how.
As millennials, we're more and more often ditching the traditional career path and pursuing multiple interests at once. The best part is, we can! It's what makes us unique and not an anonymous worker in a big company. But, ditching a traditional career path can have it's challenges, too! Don't let them stop you. Abandom the structure and thrive on your own. Here's how.
As millennials, we're more and more often ditching the traditional career path and pursuing multiple interests at once. The best part is, we can! It's what makes us unique and not an anonymous worker in a big company. But, ditching a traditional career path can have it's challenges, too! Don't let them stop you. Abandom the structure and thrive on your own. Here's how.

 

 

This was one of the first posts I ever wrote on my blog. I wrote it (and started my blog) during a very confusing time for me; I was accepted into law school and declined it, and started my blog to document the unpaved journey I was about to embark on.

As millennials, we're more and more often ditching the traditional career path and pursuing multiple interests at once. The best part is, we can! It's what makes us unique and not an anonymous worker in a big company. But, ditching a traditional career path can have it's challenges, too! Don't let them stop you. Abandom the structure and thrive on your own. Here's how.

The subject matter of this post is essentially what my entire blog is about; finding unconventional ways to build security so that you can take more risks. IF we break it down, we know that most people don’t pave their own career paths because it’s risky and difficult. It’s much easier and safer to stick with a defined path, even if that means you don’t like it. That’s why so many people stick with law, finance, sales, and so on. They might not like it, but there’s a clear path to it and on it. So what if we could take some of the risk out of paving our own paths and make it safer? We can! That’s exactly what Urban 20 Something is here to help you do.

 

Bye bye, career path

More and more frequently, we see millennials ditching the traditional career path. As millennials, we have more options than ever, professionally and otherwise. What’s really significant about working in our generation is that we can develop several of our passions professionally and we don’t have to pick just one!

The challenges that come without having a defined career path are the lack of support and sometimes feeling like you don’t know where to turn. You can feel really on you own! But, that’s why we’re here to help.

Here is why you shouldn’t pick just one structured career path and how to get additional support along the way.

We the millennials

In the Spring of 2016, I was among the millions of viewers that had the “pleasure” of viewing journalist Alexis Bloomer’s viral rant on why millennials “suck”. She says we are, “just existing”, “lacking back manners”, and “really entitled”.

She sounds like a ray of sunshine to me!

When I first saw this video I thought it was satire. Why would anyone refer to themselves and their peers in such poor regard? Watching it, I continually felt pride knowing I was not classified in the stereotype she is describing. With this in mind, I want to share with my fellow millennials the best piece of career advice I have received. It recently impacted my career path and I hope it will inspire you, too.

How I ditched the structured career path

I was recently undergoing an internal debate as to whether or not to accept my law school admission offers. Should I pursue a career in law or decline these acceptances and pursue… eh… something else? I like to write? I like the internet? I’m creative… I think?

Click Here to Read Why It's A-Okay (and actually a good thing) To Not Have A Defined Career Path

In hopes for inspiration, I asked my favorite college professor to lunch. I told him my predicament and the pros and cons to both situations. This is what happened:

Awesome Professor:

“When growing up, we saw our parents work their tails off and live for the weekend. They lived for vacations and retirement. We told ourselves that would not be us. We would have jobs we loved. Mondays would be the best day of the week. Our passions and careers would be the same thing. But then, we graduate college. We have debt. There are promising jobs available, but they do not intertwine with our passions. Life is happening.”

“When growing up, we saw our parents work their tails off and live for the weekend. They lived for vacations and retirement. We told ourselves that would not be us. We would have jobs we loved. Mondays would be the best day of the week. Our passions and careers would be the same thing. But then, we graduate college. We have debt. There are promising jobs available, but they do not intertwine with our passions. Life is happening.”

Me:

“Is this the part where you tell me to grow up, stop being delusional about a dream career and start accepting working responsibilities like an adult?”

Awesome Professor:

“No, actually, quite the opposite. I’m going to tell you that if you truly want that career path of your dreams, you have to accept that there is no clear path to it. You have to find your path, and that path will be rocky and steep. Though law school is not an easy path (at all), it is paved and it is clear. So, are you ready to go out and bushwhack your way to reach where you want to be, or do you want to put on your red slippers and skip with Toto down the yellow brick road to the land of Oz that is corporate law?”

Taking a risk

My favorite part of this advice is that I never felt like my professor was suggesting one path was better than the other. He laid out so clearly what each path looked like and what I would be signing up for either way. To me, it was abundantly clear that I wanted the challenge of an unclear path, because though I’m sure I can’t imagine how tough it will be, it will be my path.

