Your Career Isn't A Ladder, So Don't See It That Way
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Life Stages

Your Career Path Isn’t A Ladder, It’s A Rock Wall

Finding your dream vocation can be a convoluted process, and the "career ladder" metaphor isn't accurate enough to describe it.

Your Career Path Isn’t A Ladder, It’s A Rock Wall
Instagram: @brittharms

When I graduated college in April, I was eager to join the ranks of my fellow peers in entry-level full time work. I couldn't wait to turn the page on my life as a student and start my career journey. I moved back home in June and started earnestly applying to jobs in my desired field of writing and journalism.

After three months and over 50 applications, I heard hardly a word from the positions I applied for. I was getting depressed and discouraged, fast. The job hunt can be a demoralizing process; a job seeker can spend hours submitting applications and never end up in the two percent that get an interview. This was largely my experience, and it was devastating to me.

Finally, I accepted that "Plan A" wasn't working. I needed a steady income and something to fill up my time, so I got a job as a host at a restaurant. To me, this was a clear sign that I had failed my mission to get started on the career ladder. I felt stuck.

The voices in my head told me that since I wasn't using my degree in a full-time job, didn't wear a pencil skirt and blazer to work, and moved back in with my parents, I was a deadbeat.

I qualified certain titles and salaries as successful, and other titles and salaries as unsuccessful. An awful (and unfortunately, common) pattern of thought, I know. I also held the inaccurate belief that my entire career path was set based on my entry-level job.

These lies affected every aspect of my life. I bought into the myth that a career path is a straight shot, clear and simple. It's quite the contrary. In fact, the average worker holds ten different jobs before age forty, and that number will only rise as the gig economy evolves.

To distract myself from feelings of failure and despair, I started listening to others. I read books for people in my situation, listened to career and life stories of successful people, and continually sought advice from those who knew better than me. It was a journey filled with tears, confusion, hard conversations, and eventual clarity.

Now I understand that a career path is more like a rock wall than a ladder. Here's why:

When climbing a ladder, you have only two ways to go: up and down. You are forced into thinking each career move and your job is taking you closer to your purpose or further away from it.

On a rock wall, however, one must climb sideways, upwards, diagonally, around, and even back downwards to eventually reach the top. Rock climbing requires upper and lower body strength; the wall can't be scaled without both. It's a journey that takes creativity, courage, and an occasional leap of faith.

I don't know what the rocks above me look like, or what the view from the top will be, but I certainly know that I am not stuck as I climb up my career wall. When life didn't look how I expected or wanted it to look, I had to grow in patience and self-compassion to see the lessons behind the initial disappointment. I had to recognize that every step matters and carries significance in my story.

So whether you're in college, just graduated, or feeling lost in your career at any age, take heart. Your career path isn't simply up or down. Climb around the obstacles, back up if you need to, have a friend point to where the footholds are and don't let go. Listen to others and see that hardly anyone climbs a ladder in their vocational path. You are exactly where you need to be.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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