Embracing a Non-Traditional Career

I am the first to admit it, anyone looking at my LinkedIn Profile or resume will probably scratch their head and say–who is this person? How does she fit in? I have a feeling that many of you can relate to this problem.

When I decided it was time to leave academia and move onto something new, I applied for all kinds of traditional roles. Roles that I know that I can do. Roles that would have asked me to learn and to grow, but represented skills I already carry with me. Roles in new fields that sounded interesting. Roles that I could probably do in my sleep.

With rejection after rejection, I’ve had to face a hard truth. My eclectic career means that those hiring don’t see the connections and skills that I offer because I don’t have the LABELS and TITLES that neatly fit into what they are looking for. Or, although I can’t prove this, it means that ageism or the fear that I “will be bored” has made me undesirable.

Are you facing this as well? I am here to suggest that maybe its time to redefine work for yourself.

The Malleable Shape of Careers

The job search felt like trying to ram myself into job titles that could not embrace my shape. Employers, instead of learning to see possibilities, have tried to define jobs so elaborately and specifically that there is no room for someone like me.

So now, anyone looking at my LinkedIn profile will see that I am listed as holding 8 current positions. How is that possible?

It’s possible, because I have become the owner/CEO of my own life. As the owner of my own life, I have created multiple ways of doing everything I love. They overlap, intersect, connect, and yet function individually. I work for myself, but also for and with others, using all of the skills that I could easily have brought to any of the traditional positions.

So what is it that I do, you ask? I can finally answer that question, although the answer might be different depending on why someone is asking.

If I was explaining what I do to a seven-year-old, it might go something like this:

Do you know how you love using your imagination and playing with your friends to build new worlds? Well, sometimes, when we get older, we forget how to do that. I help people remember that important skill, then we work together to solve problems and find new solutions.

My mother might get this response:

I use everything I’ve learned as a theater director, educator, and writer to inspire others to access their own creative spark. I believe that the power of creativity is crucial to making a more just world, and to solving the problems of society. I do this one creative project and workshop at a time.

A colleague might get this response:

I am an arts activist who brings diverse groups together to find new solutions using creative tools from theatre, improvisation and a process called Gateless Writing.

The Challenge of Carving Your Own Path

I’m not going to pretend this is easy. There are days that I wish that could find that one, perfect, already available job.

I’m not here to tell you that all it takes is believing you can do this, and then everything falls into place. Sure, some of that does happen, in the sense that welcoming the freedom of defining your own terms opens your eyes to unexpected possibilities. But this is not an overnight process. I am privileged to have the support of my family who want me to feel fulfilled and joyous in my work, and understand that it is slow going. They saw me falling into the stress and depression of life that had become meaningless–now they see me living a life that fills me with hope.

It’s difficult. I don’t know if it is sustainable. I don’t know what will come next, or where I will be in five years. At the same time–as I continue to search for that “traditional” job and run into more brick walls–I have come to realize the pure joy of being many different things, and crafting life around that.

I am writing my next chapter, one project and company at a time.

All of my companies represent a different part of me. At the same time, all of them come together to create a life filled with meaningful choices, and inspirational projects. What more could I ask for? What more could you ask for?

Embrace the Possibilities

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to know that we don’t have to cram ourselves into a title or job that does not fit. Yes, I know money is an issue (trust me–I worry about it all the time) but what would happen if we focused on making a life rather than a living? What would happen if you said, okay you don’t want me, I can create something else?

What would happen if you allowed yourself to dream?

You don’t have to do it alone either. I could turn this into a sales pitch for my newest venture and workshop, but I won’t. Just know that there are people out there who believe in a new way of looking at work, and life. There’s a community out there that will support you, even if it’s simply by answering a question.

I am one of them. Reach out and I’ll help in any way I can.

I love words, so I'd love to hear yours! Talk with me.

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