Not knowing your career path means not having any limitations. It is often feared because it is easy to think that no solid path means less security, but security is something that can be achieved through countless ways, not just a solid career path. There is no reason why we need to fence ourselves into one direction at this age. What would be the fun in that?

Despite the confusion I expressed above, I feel so full of clarity in confidence. Though it sounds backward, abandoning a structured career path actually made me feel more secure.

So here I am, Weed Wacker metaphorically in hand.

What now?

“So great” you may be thinking, “I don’t need a defined career path, but I need some help along the way.” How can we get that?

Simply put, it comes down to one big idea:

Brand yourself.

It’s that simple. Personal branding isn’t just for entrepreneurs. It’s for everyone and there are opportunities you’re leaving on the table if you’re not investing in it.  

Consider this example: Yoga_Girl. She’s an Instagram sensation with over 2 million followers who started just by posting photos of her life in Aruba. Viewers loved her photos of yoga on the beach. In the past 5 years, she’s made a huge and recognized name for herself in the yoga community, on Instagram, and otherwise. She branded her lifestyle, herself, her beliefs, etc. Recently, when she released a podcast, she shot to #1 in the health and wellness category before she even released an episode. Let that sink in.

 


Consider another example: You’re a yoga teacher and you want to create a podcast about yoga and wellness. You have great content, you’re knowledgeable, and you know you can be helping people, but you seem to just be inching your way up the ladder each week and you’re putting way more work in than you’re seeing in return.  No one knows who you are and you don’t know how to tell them.

These are the harsh contrasts between the opportunities of those who have branded themselves and those who haven’t.  

This is the power of personal branding.  

When Yoga Girl launched her podcast, she had a name built for herself, credibility, and a huge loyal following of fans. It was because of this she went to the top so quickly.

Maybe you don’t want to start a podcast (or maybe you do and just don’t know it yet!). The takeaway is that by focusing on personal branding, you’ll open up opportunities to pursue any passion you want and the whole idea of a defined career path is just less important.

With an established personal brand, you’ll be able to network easier, you’ll feel comfortable about finding jobs if you need them, and creative ways to make money will be easier for you. Moves that are traditionally thought of as risky, like quitting your job without another lined up, become less so, because you already have platforms that establish your expertise, intelligence, and persona. Your identity is not your job, you are your greatest asset.  

How to brand yourself

1- Create a branding style guide

Before we get into rocking the Twitter world and printing custom business cards (which we will, don’t worry), you need to identify what the brand of those platforms and printing and everything else is. Grab this free, 11-page brand style guide.

 

It’s basically how companies identify their brands. You know, the arches of McDonald’s, Nike’s “Just Do It”, and the unmistakable red at Target.  

Use this guide to identify and record your own brand, including your colors, your values, and your vision. Once you have this in writing, you’ll be able to implement it within your existing platforms and in your writing. This is how brands are built.

 

2. Create a personal website

There’s no better way to display your multitude of talents than on your own personal website, with your first and last name as the domain. Personal websites are like a 3D resume. They can show your skills and experience in several fields and niches. Even more excitingly, they can show how those niches are intertwined.  

This is the perfect place to begin using that handy style guide you created above! Your personal website will show that you mean business while expressing your amazing creativity, as well.  

Related: how to build a personal website

3. Freelance + side hustle

Even if you love your 9-5 (which I hope you do!), I still recommend pursuing a side income, side hustle, and/or side hobby.

 

Hello skills diversity + resume boosting.

 

With side hustling, you can continue to expand upon other interests and skills you have that you might not be using in your 9-5. This is what will make you unique.

Let’s look back at Yoga Girl again. It’s through her side hustling she’s built the empire she has, if you think about it. Yes, she’s a yoga instructor. But there are a million yoga instructors. What else does she have that gave her the edge?She’s a queen of social media and photography.

 This is how you build your own brand within a larger company. So, do you work in real estate? What’s different about you than others that work in real estate? What other skills do you have? This is what will make your personal brand thrive.   

Related: why have a side hustle + how to make time

 

Final note 

Begin branding yourself with platforms you already have going and people that already love you. If that sounds like social media to you, you’re in the right head space! Here are 9 ways to begin with personal branding. Do you feel like you’ve got all those on lock? Here are 11 advanced ways to brand yourself.


I originally wrote a version of this post as a feature on www.embracingtwenties.com’s Twenty-Something Tuesday. 
You can see the original post here: http://www.embracingtwenties.com/life-changed-receiving-best-advice-fellow-millennial/

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