The other day I was having a discussion with my daughter about all of the stress she was under trying to figure out what she was going to do as a career.
It seems that the first thing most relatives ask her is what are you going to study in school or what do you want to do when you get out of school? She has no idea at the moment about either, and I know this is causing her a lot of distress. While some seem to have it all figured out right away, not all of us take this path.
I thought I had it all figured out when I started school. I was sure that I was going to be a doctor. I had my path all laid out in front of me and was running down it at full tilt and then my dad got sick and everything changed. Life is like that sometimes. It can take a major event for us to stop and take a close look at where we are headed.
I told my daughter this story and how in the middle of my junior year, I changed it all and did a complete turnaround on my career path. I left the pre-med program and went to the art and architecture school. Even when we think we have it all figured out sometimes… really…. we don’t. It then took me years later to finally land in interior design.
Even after I launched into interiors, I had a series of mis-steps. I thought I should be in the commercial interiors world and then when I tried it I found out it wasn’t the right fit. I thought that there must be something wrong with me to not fit in to this culture. I was trying so hard to make it work but even though I was trying my best somehow it just wasn’t me. I should have known when I purchased a dress at a certain ladies clothing store, known for being uber conservative, for the company Christmas party that this culture probably wasn’t the right fit. That dress was meant for another woman but not me.
At another job I had it seemed like I had found a perfect fit. I loved the work. The environment was beautiful and I was getting to design some rather amazing homes but my boss felt that I was too inquisitive. The lead designer chastised me for asking too many questions and being curious about too much. I was devastated. I was trying so hard to understand it all to be able to take on more responsibility and to be what I thought was on top of it and instead it completely backfired. I then adjusted to their culture of silence and to do only what was asked of me. This worked better for them but if you’ve read my blog for very long you can tell that I wasn’t going to be happy there for very long. It was a relief actually when they lost a few clients and I was laid off. Experimentation and exploration are what I love. Just give me a goal and turn me loose. I’ll question and research and explore until I find an answer. However, after I left I was really shaken up. Did I pick the wrong career yet again?
Then I answered an ad about a design position with another firm just because I had a feeling. It was that gut instinct thing. I had passed the firm’s window just days before and when I looked in the window I remembered thinking to myself that this seemed like a place I would want to go to work everyday.
We met and instead of nervous at the interview, I felt at ease. I remember laughing a lot during the interview and that afterwards thinking to myself. Even if I didn’t get the job these were the type of people that I would want to go hang out with and get to know better. They had what I call a happy hour quotient. Meaning how much would you want to go grab a drink with this person after work? Long story short, I took the job and it was a good one. This was the type of outfit that I would wear to their Christmas party.
I wouldn’t have to go shopping. This was just in my wardrobe.
I didn’t have to change or mold myself to fit the culture. The culture was me. Instead of having the lead designer tell me to stop questioning things he praised my curiosity and drive to do more. He told me to go for it and was more than happy to have me jump in and take initiative.
So my best advice to my daughter and for that matter to any designer who is struggling and questioning whether they have found the right profession or the right workplace is to first, find what you love to do. It should be something that when you are doing it, you lose all track of time. Just because something comes easy to you doesn’t mean that it isn’t work. It just means that maybe you found a career that is not only work, its fun. Second, look carefully at the firms culture when you interview. How much happy hour quotient is there for you? On a scale of 1-10 if its 8 or higher you probably have a good match.
Lastly, don’t let it get you down if you haven’t found the right career or the right firm yet. Sometimes it takes going through the bad fits to find the right fit. All those things that one place may find “wrong” with you are all of the “right” things to another workplace.
It takes having patience and trusting that your winding path is the right one to be on as it leads you to your perfect match.
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