Reflecting on My Unexpected Career Path
By Allison Musser, CPDC Associate Director, Career Coaching & Strategic Partnerships
Have you ever paused for just a moment to reflect on the path you’re on and how you got there? How every decision, big or small, led you right to where you are today? The other day I fell deep into one of those reflections.
I was a student-athlete my first year of college. To make a long story short, by the end of my first year I was no longer having fun playing softball, a sport I’d loved since age 7. I felt like the path I’d chosen wasn’t leading me where I wanted to be, so I decided to quit. Even though I knew deep down I was making the right decision for me, it didn’t take away the immense shame I felt from giving up my athletic scholarship, and disappointing my family.
Despite all of that, I came to the realization that this ONE decision led me to where I am today. How, you ask?
- Well, I couldn’t afford to stay at my college without my athletic scholarship, and had to transfer. Transferring credits between schools is tricky, but I enjoyed figuring it out. I got so good at reading transfer agreements that I started to help my friends who were also transferring.
- By helping my friends, I realized I wanted to be an Academic Advisor, and one of my friends told me about New Student Orientation where I could get paid to help students register for classes. I applied and got the job.
- My Orientation Supervisor knew I wanted to be an Academic Advisor. They exposed me to College Student Affairs master’s programs, and encouraged me to apply. I had no intention of going to graduate school, but with the right information and encouragement, I applied and was accepted, which began my career in Student Affairs.
So, why am I sharing this? Because life is full of decisions, and I want to share what I’ve learned to help you navigate any decision-making process you might be facing in your own career journey.
- There are rarely right or wrong decisions on your career journey. There are simply different paths. Some paths lead to the same destination, but take different routes and time to get there. Other paths lead to destinations you never even could have imagined. Could I have discovered my love of academic advising another way? Possibly, but maybe not.
- Trust yourself. You know yourself best. A lot of people will try to convince you otherwise and tell you what you should be doing. Will you disappoint those people? Undoubtedly. You can’t make everyone happy, but you can ensure that at least one person is happy: YOU! Trust me – you’re worth it.
- You can hold two opposite feelings at the same time. As I was reflecting, I found myself mourning my decision to quit softball. At the same time, I felt joy and gratitude for my decision because it made me who I am today. It is normal and healthy to mourn the path you could have taken. Acknowledge that path, but don’t let it take away from the path you’re on now.
No matter what career decisions you’re facing, you don’t have to face them alone. The Undergraduate and Graduate Career Coaches in the Career & Professional Development Center are here to support you every step of the way.