All too often when students talk about the career they want to pursue after college the response is, “Whatever will make me the most money.” It seems that so many people are banking on a “traditional” career path: climbing the corporate ladder with a high-paying salary as the main motivator. This reasoning definitely has validity. Graduation is quickly approaching and it makes sense that seniors want a good paying job to ease their debt. Not to mention the expectation from family and friends to prioritize financial security. I’ve attended two on-campus job fairs with most open positions being at corporate offices. Although these events were informative and great practice for speaking with potential employers, at moments I felt discouraged. I felt limited, as if the companies at the job fair and what they offer were my only options. The pressure to land a corporate job almost made me forget that my career possibilities are endless. In reality, there are so many career roads waiting to be traveled in this world and I am not confined to any single one of them.
That’s why you shouldn’t hesitate to pursue a “non-traditional” career path. In this sense, I think a non-traditional career may look different for everyone, whether it be becoming a full time blogger, comedian, entrepreneur, or even taking on an industry that is dominated by your opposite gender. Pursuing a non-traditional career path may not be a simple map with an outlined trajectory, but isn’t it better to follow your dreams than settle for something comfortable? It may take sacrifice, roadblocks, and occasional feelings of defeat, but I believe it’s a wave worth riding, especially while you’re still the young and ambitious college graduate that you are or will be. Here are some things that have motivated me to keep an open mind to a non-traditional career journey:
- Job satisfaction
If you choose a job based on your genuine interests and skills, then you’re destined to maximize your job satisfaction. Accepting a job just because of compensation and prestige can lead you to overlook whether or not your values actually align with that company. Doing work you honestly value will be much more worthwhile in the end.
- You can always keep building
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You’re probably sitting here like, okay well some people have family to support and can’t afford to become a full-time blogger and travel the world. You’re totally right and that’s why most dreams take time and planning. You may not have the means to walk out of your graduation ceremony and hop on a one-way plane ride to the Philippines, but you can take what you’re passionate about and turn it into a long-term plan. This could mean starting out by getting your foot in the door with a job that advances your writing skills, then use that knowledge to build a foundation for your own business, for example, once you are comfortable and able. The point is it can be a slow process, but don’t be afraid to start small and don’t stop exploring future possibilities, even if they do seem crazy.
- Opportunity to Learn
What better way to advance your skills than learning something new in a field that is less-traveled? Giving yourself the opportunity to do something non-traditional and outside of the box makes you a unique asset and can broaden your career horizons.
- Kick gender stereotypes’ ass
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For many, a non-traditional job means a job that’s traditionally filled by one gender. Some people may be intimidated by careers that are majority male dominated or female dominated. For example, technology and engineering jobs are usually male dominated industries while nursing is typically female dominated. While comfortability in the workplace is a huge consideration for most people, it’s important to break these classifications. There’s no such thing as a “man’s job,” or a “woman’s job.” Skill requirements have no gender, so jobs shouldn’t either.
- You can break social norms with your raging success
Choosing a non-traditional career path and showing everyone how happy you are loving what you do can serve as an example to others. You can be a symbol of inspiration to someone like me three months ago when I was feeling down about the social pressure of applying to jobs I didn’t care for. I think college students need more guidance and motivation to choose what’s right for them and them only.
Bottom line, a non-traditional career path (whatever that means to you) shouldn’t be labeled as unrealistic or a worse option than a traditional/do-it-for-the-money career path. It should show that it’s possible to follow your dreams in a practical way. Our generation is way too creative to settle for a career and life we don’t absolutely love.