What I Learned From Testing 12 Careers in 12 Months
I recently wrote about why I value change and how that led me to quit my dream job. It may not come as a surprise then that I didn’t just settle on a single career change. Instead, I tried twelve careers over the last twelve months.
I tested a wide variety of careers that I had very little to no experience in: start-up consulting, writing, documentary filmmaking, and producing online courses, among others. Some experiments carried on for months, some I dropped almost as quickly as I started. A few had a real learning curve, but most I could start with just a bit of background reading or advice from people with more experience. Some required networking, others required new equipment, while many had no barriers to entry at all. Some I will keep as hobbies, others I will keep trying to build a career around. But no matter whether I loved or hated the experiment, I gained valuable data.
In one year I learned more about my strengths and interests than in the past five years at a single job combined. Not only that, I was exposed to new ways of being, new communities and sub-cultures, new role models, new sources of inspiration.
People want to know what I’ve learned from all these experiments. The biggest takeaway is that I’ve realized there are many lives I could live that would make me happy.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone who doesn’t know what they want to do, is to just start experimenting and not worry about getting on the perfect path. Every experiment will give you information to help you make the one degree shifts that get us closer to Ikigai, where our strengths, our purpose, and what the world needs all intersect.
For example, here is just a short list of things I wouldn’t have known before testing twelve careers:
- how therapeutic and mentally stimulating writing is
- that I really love helping people, whether that’s helping them bring their ideas to life, giving feedback on their creative projects, or helping them connect to new opportunities
- how expensive documentaries are to produce, and how unpredictable a good character driven story-line will be
- how important it is to create your own criteria as an angel investor
- how financially insecure writing and filmmaking careers are
- how gratifying shorter term consulting projects are
- that I could be paid for my advice
- that trying to get followers on social media just feels so icky to me (no offense if you like it, just not for me)
- that I’d rather help leaders than manage them
- that I enjoy crafting, and especially editing, stories in written and video form, but not when it’s sunny and warm out!
- that even when something is uncomfortable, frustrating, or challenging, I can still learn to enjoy it
- that I needed to get better at asking for and accepting help
- that it’s easy to get access to a narcissist but not so fun to follow them around for any extended period of time
- that I don’t want to have to sell my services to followers, I prefer to trust that the right projects will come to me as long as I keep doing what I enjoy and doing it with my best effort
- that above all else, I don’t like when someone else has the power to dictate how my time and efforts are spent
- that my way of being can inspire others
I now am more certain than ever that I don’t have to follow a single career path to have impact. I no longer worry about finding the one job that will be fulfilling, or the one company that will be the perfect fit for me.
Please feel free to reach out if this describes you, or you have a hunch that it would. I love connecting with people who are forging their own path. I’m also happy to discuss further with anyone who is feeling lost and wants some encouragement!
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