My process so far could be described as “a journey of exploration.” A journey of discovering what I love and what I don’t. A journey of finding where I’m meant to be. A place where I thrive. A place of purpose. My mother always told me that I could be anything. I could do anything. As well-meaning and kind as her words were, I started to believe that it would be simple.
Much to my adult-self surprise, the road has been dimly lit–even completely dark at times. Its been rocky, uphill, and sometimes the path itself completely disappears. I haven’t felt like that little girl gazing into a bright future of endless opportunities. Instead, I’ve wondered if I could even do anything at all. Even as a senior in college I still don’t see any signs of a destination. Specifically, as an English major I have questioned my opportunities and diminished my possibilities.
Maybe my journey of exploration and doubt makes it seem like I’m a typical “millennial” who doesn’t know what they want. A hopeless wanderer. Non-commital. Just floating. Lazy. Indecisive. Maybe you can relate. Maybe someone has said something that made you feel that way. Or maybe its when you look around and compare your life to those around you and start to believe it. Sometimes discouragement and self-deprecation can lead us to a place where we start to believe things about ourselves that are fart from the truth.
You have strengths. You have something to offer. You are valuable and are worthy to contribute to the world–yes, even through your career. You are not a hopeless wanderer. And neither am I. I am excited to tell you how I am not any of those things I previously mentioned, and instead share with you a few things I have learned this week.
“Liberal Arts at Work” is a course designed to help students with degrees in the Liberal Arts see the value of their education and professional selves. In just four days I have learned years worth of insightful and practical information. Studies, activities, and conversations have challenged our own prejudices about ourselves and the nature of the world we live in today.
A deep sigh of relief is an understated phrase to describe the moment I read this in our second assigned reading on page nine of Katharine Brooks’ You Majored in What?:
“People usually smile when you tell them that careers follow chaos theory rather than linear theory. Chaos theory conjures up thoughts of disruption and being out of control: the notion that there is no rhyme or reason to one’s career path. But despite its name, chaos theory is anything but chaotic. It’s just complex-like you and your career can be.”
Chaos is a word that I have experienced multiple times throughout this journey. Still I have been believing that surely clarity and growth would come from seemingly chaotic wandering. I am comforted by the idea that careers usually aren’t linear anymore, but are instead complex journeys leading to good and surprising places.
One exercise we did this week helped bring clarity to the abyss of my likes, dislikes, passions, hopes, dreams, and desires that seem to fuel my search for a career. We did the StrengthsFinder assessment and the results made me feel 1. like I really can do anything, but 2. that I shouldn’t do just anything. Instead, I could narrow down my career search to areas that allow me to use my strengths.
Here are my results from the Strengthsfinder assessment and a few lines from my personalized results that really stuck out to me. The personalized results felt so accurate it was unreal.
-You automatically pinpoint trends, notice problems, or identify opportunities many people overlook.
-Instinctively, you generate ideas quickly. You draw clever linkages between facts, events, people, problems, or solutions.
-You take pains to uncover how and why things happen as they do and you share your discoveries with partners, teammates, and friends.
-You are comfortable sharing your viewpoints with individuals who ask you to do so.
-By nature, you automatically notice what people do well.
-You naturally tune in to others’ emotions and you take this information into account when you extend a helping hand to someone.
-You are doubly blessed: you think with your head and feel with your heart.
-Your keen awareness of people’s moods motivates you to work even harder.
-You consider people more than you consider things.
-The value you place on humankind guides your decision-making.
Just this assessment alone has added so much value to my journey. Knowing my strengths gives me a way to begin narrowing my process of finding a career path. My results solidify my beliefs that I need to be working with people–and most likely in a helping profession such as a teacher or counselor. I could also work in a position that allows me to engage in those activities even if its not in the traditional sense. Interested in reading more about experiences with Strengthsfinder? Read from Melyssa Griffin–an influential entrepreneur and blogger here.
I am not a hopeless wanderer, instead a hopeful discoverer. I now walk with my hands and heart open to whatever lies ahead. Because of this course, I can walk a little taller. A little more steady and confident that the journey is just as (if not more) important than the destination itself–if a destination even exists. A perfect quote to end on from page seven of Brooks’ You Majored in What? is this:
“Giving yourself permission to explore and let events unfold is a wise and practical approach indeed.”
A journey of exploration. Reaching, striving, searching. Hoping for a destination, but learning to thrive in the process.