Slow Journey toward New Paths

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I realized last year that I’ve never really put any thought into “designing” my own vocational path. I’ve “fallen into” three interesting jobs thus far, and I’ve enjoyed each of them. But now I’m realizing I intentionally need to identify my strengths, decide what field deserves the next two or three decades of my attention, and lay my foundation to pursue opportunities in that field.

I don’t have a tight direction in mind, but a few more thoughts about work, calling, career have coalesced for me in these opening months of 2015.

  • I would rather work with people than things. I’m handy with organizing details and tasks, but I’m best handling ideas as they relate to people.
  • I would rather work in a team or collaboratively than alone.  While people can wear on me (it’s my introverted streak; yes, I have one) and while I get more done when I’m alone than when I’m around people, I much prefer community of work than individual achievement.  Working near people is a decent start; working with people (both as a team member and in the sense of working “on” people) is my preference.
  • I would like the opportunity to lead my own team (and build it), devise a goal based on an institution or supervisor’s overarching strategy, and develop the plan to meet that goal.  I’ve never really been interested in “management” and that’s not what I’m looking for, but I’m a little tired of being a subordinate.  In the right field (something that ties into my experience), I have the skills needed to lead an initiative and do it well.
  • To this point, I don’t have any interest in striking out on my own as an entrepreneur. Maybe an idea will grip me so forcefully that I’ll find myself trying to make it work, but that impulse doesn’t drive me.  I’m happy to jump on board with someone else’s mission (that aligns with mine) so we can be in it together.
  • I have a generalist’s mindset. It’s hard for me to narrow down my work to one task/skill type; I prefer a flow of different opportunities throughout my day, and the flexibility to switch up what I’m doing. For that reason, I’ve never really wanted to pursue a PhD (for longer than a few months).  I hoover up ideas and store that information for later use. To drink deeply of just one field hasn’t been my thing.  Now, that might have to change – in academia, a PhD is almost a baseline requirement. But PhD’s are essentially research degrees, and “doing research” isn’t the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. (But “answering questions” does….)
  • I like to provoke people and ideas (and by extension, institutions or projects) to become better versions of themselves. That’s way more fulfilling than almost anything I’ve ever done.  Short-term, I can draw great satisfaction from a project well-done (a magazine published, directing a play and seeing the performances, pulling off a big event) but the really deep well in my soul is filled by helping people grow.
  • Issues surrounding education mean the most to me. If I had to choose a primary tribe for membership, I’d go live with the educators. (Sorry, creatives, musicians, gamers, readers, calligraphers, chefs, theologians, researchers, designers, and librarians! Y’all come in a close second, though!)
  • I’m a helladetermined problem solver. (Read: Stubborn.) I hate hearing “we can’t do that….” if that means everyone is going to just give up. Obstacles are opportunities. Problems can be solved, overcome, or pushed aside if the overall goal is valuable enough to everyone involved.  There’s almost always a window open when you think the doors have slammed shut.  If it’s worth doing, it’s going to be hard. Suck it up and find a way forward.

I have more to figure out. I can’t figure out what area of education draws my interest the most. Is it professional development for faculty? Is it curriculum development to implement better active learning and engaging methodologies? And should I focus on higher ed or K-12 ed? My teaching experience is in K-12 but that arena is so locked-down right now because of Common Core and assessment-driven strategies that I can’t imagine being very effective in it. But I don’t know enough about higher education to be effective there…


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