Friday, July 27, 2012

What do you do and why?

About a year ago my husband, Jesse, and I took a few days off of work. We decided to have a little staycation at home where we hit up local parks with the kid during the day and sat on the deck drinking wine with each other in the evening. While we didn't travel anywhere exciting it did allow us some time to slow down and have more in depth conversations than our busy work week usually allows. One of our talks revolved about the topic of 'what do I want to be when I grow up'. We both work 'grown up' jobs, but being at home for a few days started to remind me how much I miss my family, and miss having time to work out or hang out with friends (among many other things) as my current work schedule takes up so much of the day. I was feeling a bit down about my work situation and started to romanticize ideas of what I could be doing until I realized that I didn't have the skill set or couldn't afford to not have benefits or one of the million other things that came to mind that made a career change seem implausible.

During this conversation my husband also expressed to me that he thought he’d be a great technical writer, but stated it would never happen because he didn’t have a degree or experience related to this. I recalled that I have a friend who does something similar and she doesn’t have a degree in technical writing. How did she get there? This led to a whole lotta questions swirling through my head… How do people end up doing what they do? How do they make the choices they do?  When I headed off to grad school I didn’t think I would end up as an Academic Advisor. Heck, how did I get here?

In my previous position as a Birth Parent Counselor at an Adoption Agency I felt a lot of reward, but would easily get caught up in the stresses of the job. It was easy for me to look at descriptions for other professions and think “how awesome would it be to have that job?”, and “why is my job so lame?”  Then one day I wrote down a very high level description of my job:

Flexible hours, light travel, main office close to home, able to work from home at times, provide counseling and training to birth parents and adoptive parents, light speaking engagements.

Ha, this job sounded pretty cool! But I realized that a description isn’t always a reality. Those flexible hours really meant I was on call all the time. That light travel could mean that I would be driving all day long.  This put it all into perspective for me. All those jobs I thought sounded so much more awesome than mine? Maybe they weren’t after all.  

This curiosity has stayed with me for some time as to how others have come to do what they do… whether it is their dream job or the job that just pays the bills, whether someone works for a corporation, is self-employed, or stays at home raising their child… I wanted to know more. So I came up with the questions below and sent them to a bunch of my friends and family and people were nice enough to answer.

1. What do you do (feel free to share more than one thing - i.e. Academic Advisor and mom)?

2. Why did you choose to do this? Have you always wanted to do this? Did you fall into this career or actively take steps to get here? Did you choose it or did it choose you?

3. What did you need to do to get here? Did you go to school? If so, was your degree related to what you are doing? Did you do something like an internship or work your way up for years? Did you take advantage of things like Informational Interviewing with those in the field?

4.What would you do if you weren't doing what you are? Would you do this out of necessity, because you happen to have those skill sets, or because it is your dream job?

5. If you could create a job description of what you are doing what would it be?

6. Talk a little about previous jobs you've had and if you have a degree/schooling/experience in something that isn't related to what you are doing now how did you make that jump?

This really started as a project for me… something to quench that curiosity, but I figured others would be interested as well. So in the following weeks I will be posting the responses I received (with approval, of course). The responses have confirmed that finding your spot in this world is a journey, that getting there is hard work and often has obstacles or detours, and that we are all different.

I hope you find this as informative as I have. 


  1. Probably not shocking to you, but this is fascinating to me! I can't wait to read the responses, and if it's okay with you, maybe I'll share with my CC team.

  2. Yeah, I figured this would interest you, Erin. And, of course, you can share it. Also, if you or others want to answer the questions and have them posted I would be open to that.


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