Modern career paths: curvy, not straight

For the past couple of weeks, the Summer Sustainability Interns have been treated to a variety of guest speakers, including Bloomington and Indianapolis sustainability coordinators, local nonprofit leaders, and a policy analyst for Sen. Lugar.  My favorite question to ask of these folks is always, How did you arrive at your current position?

One trend has become apparent: the descriptor “unique” is not unique at all!  Most of these people prefaced their personal history of education and work experience by saying they had taken a rather unique – or at least roundabout – path to get where they are now.  As could be expected, many did not study environmental topics in college but have nevertheless applied their degree in economics, anthropology, etc. to their current career in sustainability.  After graduating from college, they typically took a circuitous pathway toward finding their place in this relatively new field of sustainability.

I’ve been putting a lot of thought lately into my upcoming job search and what I should plan for and expect after graduating with my MPA less than a year from now, so these sustainability career-oriented stories have been very timely.  The more I read about today’s job market the more discouraged I feel about the prospects of obtaining a stable and satisfying job, especially in a field that is still developing.  On the other hand, some flux in the field can be a good thing because it means new opportunities are constantly arising.  Basically, I’m trying to build a flexible mindset now so I can adapt and be resilient after graduating into this changeable economy, where the road involves a lot of forks and switchbacks rather than providing the straight-shot path of an interstate.  Many of these professionals certainly didn’t expect that they would end up where they are now, so who knows what could happen!


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