What am I doing anyway?

I went to lunch with a friend this week and she asked me about my career trajectory. I had to think about it because I’m not sure if I’ve ever really been forward thinking about what I do to earn a living.

When I was preparing to graduate from college, what I wanted was a job. Something to pay the bills and to have something to show for the 4 years and thousands of dollars I’d spent as an undergraduate. A few years into that first job, I began looking for a new challenge. I made what I think was a career move — earning more money in a job that was related to both my degree and my previous job. But in hindsight, I was really just biding time until I could fall into my vocation — being a mom.

After Annie was born, I returned to work for a few months, and then decided to stay home and do some freelance writing, earning a fraction of what I’d been making. It was a choice I happily made and I was glad to have a skill that would allow me to have flexibility and the ability to still contribute to our family income. Today I would say that I had a career has a freelance writer.

When the kids were 8, 6, and 2, I returned to traditional work part-time. Thirteen years later, I’m still working in that job, full-time now. And I’m starting to contemplate what’s next. In all likelihood, barring the winning of a large lottery jackpot, I have about 25 years left to work. What is my career trajectory?

And the answer is, I don’t really know. I’m making a few stabs at investigating that question. I’ve enrolled in a master’s program — Master of Science in Healthcare Management. Before getting my current job, all of my experience was in healthcare, and I enjoyed it. I have an interest in adult day services and in hospice care, but I don’t want to provide clinical care.

I recently took an intensive class in fundraising, with the idea that I might be able to parlay 25 years of communications experience into development work. I think I could be good at it, maybe raising money for healthcare entities, but I don’t actually have experience doing that. Would someone actually give me a chance to try?

Then there’s the fact that I really enjoy working in higher education. I like the pace of the work. I like being where learning is encouraged.

So what is my career trajectory? I feel like I’m just throwing things against the wall to see what will stick. I think of the people who I worked with at my second job — communicators like me who built careers, some in freelance work, some in the pharmaceutical industry where we met. I think of the mentors I’ve had along the way and I wonder if they all deliberately built their careers or if it’s just what stuck for them?

Somedays the question of “what am I doing, anyway” is daunting and makes me feel inadequate. Other days that same question is an invitation and I feel kind of lucky to get to explore the answer.

What is your career? Are you there because of a deliberate path you set out on? Or are you where you are because of a happy accident? What is next for you?

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