Career Exploration

A Year of Exploration

Two days ago marked an important anniversary: my last official day at my corporate job and my first step to finding a more fulfilling career … and life!

It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. I’ve learned a lot about what drives me and how I like to work. I’ve broken some lifelong bad mental habits and learned to have a different mindset about work and life. I’ve dealt with unexpected developments and changed the plan along the way, but kept true to my goal of finding a new path I’m passionate about.

Over the next few weeks, I will be reflecting on my sabbatical so far and looking ahead to what the future holds. I’ll give an update on the careers on my list. I’ll look at the different methods I’ve used to explore these new paths. And I’ll go over my plans for the future.

The Careers

I kicked off this sabbatical with a goal: to find a new career path that was more creatively fulfilling and sparked my passion. And the plan was simple. I would use my time off of work to explore a list of careers that had always piqued my interest but that I had never pursued.

Well, a year later, and I’ve really only touched about half the list. But nonetheless, I do have some updated thoughts on each one. In case you missed it or need a refresher, you can take a look back at one of my early blog posts to see why each career originally interested me.

Video Producer

How I’ve explored

I’ve worked on a few short films, doing everything from being a production assistant to a set decorator to a writer. 

I also got a good crash course in video production, from planning to shooting. After that, I tried my hand at producing a couple of videos on my own, but got stalled in the editing phase.

I recently decided to scale back and just start simple, with a slideshow video, which I successfully executed to the end!

Updated thoughts

The part of video and film that I’ve found most rewarding has been writing, and I definitely want to continue that pursuit … as a hobby. I think, in general, I haven’t found myself driven enough to learn and improve my video production skills to truly pursue it as a career.

But it’s definitely fun as a new type of creative outlet, especially projects where I’m working as part of a larger team rather than running everything on my own.

Web Developer

How I’ve explored

This was the first career I tackled. I opted for self-led exploration with online lessons on freeCodeCamp.com. I completed the curriculum for their first certification — Responsive Web Design — through which I did a deep dive into HTML and CSS.

Sample lesson - ordered lists

Updated thoughts

While I really enjoyed going through the lessons, when it came to completing the end-of-unit sample projects, I found that (a) I hadn’t retained as much information as I thought and (b) I didn’t find them interesting to work on.

I just don’t think web development provides the creative outlet I thought it would. While it’s a great skill to have and I might enjoy it being part of a job, I don’t think I’d be interested in a role that was strictly web development.

Content Creator

How I’ve explored

This is definitely the broadest and most vague career on my list. So, it’s no surprise that my exploration here has taken me places I never expected it would.

I was originally inspired by my favorite YouTube creators and my exploration of video production has doubled in this arena.

I also have gotten a good taste with written content through my work on this blog.

And then there was the most unexpected project — the podcast. As a producer, I’ve gotten to learn how to launch a new show, manage operations and logistics, and market a podcast.

Updated thoughts

I’ve already spoken about how I think I’m going to leave video production to my hobby list for now. But I could definitely see myself exploring work in both blogging and podcasts.

For blogging, I’d be interested to see how much I’d enjoy freelance work, where I may need to write in a different voice or about topics I don’t really care about. Of course, there is also the option of monetizing my own blog, but even then, I think I’d have to be a bit more strategic about the content and may end up having to adjust topics and tone to appease an audience.

I’ve really enjoyed my work on the podcast! I’m just sorry that I can’t dedicate as much time and energy to the project. I want to continue my work on the podcast but also look more at the type of roles available in the professional podcasting space. For example, I notice that the role of “Podcast Producer” can vary wildly, and some opportunities require actual hands-on technical work with regards to recording and editing.

Furniture Upcycler

How I’ve explored

Well, in short, I haven’t explored this area at all. I do find myself inspired whenever I see an abandoned chair on the side of the road or a desk on the Craigslist free section. But this is the type of project that requires a lot of time, space and access to the right tools.

Updated thoughts

Given that this career would require a dedicated shop and collection of tools, I don’t think it’s feasible at this time. I can see this being an area that I may start as a hobby, which could then potentially turn into a business. But again, given that this demands the proper space and tools (that we don’t necessarily have access to, now that my husband has switched careers himself), even starting this for fun is far off.

Real Estate Agent

How I’ve explored

This is also an area I haven’t explored yet. I have some minor insights into the career from my previous house-hunting experiences, but it’s not a career to which I’ve dedicated exploration time.

Updated thoughts

From the beginning, I’ve had doubts about this career, given that the typical schedule conflicts with one of my biggest passions — theater. I’ve also heard from a previous real estate agent that it’s a career where you often have to be accessible day and night, and I’m not sure I would like the lack of boundaries.

Interior Designer

How I’ve explored

This is the one the career area that I’ve explored most in depth and most formally. At the beginning of the year, I started classes through Cañada College’s interior design certificate program. I got a good introduction to the field, learned all about drafting and am currently studying space planning and color theory.

I also started working part-time as a design assistant for a local interior designer. Through that work, I’ve gotten hands-on experience with many phases of the design process. I’ve also learned more about what goes into running your own interior design business.

Updated thoughts

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m still on the fence as to whether or not this is an industry I want to pursue professionally. I do find interior design interesting, and I’m having fun redesigning my own apartment. But I’m not sure how much I enjoy the business side of things and the potential of dealing with difficult clients.

With the baby’s arrival, I will likely need to take Spring semester off of classes, and I will also take a bit of a break from work. It’ll be interesting to see how much I’m itching to get back to interior design work after that break.

Major Gifts Officer

How I’ve explored

This would be a big … not at all. Actually, when I was trying to recall my list of careers (I knew I had nine different ones), this was the one position I couldn’t remember!

Back when I was hunting for a part-time job, I interviewed for a fundraising position with a theater company, and that would have given me exposure to major gift giving work. But I didn’t get that job and got the design assistant work instead — and the rest is history!

Updated thoughts

When I think about being a major gifts officer (again, this is someone who solicits large donations for a nonprofit), I would, of course, need to work for an organization that I was really passionate about. And that would likely be a theater company.

I am interested in learning more about theater administration, in general. But I’m thinking I would thrive more or enjoy work better at a smaller to mid-size theater company, where my work could span many tasks (including major giving), instead of strictly focusing on one specific area of fundraising.

Theater Company Executive Director

How I’ve explored

Again, not much exploration here. But this is one area I’m determined to explore soon. I think I’ll start with getting more experience (volunteer or paid) with theater administration, in general. And, of course, I know many theater executive/managing directors that I could interview to learn more about the work.

Updated thoughts

This is still something that interests me. Whenever I see roles for open Managing Director positions at theater companies, I do get excited about the potential of that type of work.

Actor

How I’ve explored

Well, I’ve continued to act. But I haven’t done anything to explore or pursue acting professionally. And this is really a failing on my part. This is the one career where I know how to do the actual work; it’s just the business side that I need to learn about. 

And I have so many resources that I haven’t tapped! Actors who have gone equity or are doing commercial work. Programs like the Theatre Bay Area ATLAS program, designed specifically to help actors create their career plans. 

Photo by Michael Kruse Craig.

Updated thoughts

I’m obviously still very interested in this as a career, even if it was something that I would ultimately need to supplement with additional work to get by. 


Next week, I’ll do a deeper look at the way I’ve tackled my career exploration. And the following week, I’ll preview what’s next on the sabbatical roadmap … included an additional career or two? New posts every Friday!

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