Every single one of us is unique. When I was in university, a coworker passed on advice he had been given to us all:
“Find out what you love to do and are good at and then find someone to pay you for it.”
Despite working at a bookstore, I hadn’t heard of Tony Robbins yet so I was impressed. While I wasn’t ready to make any big life choices at the time, the coworker’s passed on advice (from his grandmother – not Tony Robbins) stuck with me for many years.
When I needed inspiration, I thought back to that young man that I worked with for only a few short weeks. When I was annoyed with graduating into a recession and the blame passed onto millennials for wanting a better career, the words stung my soul. Luckily I’m resilient (and a privileged white woman), so I’ve scraped through the recession and find myself on the journey into an exciting career that I never would have imagined for myself in university. (I always imagined myself in a downtown condo, working for a magazine or publishing company, and still waiting to settle down in my early thirties.) Despite my cynicism, I uncovered what made me unique in order to find a job satisfying enough to turn it into a career.
That’s how that advice can succeed on a lifelong level, but what about in the day-to-day? I think it’s actually more practical on a day-to-day. As I have mentioned before, my life unfolds spontaneously, and rarely according to plan. I get to where I am meant to be by making decisions every day that are right for me. Maybe those decisions are not always right, but they are at the time. And, just like the little decisions that shape my big life, it’s the little things I am good at that have shaped the satisfying career I find myself in today.
For example, I loved cooking as a child. I continued to cook as an adult, and was always mildly interested in working with food. I never thought that I would one day be a manager at a restaurant, though. Or working in Produce at a grocery store. And then be selling products to restaurants and grocery stores. But I followed my interest there. I was interested into raw food in a city where it was fairly new, so the owners of a new restaurant that focused on raw food reached out to me. Then, I had spent a few years listening to chefs order from produce suppliers, so I became quick friends with the reps I had to deal with at the grocery store. I hadn’t sought out either of those jobs but they somehow fell into my lap and I ended up loving and learning from them so much.
Occasionally, I think back to that image I had of myself in my early thirties. I was strong, confident, and really well organized in that idea of myself. Now I would say that I am two of those things, and the third no longer matters to me. Neither does the idea of living in a condo downtown interest me any longer. Perhaps I have suddenly become old and lost the dreams of my youth but I would rather think of myself as having accepted myself for who I really am than for who I wish I was. I remember feeling jealous of my university friends for continuing their education and getting into professional fields…but I knew a decade ago (and have every year since continued to believe it) that I needed to be in this “real world.” I may be ridiculously bored sometimes, but I also know that I am doing what I am good at, and making the difference that I need to be right now.
Perhaps it is a curse of being a millennial that I continue to think about what I love to do so that I can create the life that I want to be in. I was told as a young adult that previous generations had one career; millennials will have 4-10. Frankly, I don’t think of this as a curse as I enjoy new challenges and thinking outside of the box of how it has always been done. As I have learned in my long decade of working in the new world, those skills might be the most valuable going forward.