Exploring the possibilities
"It isn’t enough to think outside the box. Thinking is passive. Get used to acting outside the box."
I caught myself stuck in a professional rut a few years ago. I was in a role as a career advisor for students in the College of Engineering at University of Illinois at Chicago. While I enjoyed helping students prepare for their careers after college, I ended up losing personal and professional satisfaction in the role after a few years. Thankfully, I was able to switch over to a role doing content management and design for the College of Engineering's websites. Within a couple years I found myself in the same predicament of lacking satisfaction in my role. I thought I was being ungrateful, but I realized I had become complacent. It did not feel right.
There was a big part of me that loved the security of a salaried position with full benefits and up to two months of paid time off every year. The other part of me felt like I had found myself in a daily routine where I did not enjoy what I was doing anymore. It felt very Groundhog Day to me. I also felt certain restrictions in my role due to the nature of working in a large public university. I did not think finding another role inside the university was going to solve my problem, so I gave a couple months notice at the end of 2018.
I spent the next six months figuring stuff out through a mix of day trading technology stocks and driving for Uber and Lyft. It was quite the ride! I learned how much I truly do love interacting with people. I also learned I don't want to be stuck behind a screen or steering wheel 8 hours a day. To each their own. I used to remind students while it is important to know what you want in a career or life in general, it's also important to know what you don't want! It works the same way with foods and the people we choose to associate with. 😁
I spent the next year in a role as a case manager for a transitional housing program in Naperville, IL. It helped me realize how much I love helping people with their mental health and wellness needs. I also realized I prefer helping people at a macro level. While the one-on-one interactions can promote positive growth on both sides, I can be a highly sensitive person when emotions are running high. I was reminded of that. 😄 I still help out on a part-time basis, and still get to interact with clients. I'm also helping update the organization's website, providing the community with wellness resources, from a distance. 😁 I found my Goldilocks Zone professionally by exploring the possibilities and acting outside the box.