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Teach them to meander

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In my home, career paths are a hot topic at the moment. Well, not just this moment but for several moments over the last, gosh, four years now? Five? Since our children were in grade school? Oh yes, that is the most accurate timeline as it was while they were in fourth grade that each of our children were first asked about career goals. It’s not that we weren’t participants in the traditional “What do you want to be when you grow up?” conversations with our kids. It’s that those were all very surface level and fun and included responses like “a dog dula,” or “a fireman who also drives an ice cream truck” or “veternarian-nail-salon-person.”

We weren’t that shook when our child came home with a worksheet ready to be filled out that asked for, like, actual career aspirations. What did shook us was the follow up as it seemed that, even as grade-schoolers, our children were immediately steered toward springboards that would match those career aspirations scrawled on a crinkly piece of homework paper.

As a form of parental protest, we stopped filling out that paper properly. Instead, we sent it back with a once sentence response that read, “They are just going to keep being a kid for a little while longer.”

Okay, yes, we may have held that stance for a bit too long but, again, let’s not split hairs.

Today, we have a junior in college and a senior in high school.

Today, we have finally reach a state of calm in our home as we approached the exit ramp from years of knee-deep panic related to those dang career aspirations. Our college junior has finally found calm as they have, in fact, figured out which direction they will point at their 2025 graduation. Our high school senior has finally found calm as he found a college home that actually encouraged touring students to apply very much undeclared and find that puzzle piece once nestled in their dorms.

And perhaps we have finally found calm because the grownups both had major career shifts in the last 12 months which, as it turns out was perfect, perfect, perfect timing as our kids could witness The Meandering Career Path from a front row seat, popcorn in hand. Perfect. Also stressful, but no big deal (she says months later).

It makes sense, really. I suspect most children see their parents in a single career stop. We tend to skip any major career changes once they reach middle or high school as we know how much stability matters. There will be no moves as we want them to finish school with their friends. There will be no crazy career leaps as we want to feel financially stable heading toward the college application cycles.

Their (the kids) memories often solidify well past the days when we (the adults) are bouncing from job-to-job. They have missed the chaos that occurred when we were clocking out of one job only to clock into another job or when we were scouring the classified for something just a little bit better.

In our home, as far as our children’s memories go … we (the parents) have only had one job.

And I suppose that’s why they (the kids) think they will, too.

No wonder they are panicking as they approach the launch pad. The idea of choosing a single career that will marry until death do they part sounds awful. Of course, we have told them about a bajillion times that they really only need to choose what’s next or what they will do first but … well, you know how receptive teenagers are to parental advice.

Look! The average person has twelve jobs in their lifetime. TWELVE! You don’t have to stay where you land forever!

Have I mentioned how valuable teenagers find parental advice?

Career paths are a hot topic in our home at the moment because Rich and I have both jumped from previous ships. Well, he jumped, I was pushed. Let’s not split hairs. In both cases, it was terrifying. It was also a fantastic reminder that it is our skill sets and relationships that we take from position to position - not our titles. After fifteen years as a business analyst in the tech world, my brain was very much in a robotic find-business-anaylst-tech-job mode at a time when most tech companies were bundled up for hiring freezes.

Eventually it clicked.

I didn’t need to work in tech anymore.

I had spent years prior to my tech swing not working in tech.

I could work anywhere, really, that would benefit from the skills gained in any of the fields that I’d passed through in prior years.

I did start a new job actually-one that, when shared, I am almost guaranteed a response that goes something like this: Wait, now what? And then next: That actually makes perfect sense!

I have taken my skills and relationships to the travel industry and am now knee-deep into absorbing all that I can about booking cruises, piecing together land tours, selecting the perfect all-inclusive, and more. I haven’t decided yet if this will serve as a side gig or if I’ll let it fill my whole career bucket.

With this new position, I am officially above average as it is my thirteenth job.

And my children? Both are witnessing first hand (and for the second time this year) that it is absolutely possible to take a meandering career path and find success.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Whine & Wine yet, take a listen. If you really want to torture your teens, have them listen, too.

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