A few months ago, I wrote a blog about This I Believe, and the value that can come from identifying a deeply-held conviction and exploring the meaning behind it. I also decided that, after many years of being an appreciative yet passive consumer of these essays, it was time to produce one of my own. “Watch this space!” I confidently announced. “I’ll be back with my personal credo in a few weeks. ”
A month passed, and then another month. I thought about what I believe in all my best idea-generating places (the shower and the subway) but everything I came up with seemed too cloying, overly idealistic or self-serving to pursue. So I put it on the back burner. Then, last week, I sat down with a friend to brainstorm ideas for the about page on my website, which had been looking increasingly stale and formulaic to me. “I believe in non-linear career paths,” I said out loud at some point in our session, and that was it. Everything else flowed from there. So without further ado, here it is! (You can see the same text on my about page, too, with a few extra bits like job titles and degrees thrown in for good measure).
I believe in non-linear career paths. A serendipitous opportunity, a shift in priorities, the ‘what if’ sparked by a door that opens, or closes, unexpectedly – these are some of the elements that give our professional identities texture and depth.
My own story has plenty of colorful plot twists, including successful stints in a few very different types of jobs. Some were pretty thrilling, like the strategist position that took me to Brussels, Paris and Rome to cover the political events that created the Euro. (It’s also how I met my husband.) Others were less so, like my corporate communications role at a large investment bank, where the stifling culture ultimately overshadowed the interesting projects that came my way.
In my early 30s, I joined a boutique investor relations / strategic communications advisory firm. It was a challenging job (I remember trying to catch a few desperate hours of sleep on the floor of my office one night when I was working on a deal, three months pregnant), but also oddly vital. I loved the fast pace, the intellectual rigor, the diversity of the situations we managed and the collaborative way we engaged with our clients. After I became a partner there and had my second child, though, I discovered that a) I wanted more hands-on time with my kids and b) I was ready to do something new that had less to do with transactions and more to do with relationships.
When I thought about the kinds of activities I naturally gravitated towards and found fulfilling, I saw that they hinged on my ability to relate to a wide variety of people and make meaningful connections with them. Now, as an executive coach, I get to use that skill in a very deliberate way. As a partner to people navigating change of all kinds – from promotions to start-ups to reinventions – I’m once again doing something that feels vital. I find it exhilarating to help my clients clarify and define the future on their own terms. And, looking back at the serpentine journey that led me here, I have to say that it’s pretty cool, finally, to find myself right where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to do.