The Unintended Career Path

By: Keira Simmonds

Many factors contribute to a person’s career trajectory. Career paths are no longer linear, but rather bob and weave as various contextual factors affect work and life views. For example, while going to college, I had dreams of becoming a consumer psychologist. This idea excited me because it was an up-and-coming field that merged my interest in psychology and applied it to what I would consider a very creative arena in marketing. I dreamt of working at one of the top marketing firms in New York, discussing why you wanted to buy Maybelline makeup and helping to develop the ad campaigns that would persuade you to buy CoverGirl. Afterwards, I would lecture at CUNY grad school or NYU as one of the lead professors in marketing. Alas, I am not in consumer psychology or in marketing.

At the time I conjured that dream, I was single in the big city. Then life shifted. I moved to Florida to support my mother. I was no longer on the path of being in corporate New York – a quintessential career woman. As chaos theory would have it, I became a wife, a mother and landed a job I never thought I would like – a career in social services. In efforts to support my family, I took a job in child welfare. The only reason I went after this job was because my major qualified me and it paid better than the short term telemarketing gig I had. Which as an aside, made me realize I really do not like working in sales.

Ultimately, what I learned is life will take you on a journey and dictate where you end up. And sometimes, it won’t clue you in on the travel details. However, in all of that uncertainty, there are certain things chaos will afford you:
1) A versatile skillset
2) Self-Awareness
3) Opportunity

Let me explain. Our ability to learn and adapt is phenomenal. For a long time, I had associated learning with school. However, there are also skills that are taught through experience. Up until my stint in social services, I had defined myself as a creative and someone who enjoyed understanding peoples’ motives. These aspects of my personality are only some of my truths. My experience in social services taught me that I was equally as capable of advocacy. This new-found awareness allowed me to hone in on various other careers I thought were otherwise off limits to me, even though I knew of its existence. Seizing a role working in child welfare led to different opportunities that cultivated strengths in program development, conflict management, and leadership, among other skills.

So when your life takes dips and turns, you will learn more about who you are, what you value and how you can add value. As you continue to learn these things, you will begin to realize other opportunities are available to you. Ultimately, so much good can grow out of chaos – like an unintended career path.

back to career tips & buzz >