How To: Embrace A Winding Career Path

photo courtesy of mari andrew

photo courtesy of mari andrew

Fabulous and talented illustrator Mari Andrew wants us to know that it’s okay to have many different jobs over the course of your life. In fact, she highly recommends it! In our first how-to post, Mari shares with us how she used her own winding career path to figure out what she actually enjoys doing. From her personal essay, we've extrapolated 4 takeaways on how anyone reading can do the same.

1. Changing jobs isn’t failing, it’s acquiring life experiences. 
I've had a million jobs. It all began at the zoo, as the person who reminds kids to wash their hands after they've handled the rabbits. Then I took a pay cut to follow my true passion (cute aprons) as a barista. I was a barista at every coffee shop in Chicago, I swear, and figured that my experience making English Breakfast Tea would help me TEACH English in South America, where I lived for a while after college and discovered my love of writing and empanadas. I came back to the U.S. and desperately needed health insurance, so I got a job at a law firm that I absolutely hated--but I did like working in an office. So I got a different office job! Also, a side hustle as a gymnastics teacher.

My mid-late-20s were a continuation of this pattern: one thing to the next, whatever sort of made sense at the time--either because the job was close to my crush's apartment or because it actually sounded interesting or because it provided insurance. I never had a dream job and I never cared all that much about what I was doing because I just really loved writing. I figured that all my jobs would someday come together to give me material for my novel or whatever.

2. ...and those very experiences can help you identify your skill-set and refine your fields of interest.
I was actually sort of correct! The job that felt most "me" was in marketing, which I enjoyed because I got to write all the time. All the experience I had observing people and providing customer service as a barista really came in handy as someone who had to write for specific audiences. I felt like I had an honorary psychology degree just from watching people so much. I learned about working under pressure from working at a law firm, and I learned about multitasking from retail.

3. No job is too small! A skill you picked up earlier in your career might be integral to your success at your next gig.
I think a lot of people assume that you will only use the jobs that directly led to your dream career, but you really do use all of it. You bring your full self to any job you have. Did you babysit a lot as a kid? That is MAJOR job experience and teaches you pretty much everything you need to know about the real world! I'm now a writer and artist, and I use every experience I've ever had in my work. And not just the creative work, but I do a ton of administrative work as well that comes from years of entry-level jobs! (Being your own boss is a LOT like being your own secretary.) Every job I've had, even/especially the low-paying random ones, have made me the person I am to be able to do what I do. No experience is wasted, and the most random jobs can bring you opportunities and skills that you wouldn't have otherwise.

4. Search for a job that fulfills your financial needs but doesn’t totally ignore your interests.
Take jobs that seem intriguing because your curiosity is a very powerful tool in figuring out what suits your personality and your skill set. Of course, you need to pay your bills because you're an adult, but make sure to factor in your own personal interest in what you're doing. If it's not interesting to you, you're going to be completely miserable. And if you take a miserable job only so that you can get a different job later on, you will be extra miserable.

Wind away, friends! We’ve always thought curvy paths were way more fun anyways. :) Thanks so much, Mari, for your words of wisdom. See you next Monday for an interview with an amazing woman who runs NYC's #1 place to buy #2 pencils.