The path less obvious is sometimes the most optimal.

By Claire Klieger

There is a lot of stress associated with the first job after graduation. For many, there is a feeling that this job will determine the career trajectory for your entire professional life. As such, there is increasing pressure, sometimes real, sometimes perceived, to decide earlier and plan accordingly to secure the best possible position for “success” (definition varies). With this mindset, you may hear parents or friends tell you there are only certain choices or options that will set you up for that perfect first job.

However, the world is full of examples of successful individuals who took much less conventional paths to arrive in their dream jobs—Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, and countless others. One of my former colleagues used to like to ponder the look on the faces of Jim Henson’s parents when he came home from college and said something like, “I think I’m going to go into puppets.” These are all people who if they had followed a more traditional path would never have made it to where they are.

It may not be easy being green, but it can be a lot more rewarding!
It may not be easy being green, but it can be a lot more rewarding!

Now, that’s not to say that you need to be purposely unconventional to succeed. Rather, you should listen to your inner voice about what’s interesting and appealing to you and worry less about what you think others will define as successful or how it fits into long range plans. The coolest part about the world we live in today is that it changing so fast that some of the world’s future big industries and jobs don’t even exist yet. Who six years ago could have predicted there would be countless jobs related to “social media” or “twitter”? There is even a website I recently discovered that’s devoted to unusual career paths called  The Accidental Career. Check it out for interesting and quirky job posts, updated daily. Recent listings have included “Socialite,” “Clowns” (for Cirque Du Soleil), and “Gift Planning Specialist.” They also have a great section profiling people who ended up in jobs that they love but that were not necessarily part of the plan.

So I am here to tell you that it is okay to think of a first job as just that. You don’t need to worry about planning the rest of your life, just planning for the next year or two.  Look for something that will be interesting, let you explore professionally and teach you new skills. Everything else you can figure out later, one step at a time, because each career path is different, some windy, some forked, and often marked with detours. And the best bits are often found in those detours, or as Dr. Who would say, “I love not knowing what comes next—keeps me on my toes!”

Author: Claire Klieger

Claire Klieger is an Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates. She earned her Ed.D. from Penn and did her undergraduate work at the University of Virginia. Fun Fact: Claire spent 11 years in the Middle East and North Africa.

2 thoughts on “The path less obvious is sometimes the most optimal.”

  1. Facebook Liking and google +1 functions are not working. Please, someone take a look at it (was trying to share the writing on Facebook, but coudln’t

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