A Twisted, Winding Career Path
Reflections on veering off the path
I’ve never thought about my working life as a career path. It’s been more like a meandering trail through some pretty rough terrain, with many obstacles and changes in environment along the way.
When people ask me, “What do you do?” I often find it difficult to answer. I ‘do’ lots of different things, many of them not at all related to any kind of income. In terms of my education, I have a Bachelor of Arts - where I often have to explain that it’s History, Politics and English rather than the Fine Arts of painting and drawing. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s with two small children that I finished my Graduate Diploma of Education, becoming a teacher at one of the most amazing workplaces I have ever had the privilege of working in.
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This all sounds fairly straightforward but in reality, before I ‘became’ a teacher it, was a decade of working in a variety of different jobs. This included working as a trainer with adults at a company that ran programs for long-term unemployed and migrants. At the age of 21, I was running week-long courses for people who needed help with resume writing, application letters, and motivation to keep up their job search, in a time of recession. It was certainly a case of “fake it till you make it” as I navigated my early working life.
The path changed again when a change in government in Australia saw funding cut for these programs and I found myself in need of a job! It was at this time I entered retail for the first time. The job market was pretty tight back in the early to mid-1990s so I took a job I thought would be okay. Working in retail was not part of my ‘plan’ - I’d never really had any kind of plan! What it did give me were some insights into how teams can work, how one manager can destroy a team, and that you can pretty much do any job if the people you work with are great. All the while, my skills and experience grew.
Then I moved to Germany.
Another shift in the path. Moving from Adelaide to Hannover was exciting! My (now ex) husband had a job and the plan was for me to study German and do some other things as I didn’t have a work permit. I followed the plan and studied German, as well as a couple of painting classes and some English tutoring. I became pregnant with my first child and after she was born, all my time was taken up with her.
The move back to Australia came almost two years after arriving in Germany. We settled into life in Adelaide, then I had my second child. It was around this time I started thinking about the future. The strange mix of experiences I had meant it wasn’t so conducive to getting a stable job that fit in with a family. It was then I applied for some graduate courses in education - my experience working as a trainer and growing up with two parents who were teachers was enough to encourage me to head this way.
It’s interesting how life works. As I sit and reflect on the last few weeks, my work in a childcare centre/ kindergarten comes to mind. This was never the age group I’d intended to work with - even though I initially applied for a graduate course as a primary teacher - but I didn’t get in! The following year I applied for a Graduate Diploma in Education, to teach in high schools, and this time I was accepted! I was looking ahead to a smoother career path.
So how is it that I’m now working with ‘very little’ people? How have I veered off this ‘career path’ of my past? Toddlers and preschoolers are not the usual group I’d choose to work with. My own little kids were one thing but I really have to reach into my patience reserves to be around lots of other people’s little ones. It’s a good question - and has very much to do with circumstance.
I’ve adapted and changed and taken opportunities when they’ve arisen. Leaving Australia nearly five years ago has seen me go backwards in any traditional type of ‘career,’ if you’re looking at it in my resumè. I kind of lept off the cliff instead of following the path! The jobs I’ve had since moving here to Finland have included waiting tables, working in a museum (which included cleaning the toilets, just so you know!), and working as a relief teacher in years 1 to 9. Now, it seems, even in a childcare centre. Looking again at my resumè, you might start to wonder just what the heck I’ve been planning!
Mainly because I haven’t. Instead, I’ve had an incredibly broad range of experiences. I’ve taken opportunities when they’ve arisen with an openness and willingness to give lots of things a go. I’ve picked up two languages. I’ve met hundreds of amazing people from a diverse range of backgrounds, countries, and cultures. I’ve had to make some hard decisions, some of which have been pretty painful. Looking at my schedule for the week ahead and the coming month, I’m happy to be where I am. I can enjoy the small kid’s ability to be present in every moment - we can all learn from that! - knowing that my next job is in a high school art class. I can hug a toddler, helping them fall asleep, knowing that the next day I might be talking to a class of Year 6s about Finnish forests.
Most recently, I’ve set time and resources towards some courses - an incredible 9-month-long InnerMBA (through SoundsTrue, LinkedIn and Wisdom 2.0) has now led me on the path to being a Mindfulness Teacher. As I delve into the importance of stillness, breathing,
So what else lies ahead? I have some ideas that are gradually forming. I’ve learned that being flexible and following your instinct is important. Enjoying what you do, who you’re with, and where you are helps life enormously. I’ve learned that it’s okay to try different things, that stopping them isn’t a failure either, it’s merely refining the path - shifting it a little. Perhaps it’s even a step towards forging my own path.
Whatever lies await on the journey ahead, I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had, the skills I’ve developed, and the people I’ve met. It might not be crystal clear to me right now where my unique collection of skills and experiences is going to lead, but it’s certainly been quite an adventure so far!
Where has your path taken you? Have you travelled a meandering path or a well-paved road? Share your thoughts by hitting reply or in the comments below.