I take my career path pretty seriously. I like to assess where I am, where I want to go and think critically about the skills I need to get there. I once had a boss tell me that what stood out in an interview with him was the way I spoke about my career. While the next steps have changed and evolved over the years, it generally gives me an idea of what I’m immediately working towards.
However, my career has actually been defined by two moments when I took a risk.
I used to work in politics (be nice!) and the first career risk I ever took was saying yes to a job in a minority government with the chances of a Spring election increasing more with each passing day. It also looked like that government would not win the election and I’d be left jobless – just eight months after I started. But, even with my job on the line, that risk felt relatively minor at the time – I was young, I would be working in the field I wanted to pursue and working for someone I greatly admired.
About two months into my time there the session came to a halt and a leadership race began (#drama). The weekend of the convention changed the course of my career… and I didn’t see it coming.
In the spirit of saying yes, I agreed to staff my Minister. I was terrified. I’d only staffed them once before at a small gathering. This was an entire weekend of high-profile events and media hits, ultimately shaping the future of the party. No pressure right?
But I threw myself into that role. This was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, with an opportunity to experience the convention, and politics, from a completely different perspective. I learned an incredible amount in that one weekend. Little did I know how soon I would be applying that learning.
A few weeks (and one terrible cold) later I received a job offer, completely out of the blue. I was so content where I was (and still a little awestruck by the place I was working in) that the idea of another job didn’t even cross my mind. And frankly I knew so little about the complexities of the place I was in that I didn’t realize this was a job that existed, let alone one that would be on the table for me.
But the role didn’t follow the path I had laid out for myself – in fact, it kind of felt like a detour. After all of the work I’d done, and the learning I knew I still had to do, I wasn’t sure this was a detour I’d be willing to take. This surprised a lot of my friends and family – for most people, it was the kind of opportunity you don’t say no to. But I almost did.
After being offered the role, I sat with my boss trying to process what was on the table (he knew about the offer before I did!). He told me if I wanted a specific role in that office he was willing to give me the opportunities and supports to develop those skills (he was the best!). But if I wasn’t sure what I wanted, or if there was even a small part of me that felt like I might want the job, then I should go for it – it would give me experiences and skills I couldn’t even imagine at that point. I was 25-years-old, I had my whole career to make the “right” moves. It was the perfect time to take a risk. So, I went for it.
About three days into the new role I almost cried in the office. I thought I had made a huge mistake and wondered if it was too late to back out.
Turns out, that job was one of the best risks I’ve ever taken.
The learnings I gleaned from that experience have influenced so many elements of the jobs I’ve had since. I met incredible people, had access to amazing opportunities and got to learn from some of the brightest individuals I’ve ever met. I had to be authoritative, collaborative and extremely organized. There were some real bumps and growing pains along the way as I navigated this shift in my role and the next chapter of my career. But the skills I gained there have been critical in every single job I’ve had since, in both big and small ways. And even though this role was incredibly demanding and overlapped with one of the hardest years of my life, I learned what I was made of and that I have a truly phenomenal support system.
So sometimes a job opportunity may not seem like the most “obvious” path, but you just never know where that risk may take you – it could be even better than you imagined.
Have you taken the career path less travelled? Ever take a personal risk that turned out so much better than you expected? Let me know in the comments below! AND if you’re feeling stuck in your role or not sure how to navigate a way forward (risk or not), check out my amazing friend Emily – she can help you get unstuck, get out of your way and how to tap into that amazing inner voice you’ve got hiding behind all of the “should’s”, “could’s” and “can’t’s”.