Your income level doesn’t determine your value as a person. Read that again. By being human you inherently have importance. Being career-driven is admirable – I think most of us can agree on that. Taking a look at social media trends from hustle culture to the girl boss, it’s clear many people admire others who are set in a career (and earning high).
I recently read a blog article that pushed women to be career-driven in order to be the “best version” of themselves and worthy of dating a “high value man”. (All this talk of value and worth feels commodifying, but I’ll stay on topic). If having a great career is your idea of the best version of yourself, that’s wonderful. You go, person! Specializing in a field obviously has its advantages – none more obvious than stable income and clout in your industry.
While we should all try to find work we enjoy (if we’re able to) and earn money to pay the bills, buy what we need, and save a little, does having a set career need to be as hyped up as it is? What if some people simply have “jobs” that allow them to live comfortably, learn new things, and enjoy life? What if others like trying different fields? Are we overlooking someone’s qualities when they aren’t as successful as we want them to be?
Here’s some reasons why I don’t feel bad for not having a set career yet.
#1 I focused on writing and publishing books for over 10 years
While writing didn’t turn out to be a well-paid career for me, I’ve stuck with it for over a decade. That took dedication and lots of work. So while I might not be able to put that on my resume or create glamorous vlogs on Youtube about my success, I’ve created stories that some people enjoy (and I enjoyed what I was doing). I initially thought my writing would give me a supplementary income – and for that reason I didn’t take past jobs as seriously as I might have otherwise since they were just “filling in” until I got my “big break” in publishing. When it didn’t work out that way, it opened a new door for me to start exploring what else I’d like to do. People change careers and start new ventures all the time. That’s the point of life – finding out what you like doing and making the necessary changes to build your dream. I realized later that writing was more of an art to me than a business.
#2 I didn’t leave all my jobs voluntarily
I’ve worked at some places that went out of business or had to lay workers off due to short supply. Others cut hours down so much that I had to leave if I wanted to keep paying rent. Realizing that some situations are out of someone’s control can make one less judgmental over another’s choppy work history.
#3 Job-hopping has its pros
Along with some cons, there are also benefits to job hopping. People who leave jobs are often looking for growth, better pay, stable hours, nicer work atmosphere, or a total change from what they were doing before. Some people are traveling or simply want to try something new.
People who have choppy resumes may have these characteristics:
- Risk taker
- Looking for growth
- Experienced in different fields
- Unwilling to work where they’re not happy
- Value work-life balance
Keep in mind not all job-hoppers leave out of their own free will – layoffs or company closures force even the most loyal employees to search for another job. Finding a career can take a bit of luck sometimes even if that’s what you want.
#4 “Career-driven” isn’t everything
It’s great to be career-driven, but it doesn’t mean a person higher up in their career necessarily works harder than someone who has a regular job. I’ve invested time in my creativity, story writing, blogging, mental health, education, fitness, wellness, and many other things. These are all important and add up to the person I am.
For some, being career-driven is non-negotiable for their friendships/relationships. In that case, I’m not for them and they’re not for me. We can part ways with a smile and wish one another the best. For everyone else, the “regular worker” has wonderful things to offer a friend or significant other that may be more important than a career in the long run. Sometimes two career driven people don’t mesh well in a relationship anyway – sometimes balance is needed. The one who isn’t as career focused is often more nurturing and can give a lot of support to the one who’s working more.
#5 You don’t need to be a manager or business owner to be your best self
You are the one who defines what your best self is. I’ve been the definition of my ‘best self’ several times in my life. For me, my ideal self is living in my own place, working at a job I enjoy, making enough money to spoil myself sometimes, living in an area I like, fun clothes, blonde hair, working out, living close to real nature, going to concerts, enjoying food, creating, etc. I’ve been there – and I didn’t need a fancy career to do it. Granted, I’m a pro at finding cheap rent so I probably had about the same free money as those who make twice as much as me with higher rent and a vehicle.
Currently I’m in saving money mode and prioritizing work hours, so I’m living in a very affordable shared home to reduce bills even more. I’m not what I’d call the best version of myself currently, but I’ll get there again soon. 🙂
#6 I stayed at some jobs for over a year
While I’ve never stayed anywhere long term, I’ve been at some jobs for over a year. I’m not one to jump after a month of working somewhere – I stick things out long enough to give the job a chance (Unless there’s some factor that can’t allow me to stay there).
#7 I will likely have a career in the future
“Better late than never” as some say. I was never in a race to get into a career by a certain age. Some people take the life stage thing very seriously, whereas I’ve just lived my life according to my personal taste. I love this for me and I think it’s why I’ve been so content over the years. I’ve allowed myself to explore different things and I’m grateful for the experience.
I’m also getting back into the hospitality field which will always offer jobs (and travel opportunities) to people willing to work in it. Certain areas pay well for front desk or housekeeping jobs – and the tips can be great. It’s honest hard work and there’s always room to move up. So I could see making a career in that field.
#8 You don’t need to have it all to be worth people’s time
This one is so important to remember. It’s no secret that people can feel the pressure to be all things to those they love – women and men both experience this. The thing is, we’re not going to have it together in every single area of our life. We can’t always be our “best selves” when we have PMS, get laid off, get triggered, get busy at work, get a bad sleep, catch a cold, receive bad news, etc. You want people who accept the entire person you are – not come and go depending on how well you’re doing on the career ladder. If someone only comes around when they think you’re making lots of cash, you’d better lose ’em fast.
