A career path isn't always straight

Can failing at one job lead you to a new career? It wouldn’t be too far from the truth in my case. I found my career path by failing at my first job—what had been my “selected” career path. But then again, I didn’t really “choose” my first career path either. Let me explain.

Make a plan—then change it

When I went to university, I originally intended to pursue office administration courses. Then, I discovered accounting and thought that would make a great career (and I was good at it). But, as part of my first year of classes, I had to take a computer course (officially called “Computer Business Information Systems,” I think).

I had never taken a computer course before but had heard that the instructor was a great guy who made learning fun. And that he did. I recall that during the warmer months, he put up with us when we rushed out at break to grab an ice cream treat and then proceeded to eat it in his class. Gee, computers didn’t seem that bad to me!

Though my overall program was a “general business” curriculum, I continued over the four years to take whatever computer courses were available.

When it came time to graduate, one of the large computer companies at the time participated in on-campus interviews, and I was offered a position. Four years earlier, I never would have dreamed of working for a computer company or being a computer programmer. But the opportunity was presented, and I couldn’t resist.

Find what inspires you

And so, there was both my first—and second—career choice made (that’s after my first and second “original” ideas of office administration and accounting). But it turned out that I wasn’t very good at programming; I could fuddle through, but it didn’t inspire me. Though I had an aptitude for the systems-based thinking of computer work, I just wasn’t good at programming. And frankly, I didn’t want to put in the effort to become good at it.

As I moved on in my career, I drew on my systems knowledge yet focused on the business application of systems solutions and the “people-side” of change, both of which were inspiring to me. As part of those roles, I found myself with opportunities to develop and deliver training sessions and I continue to feel rewarded in those aspects of my work.

Don’t get stuck

Keep your mind and options open. Don’t get stuck in a job you don’t like, just because it was your original plan. Know that what you’re doing now might not be what you should or want to do later in your career. Always remain flexible and keep seeking opportunities until you find what fits for you.

About the author

Pamela Hollington, MBA, is an experienced management consultant and trainer with a strong knowledge of business processes and management issues. She has over 30 years of business experience, including work in the financial, manufacturing, distribution and retail industries, as well as consulting and volunteer engagements in the public, private and non-profit sectors.  

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