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Letter to my daughter: your path is what you make of it

As our children embark on their higher education, let us reflect on what the future holds and how to be a trailblazer.

career path

career path letter to my daughter

Dear daughter,

You’re nailing your junior year in high school and you’ll soon be in college, then on to a brilliant career. As you begin your journey, there are some things that school doesn’t tell you to prepare you for the real world, but because I’ve had to learn some difficult lessons, I share them with you in hopes that you won’t have to learn everything the hard way.

I’ve been thinking for a while about how to explain to you how a career path works. I don’t want to focus on how to quit if a job sucks or how to change careers, you can Google that. Rather, I’d like to explain that your path is what you make of it.

To me, this has two meanings – I’ll start with the first. What no one told me is that every club, every volunteer activity, every class I took would combine to create this portfolio that an employer could look at and brand me with. It is up to their interpretation – “oh, she was in the Spanish club in high school, studied in Spain during college, has a degree in Spanish, and occasionally blogs in Spanish, that must be her passion, she should get this job,” or “wow, she was a cheerleader, taught first year cheer clinics in the summer, volunteered in college as a judge for state cheer competitions, she is really focused on that, so why would we hire her to be a molecular biologist?” See what I mean?

You are the sum of your parts.

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But what no one tells you is that your path is what you make of it. Although in school I did a lot of non-journalist activities, if I compile my resume with an emphasis on what is relevant to journalism (UIL Journalism, UIL Creative Writing, UIL Current Events, Yearbook Editor, English Major, current job as a writer), my path tells a newspaper that they should hire me. But, if I emphasize the leadership roles (Model UN VP, Yearbook Editor, Co-Founder of the Undergraduate English Association at UT, Marketing Director at a firm, several awards for social media efforts, etc.), my path tells a marketing company that I would be a great executive leader.

You see, none of this is lying or omitting. Based on your background, you get to determine where that path takes you, and it doesn’t have to be the exact title of your major. Your path is what you make of it.

The second meaning is just as Emerson said in the fancy quote above – there may be no path for you. In today’s economy, people are getting creative and entrepreneurship is at an all time high. You may end up with a forensic psychology degree, but that doesn’t mean you must become a profiler. You may go a different direction where there is no path – perhaps you’ll invent a software that compiles every profiler’s work and systematize common characteristics so that smaller police forces that can’t afford a full time profiler can be equipped during a crisis. Perhaps that’s the trail you’ll leave. Maybe you’ll interview criminals and other forensic psychologists and write a book about a discovery you make that could shift the thinking of the entire industry. Who knows?

So daughter, I hope that you’ll see that not only can you create your own path by understanding how the pieces of your life fit together, but that when the opportunity arises, you’ll find a way to leave a trail where there was no path before you.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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