It’s rare that a person’s career path is a straight line to their dream job.

And, even if it seems that way, it’s almost never as simple as it looks from a distance. Talk to a friend sometime about how they arrived at their current title. Odds are, their answer will surprise you.


The Myth of the Straight Career Track

It’s a common assumption that success stories are a straightforward series of steps to a predefined goal. A person is struck by inspiration to follow a certain career path, and then they take it, knowing the exact title they want and precisely how to get it.

But reality? That’s often much messier.


Cutting A Career Path As Unique As You

If you’re feeling stuck and want to advance your career—or even change to a new one—you probably have questions.

  • Where do I want to go from here?
  • Do I have the right skills to make a move right now?
  • Should I take a class?
  • What if I choose something totally different from what I’m doing now?
  • Who should I talk to in the field I’m interested in?

With all of these questions swirling around in your head, it can be challenging to determine the best way forward on your own. But, as overwhelming as this stage might feel, it’s an important first step to getting the job you want.


Preparing to Make Your Move

It’s tempting to think that there’s only one way forward, and you just need to find it. Instead of seeking that perfect next step, consider that there are many different ways to make a career change. It can take a bit of fearlessness and willingness to try new things in order to find your own way.

The rubber meets the road in your search when you start taking practical steps toward change, such as:

  • Take a class you’re curious about.
  • Request informational interviews.
  • Volunteer or even consider a part-time job.
  • Join a professional association.
  • Start reading industry blogs that interest you.

Remember, as you take these actions and explore, it’s ok to make a number of career leaps along the way. This “messy middle” period keeps you moving forward and can help define your career destination. The real trick comes once you get there.


You’re in a New Role. Now What?

Once you’ve landed your next job, you can relax, right? You could, but consider this: you’re in a new role with new responsibilities, personalities, and assignments. Keep up your attitude of exploration and decision-making as you settle in.

Maybe you really enjoy your first few projects, so you decide to keep heading in a direction where you can keep doing similar tasks. Or maybe some of the people you meet will expose you to new project ideas or opportunities to develop new skills that could lead to a promotion down the road.

Most of the time, the path to success is as messy as the rest of real life. Experiment, try new things, and network to discover opportunities that are right for you. Once you’re in a new role and excited to get to work, remember to keep experimenting within your job. That way, you’ll keep up your momentum and continue moving forward in a career as unique as you.


The Capella University Career Center counselors, resources, and tools help students and alumni manage their careers at every stage and move toward the careers they want.