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Zig Zag Career Choices – Personal Reflections and Growth

September 23, 2010

Zig Zag Career Choices – Personal Reflections and Growth:

I was having coffee with a new colleague, and we were discussing our careers and how we got to this point in our lives. He is in his early 60s, and I am in my late 50s. He told me that he is in his third career and walked me through the route he had taken. There are common denominators among his careers, which included positions in a large corporation, nonprofit service work, and now teaching at a university. All of them involved organizational development and problem solving, people development, and achieving realistic goals. There were zigs and zags, but all of his career choices were within a realm that encompassed his strengths and interests.

His discussion led me to think about my own career. I then realized that I, too, have had a number of careers – three or four, depending on how I count them. My first career was as a behavioral sciences researcher. It was my first job out of graduate school, and I soon discovered it was the wrong fit. After a couple  years, I decided to strike out on my own. It was an entrepreneurial undertaking focused on career coaching, training and development. In trying to spread my wings, I found myself facing challenges I was not yet equipped to handle. I did not know what I did not know.

Though some might describe my effort as a costly mistake or big setback, it was also a tremendous learning experience in which my work ethic climbed incredibly high, even if I did not have many tangible results to show for it. I felt a great sense of responsibility for my employees, who earned more financially than I did. The enterprise died during the recession of the early 80s which, in turn, led to my third career.

My third career was as a human resources development and business consultant for one of the larger firms in the industry. I became a much better employee for having been an employer. I thrived at this company for more than twelve years, the last few as a vice president. I continued this career after moving to Arizona, where I became an independent business advisor and program developer. I focused on experiential and discovery learning, as well as strategy development.

Being my own boss also allowed me to devote much more time to community activities. In my new freelance role, I realized that the expertise for which my former firm had charged large sums was financially out of reach of most nonprofits. I focused on bringing that expertise to small, social-purpose organizations, often gratis and sometimes for a modest fee. I found great joy and gratification in giving back this way, and met an incredible array of people who were flourishing along with me. I continue this work and it has now evolved into my fourth career – that of an author and developer of tools to help others find a truly meaningful personal purpose.

As I look back, I can see that all of these zigs and zags built on my existing strengths and helped me develop new ones. As I grew and my knowledge, skills, and overall expertise expanded, I discovered more applications and more ways to create and add value. And, in turn, I grew and flourished as a person.

Just as importantly, as Kevin Morrow, who writes the blog Redefine the 9-5, commented in response to the first “Zig Zag Choices” post, it’s about finding “what authentically fits you, your passions, and what you love to do.” Zigging and zagging can help you discover that fit. I know it has for me.

It seems that few of us travel a linear path in our life or careers. What has your path been so far? If you’re not doing something that truly fulfills you, consider seeking the next zig or zag in your life – one that fits authentically with your passion, purpose, and who you are as a person.

Steve Weitzenkorn

Steve Weitzenkorn, Ph.D., is a learning innovator, organizational advisor, experienced facilitator, and lead author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Copyright © 2010 F3 Forum, LLC. All rights reserved.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2010 9:03 am

    I enjoyed this post. I feel like people should remember that you don’t have to get it right the first time, you just have to get it going and then adjust as you go along. One thing that use to hold me back is I would trick myself that I wasn’t prepared enough, or something like that. Now I’m say “what the heck” I’ll just improvise on the while keeping a sense that I can be successful in anything I do.

    I’ve done a lot of zig zagging, and more recently it’s seemed like one of my zags lead to an avalanche. I decided to grab a figurative snowboard and ride with the momentum.
    What I’ve found that fulfills me is leaving everyone I come in contact with a “Sense” of increase or prosperity. That’s what makes me feel the best.

    I feel that the more I leave that sense of increase, the more my life will be an example increase as well. That’s one of the reasons I started my blog.

    To find and help others find what authentically fits them.

    Thank you for this post and thank you for giving me sense of increase. I learned and gained value from your two zig zag posts.

    Kevin

  2. September 23, 2010 9:07 am

    I enjoyed this post. I feel like people should remember that you don’t have to get it right the first time, you just have to get it going and then adjust as you go along. One thing that used to hold me back was I’d trick myself in thinking I wasn’t prepared enough. Now I say “what the heck” I’ll just improvise as I go along while keeping the sense that I can be successful in anything I do.

    I’ve done a lot of zig zagging, and more recently it’s seemed like one of my zags lead to an avalanche. I decided to grab a figurative snowboard and ride with the momentum.
    What I’ve found that fulfills me is leaving everyone I come in contact with a “Sense” of increase or prosperity. That’s what makes me feel the best.

    I feel that the more I leave that sense of increase, the more my life will be an example of increase as well. That’s one of the reasons I started my blog.

    – To find and help others find what authentically fits them.

    Thank you for this post and thank you for giving me sense of increase.

    Kevin

Trackbacks

  1. You Don’t Have To Be A Genie To Be Your Authentic Self « Redefine The 9-5

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