Like it or not, there are conventional, unwritten career rules that the world follows. For example, in your late teens, you’re already supposed to start paving your path towards your chosen career. In your early 20s, you’re supposed to invest time and money towards it through education, experience, or both. From there, you enter the workforce, start at the lowest rung—but that’s OK, you’re meant to stick to that path for the rest of your adult life, and you have all the time in the world to start gaining a foothold and climbing that ladder.
But that also implies that you have to stick to this career forever. What happens if it’s not the path you want to stick to?
This is where it gets tricky. For starters, there’s so much stigma around shifting careers when you’ve already got your foot in the door in another industry. And that’s not even counting the fact that people are expected to make massive life decisions at such an early age—demanding students to pick their majors in college as teenagers, and testing the waters of their chosen career path once they graduate as young adults.
The conventional path is great, it works—but where others settle into their careers and flourish as they find their footing, others, like Megan Yelaney, can’t shake that nagging feeling in the pit of their stomach that tells them they weren’t really meant to be doing that for the rest of their life.
Megan graduated as a valedictorian from the San Diego State University Business School in 2009. Logically, she should’ve ended up in a blue-chip corporation, but instead, she dipped her toe into acting; getting gigs here and there, including playing an extra on the set of “Orange Is the New Black.” It was an exciting time, but one that left her living paycheck to paycheck and left her unfulfilled. So she sought out other money-making ventures, including tending bar, which she loved because she got to meet a lot of people. But there was still a lot missing.
“I got a taste of what I knew was my purpose when I started my health coaching business. I was helping a handful of women improve their health and mindset but it had a lot of potential. So I dove in, gave it my all, and ranked at the Top .01% of my network marketing company,” Megan shares.
It wasn’t long before Megan started raking in the monetary rewards of all her efforts from network marketing, and explored her options outside of it by enrolling in her first group coaching program. And today, Megan runs a business coaching services and programs business known for empowering women and helps online coaches start and scale their own ventures while staying true to their real priorities.
She changed her career three times. To some, that might seem flighty and indecisive; but the truth is, her education, combined with the resilience she honed as an actress, the people skills she learned as a bartender, and natural instinct and passion for business all played a big role into her success. She wouldn’t have found her true calling if she didn’t go through all that.
And if like Megan, you’re feeling that nagging pit in your stomach, thinking that this isn’t the path you’re supposed to be on, pay attention to it and consider the following.
1. Expand Your Horizons If You’re Feeling Uninspired
According to Megan, that’s one of the biggest tells that you’re unhappy with where you’re currently at. When work feels meaningless and unfulfilling, everything seems repetitive and tedious. It’s likely that you find yourself trawling through jobsites in an effort to find a better alternative, but you’re also probably only looking at the same positions, with the same job descriptions, at similar organizations.
Take a bigger leap and explore opportunities outside of what you know. True, there might be more competition in other fields, and more people may have better resumes and years of experience under their belt, but you really won’t know what steps to take to get your foot in the door unless you try yourself.
2. Take Calculated, Well-Thought Out Risks
Your current career might be monotonous and unfulfilling, but it pays well. You dream of pursuing your passions and finding ways to make that into a lucrative, self-sustaining career, but can’t be blamed for not wanting to take a pay cut for example, or losing insurance.
Megan’s advice? Weigh your options carefully and take calculated risks. You can’t explore what’s outside of your current career path unless you take a step outside of it. And while that’s scary unto itself, there are ways for you to discover what’s out there without putting a reliable job on the line. If you can afford to, you can volunteer your time in fields that you’re interested in just to see if it’s a good fit. You can enroll in short courses or take a class to see for yourself if there’s opportunity in these industries for you. You can make sure that you save money so that when you do take the leap, you have enough financial buffer in between jobs.
3. Don’t Feel Like You Have to Rush
Megan’s career journey didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t like she graduated business school one day, woke up wanting to be an actress the next, decided to be a bartender on another, and coaching eventually fell on her lap. It took four years from her starting point to find what she was meant to do in life.
While it seems like that’s a lot of time wasted, remember, everything she learned in her previous careers she ultimately was able to apply as a coach today. So don’t rush it, but remember, take the steps you need to find clarity and purpose.