By Josh Leskar
Development Associate. Freelance Writer. Teacher. Content Production Manager. Farmers’ Market Guy. Community Development Associate. Delivery Driver.
Over the past two and a half years since graduating from the University of Michigan, I’ve held seven jobs. Not exactly the path I had envisioned for myself after exiting college with a bachelors degree in sport management. Obviously, my résumé looks far from ideal.
Or does it?
As my cohort enters its midlife crisis, we are all constantly fearing for the rest of our professional lives. We’re unhappy for one reason or another – stagnation, lack of fulfillment, work-life imbalance – and those who came before us advise that we have a responsibility to hold steadfastly to the jobs we have for their steady income and stability. After all, we aren’t unhappy, so why leave?
Curiosity, exploration, and experience.
See, I certainly didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue when I was in high school, applying to colleges based on majors I didn’t know I wanted. To be quite honest, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life even when I eventually chose a major. Hell, I still don’t know exactly what it is that I want to do with the rest of my professional life.
But with each move I make, I know I’m getting one step closer.
So, here’s my advice for anyone going through this very same struggle: just pick something and do it already! The longer we sit, wait, and wonder, “toughing it out” for two years so that leaving doesn’t smudge a résumé, the less time we’ll have to actually find meaning in our careers and actually DO want to do for the rest of our lives. Take decisive action in your future: don't stand idly by and hope it comes to you. Say yes to opportunities, and don't be afraid to stretch yourself too thinly so you learn your limits. The perfect fit may not be the next job, or the one after that, but if we are perceptive, open, and honest with ourselves learning from our experiences, we can open new doors and move in the right direction.
Employers should be intrigued, as opposed to put off, at an applicant who had moved around early on, so long as he or she can logically defend the reason for doing so. There is a very specific reason I chose to leave each job I have taken, and I don’t regret any of those decisions for one second, because I have learned a tremendous amount each step of the way. That, to me, is more invaluable than staying at a company for the sake of staying.
I argue that the first years out of college (or high school) are the most ideal for discovering the infinite career opportunities at our fingertips. Despite the tremendous growth of universities and areas of study, our education system today still fails to introduce our students to the vast array of job possibilities that exist in our society, especially the more creative, artistic ones, and the only way to learn about them is to actively seek them out.
For those who are into numbers and statistics, think about this. The average retirement age is 61, which means that even if we spend the first four years out of college searching for meaning in our careers, we have another 35 years of hard work and fulfillment ahead of us. Seems like quite a small investment for a lifetime of happiness.
I am by no means suggesting we abandon ship after a few weeks of work. We should always give 110% of our effort in everything we do and give each venture a true, honest, all-in chance. Don't burn bridges, as you never know what the future may hold. What I am saying is that it is perfectly acceptable (and, in my opinion, encouraged) to try as many different avenues early on if a particular job role doesn’t work out for one reason or another.
Yes, we are a generation that will never be happy, but I think that is so because we are still playing by the rules of an older generation that has drastically different perceptions of what success means.
I have held each of my seven jobs by choice, and I can say with near certainty that I never would have found my love of food, desire to write, hobby for photography, and passion for teaching had it not been for this exploration. Yes, I absolutely realize the fact that I have been extremely fortunate in my circumstances, have had tons of help along the way. But the fear of change, failure, and the unknown is holding us back instead of motivating us to achieve our highest potential.
My parents have always taught me that no one can pay you enough to do a job you hate, and that when you do what you love, the money will follow.
I’m finally starting to believe them.
On Sunday, I’ll work my final shift at a bakery where I have grown so much as a professional thanks to an incredibly hard working, talented, and phenomenal management team that has taught me an incredible amount. I won’t be leaving because I was unhappy – quite the contrary, I had a blast – but in working other jobs I’ve found that my personal passion lies elsewhere, and had I not taken this job, and the six others, I never would have figured that out.
So, if you’re unsatisfied with where you are; if you’re feeling stuck; if you want more out of life; stop wasting your time, take a leap of faith and let 2014 be the year you pick something and do it.
This article initially appeared on NoshWithJosh on January 1, 2014.