Jan 10 2013

Coming Out of the Closet as a Career Slut


Not all relationships are meant to last forever, and as Bettina Shzu shows us, not all jobs are meant to last forever either. Read on to see how “sleeping around” helped her get closer to her passionate career.Where to Next

Where to Next by Courtney OQuist

Hey Job,

Sorry, we’ve grown apart. It’s not you; it’s me. Actually, it’s both of us, but it’s no one’s fault.

As you know I’ve been experimenting on the side. I haven’t fallen in love yet but I know enough now to know that being with you isn’t right for me. And if it’s not right for one of us, it’s not right for the both of us.

We had a good run, didn’t we?

See you around!
xo

Yesterday was my last day at my job. Oops, I mean my ex-job. I was at the same company for six years. I’m still getting used to it.

When I first gave my notice of resignation more than two months ago, I was a little sad. It was a very comfortable job with lots of flexibility in the hours, good co-workers who have become friends, benefits like at least 5 weeks of paid vacation and unlimited sick days, and a comparatively good salary for where I live.

It’s now a standard analogy to compare, well, everything to dating. If I had to describe my job as a dating partner, I would say that s/he’s the nice one that your mom loves. On paper s/he’s the right choice, the logical conclusion.

But as I left the office for the last time yesterday, it wasn’t bittersweet. I was not sad at all. I just felt free. Leaving this job freed me from some limiting beliefs I had about careers.

Previously, I believed that

  • to leverage my education, I had to have a career in the field I had officially studied—in which you have official degrees on fancy paper.
  • I invested so much time and effort into this job / career direction, so I should stick with it.
  • if my career isn’t working out for me, something must be wrong with me!

Like a marriage that no longer had magic, I stuck to my job even when my interests changed. It’s like marrying your high school sweetheart at the age of 20. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, a decade later, you wonder what you were thinking about when you were 20.

Not all relationships are meant to last forever, despite what Hollywood movies and bridal magazines tell us what we should want. Some relationships end after a good run. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with the relationship. And there is nothing wrong with your job. You tried it out. It was good in the beginning. Or maybe you judged the job poorly, and it didn’t even work from the beginning.

But when the relationship doesn’t work for one party in the relationship, the relationship doesn’t work. At that point the best thing is to let each other go gracefully rather than stay in an unfulfilling relationship.

I know this when it comes to relationships. But how come it was so hard for me to see regarding my job?

For me subconsciously I felt like I had a duty to stay loyal to my job. I kept working at it, even when I needed more of a challenge. Instead, I tried out challenging hobbies on the side: I sailed. I organized a community-supported agriculture buying group. I built a bike as a bike mechanic. I coded a web app on Ruby on Rails. I taught yoga. I sold an Android app. I organized and led a mastermind. I mastered German. I planned my wedding.

Having these flings on the side challenged me for a while. While I enjoyed these hobbies, however, at the same time I felt guilty. Like I was doing what I wasn’t supposed to do. Like I was cheating on my main squeeze, being a career slut.

Yet there is nothing wrong with seeking out challenging hobbies. I haven’t sworn myself to a lifetime of exclusivity to my job at an altar in front my dear friends and family.

In fact, these side hobbies helped me discover what skills come naturally to me as well as my passions. Having a few small adventures on the side allowed me to try out identities and projects to which I had relatively little commitment. I undertook these side projects because they were fun and interesting, without planning that we would end up together forever on a resumé. Because the stakes were low, I could experiment. That’s what flings are for, isn’t it?

Best of all these side hobbies changed my mindset. Now I believe that

  • just because I have two degrees in art history, I don’t have to be an art historian. Or anything artsy.
  • just because I’ve invested time and effort into one career direction doesn’t mean that I need to stay in it forever.
  • I can be anything I want to be for as long or as short of a time as I want. There is no shame in having a checkered resumé as long as I stay honest to myself.

I’m still figuring out exactly what comes next in my career. With my new mindset I’ll be looking for something that integrates all my skills and passions. And while I’m not looking for love, I’ll be looking for something that could lead to it.

Goodbye, ex-job! Goodbye to limiting beliefs about careers! Hello, my next step!

Bettina ShzuSince October 2012 Bettina Shzu has been traveling around half the world. During the trip I’ll be blogging a vegetarian guide to South India and Java as well as producing a series of interviews on how to win on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. I’ll be seeking full-time employment upon my return to Berlin in April 2013.

TAGS: ,
POSTED IN: Creative Career Cheer, Encouragement for Everyone
COMMENTS: 3 Comments


3 Responses to Coming Out of the Closet as a Career Slut

  1. Jennifer says:

    I think this is a really important message that we don’t often hear. I have felt insecure about my checkered resume, but I am learning and figuring things out as I go – there’s no shame in that! Thank you for this!

  2. LOVE this! I can sooooo relate. Thank you so much for sharing Bettina!

  3. Eugene says:

    The questions I ask remained unanswered until I began to pursue my outside interests within the healthcare field. I have been a nurse for five years. I am studying for a certificate in another healthcare field, finding that combining the two fields others have become expert hybrid nurse massage therapists. By virtue, someone can take advantage of promoting health by embodying the principles of the profession in their own life. Being a role model in an industry adds a new dimension of credibility. No need to feel guilty about developing such a plan for myself, just looking forward to the possibilities when I graduate.

    Thanks for the great post, Bettina.

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