A few years ago, I came to the realisation that I was not made for pursuing what I call a “traditional career path”. Starting from there, I decided to take action and find a model that allowed me to achieve a more fulfilling and balanced personal and professional life. - Says Nadia
“What Do You Do (for a Living)?”
The emotion I personally felt when answering the “what do you do?” question at the beginning of my career was frustration. Frustration about the incompleteness of my answer, frustration at being labelled “one thing”, while there was much more to the story, frustration about limiting myself/killing opportunities by leading others to perceive me as competent/interested in only one area. One of my main concerns was: How to keep the doors open to other career paths, while being in a full-time job?
In order to keep exploring/developing my areas of interest and skills, bring diversity to my full-time jobs, and find #PurposeAtWork, my strategy from the beginning of my career was to sign up for many cross-functional activities within/or volunteering opportunities outside my organisations: within my organisations, I would join different committees and task forces, sign up to become a first-aid respondent, ask to shadow colleagues and propose to lead projects involving different teams. Outside of my organisations, I would work with startups and associations in order to experience different environments and do high-impact work.
While this helped keep me satisfied for some time with my jobs/organisations, I consistently reached that point where I felt that I was lacking diversity in the job and was not in the right environment to develop my full potential. This led me to regularly change jobs, sectors and even countries.
Eventually, I realised that I kept reproducing the same pattern over and over. It struck me that there might not be “the right job” for me out there. This thought was very unsettling and made me question all my study and career choices. I undertook a deep reflection and after many sleepless nights and long walks in nature, I decided that it was okay not to fit into the system I had thought I had to thrive in. I came to the conclusion that I had to set the right ground for my personal and professional development outside the traditional model of employment. I wanted my time and energy to be efficiently spent on things that mattered to me, while bringing me #purpose, #inspiration, emotional balance, and enough money to pay the bills.
Coming Out as a Chameleon
For a couple of years now, I have decided to embrace the fact that I am a #Chameleon: I enjoy having different roles and evolving within different environments at the same time. I don’t have one career path, but multiple parallel ones. Whilst this might send scarlet-red flags to some recruiters/employers, I have learned not to feel sorry or embarrassed about it; I do not try to find false excuses to explain my non-function-specific career journey– aka the numerous jobs in different functions and sectors listed on my CV.
The Pros & Cons of Stepping Outside The “Traditional Career Path”
- Freedom (to some extent!)
- Diversity of work and environments
- Enhanced learning opportunities
- Better work-life balance (hopefully)
- Creativity and innovation
- Readiness/availability to seize new opportunities
- Decreased emotional safety
- Decreased job stability
- Variable income
- Lower social security benefits
- Constant job search (potentially)
- Additional administrative work
- Uncertainty regarding mid/short-term plans
How Did I Do This Pragmatically?
- Drop the mask. I chose to be and stay true to myself and to free myself from the expectations I perceived from the job market, (higher) education institutions, or family and friends. I made the conscious choice of accepting “not to fit in”.
- Process the decision of changing trajectories.
- Redefine what “success” is.
- Commit to this definition and build resilience.
- Define and execute a strategy to craft a custom-made career.
- Build confidence and stay focused.
- Build a like-minded network and be curious.
How Does That Work for Me Today?
While seeking a fulfilling personal and professional life will probably be a lifelong quest requiring regular adjustments, I am happy to say that I absolutely don’t regret to have taken the risk and made a career model switch. Currently, I am lucky to have two main (and very different) professional activities–co-founding my own startup Vege'tables (which offers Smart Food Consulting solutions to clients) + working part-time –and many side projects that allow me to constantly advance my multiple careers, have an impact and stay inspired, while having much more freedom in terms of time management and being able to pay the bills!