#9 I have a lot of collective experience in a few fields
You don’t need to stick with the same company for years to have experience in a given field. I’ve worked a lot in sales, customer service, and hospitality (with education in 3 different majors as well). Experience is experience – even if you’ve changed jobs.
#10 I’ve always paid my bills
Even if you “just” have a job (rather than a career), you can pay your rent and bills. Making lots of money doesn’t mean you’ll be responsible with it. Even when I’ve fallen behind at times, I’ve always caught up.
Perhaps a career could pay more and it’s worth looking into, but there’s no shame in working an honest job that allows you to live in a place you like, pay your bills, and have a little fun. People who stress over someone having a “job” vs. a “career” are caught up in semantics. What should matter more is if they’re financially responsible, care about their health, kind, and happy with where they are (or working to get where they want to be).
I may not be career-driven in the classical sense, but your salary/job title is only one part of who you are.
I hope you enjoyed my post today! I tried not to make it too much of a doozy. Perhaps this shows how much our values can differ. I value nature, peace, creativity, fitness, working at a job I like, and focusing on simpler pleasures. I appreciate luxury sometimes (as my skin & hair care routine will show), but I can do without all the fancy things for the rest of my time. Others might value big houses, fancy cars, rich friends, and parties. I know which category I belong in and I’m happy to be there. Thanks for reading. ❤
I would love to be able to write for a living, but it doesn’t pay the bills. I wouldn’t call what I do a career, and when I retire, I’m hoping my real career (writing) will be something I can put more time into. As it is, I am writing in my spare time. Mornings are better because I’m not so tired.
I really hope you’ll be able to make a lot of money on your writing. 🙂 And I love that you value your writing so much – it’s the thing that truly makes you happy.
Hi Sara- I love this post and share many of the same values as you. I previously worked my way up the career ladder in healthcare and when I reached the top, I felt ‘successful’ in the way our society appraises, but I was miserable and burnt out. I have since stepped away from that industry and now work in a job with a much better work/life balance and less stress/responsibility. I feel at peace and much happier having let go of the pressure to have and maintain a career.
That’s really cool you were able to work your way up the ladder in the healthcare field – congrats to you on achieving that! But it’s too bad those higher level jobs can be create burnout and stress for the long term. I’m glad you’ve found a much happier path. It’s great to try things to see if they’re what we really want or not, right?
Yes, I agree. I actually find it more interesting to switch things up job- wise every so often. It leads to many new skills and experiences.
That’s a very good point! ❤ Thank you so much for sharing.
Love this, I always try to tell people: your definition of success is NOT mine. I took a steep pay cut leaving corporate law for human rights but I was so much happier. What matters most is highly personal. Thank you for writing this!
That’s a very good point, Alice. 🙂 I’m glad you’ve found a job you enjoy.
A telling little story: when we toured Dartmouth with one of the kids, the tour guide talked about a semester/year abroad as being part of the curriculum for the students. And then added, “Except for the Engineering students; they don’t have time in their curriculum for it.”
And true of most of the hard science degrees (math, physics, chemistry, computer science 0 some versions), and many of the softer science degrees such as biology). There is SO much to learn to be able to be useful that there isn’t space for many frills; you have to catch up to generations of scientists to be able to stand on their shoulders. This is true of medicine, too.
I wanted physics, I wanted to be able to apply to NASA, I wanted the PhD – and for those careers, which take many extra years (not much you can do with a B.S. in Biology or Physics), you grit your teeth and learn. And then have an internship and a fellowship if you’re lucky.
But everyone makes compromises to get what they want, and flexibility is one of those compromises. I missed out on a lot of things – and wouldn’t have cared if I hadn’t gotten sick, and then regretted the nose to the grindstone – but I regretted losing what I had earned more.
You do the best you can, but I know of only a few people who went to med school after they had reared their children, or got a law degree as an older adult, and none who became physicists at 50.
Just as Olympic quality athletes have to commit to their sport early and completely (they’re the ones doing Double Axels at the rinks at 6am, and may be too old to do anything except teach at 30, some things require a particular path followed AND a lot of luck.
I do wish I had done tons more camping and hiking and traveling.
Yes the key is doing what you love. 🙌 And no regrets if you stay true to yourself. As far as changing careers when older, enough people do it successfully. Others just get another degree out of interest. I love when people do what they love – whatever that is. 🙂
I wish I’d taken more chances!
But as a woman in a man’s field, I felt I had to concentrate – and doing it without the natural camaraderie and mentoring of the guys was really hard. I was usually the only woman in a cohort – so felt I was representing womankind. Heavy.
Awesome. 👌 Honestly it sounds like you took the right path for you. 🙂
Your path sounds like so much fun. I’m so glad it was the path you picked, and gave you skills you wanted at each new place.
Yes.. being life – driven makes more sense than career – driven.
Yes. Thank you for agreeing. There’s some very specific fields, like being an Olympic athlete, where you’d want to get into it by your teens but other than that everything else is fair game. It’s wonderful being able to try new things.
I’m with you on this.
Thanks so much for your comment. 😊❤️ Different things make different people happy and for some of us, a career isn’t that important.
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