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Embracing a Nonlinear Career

Every career path is different. Some take the straight road. Others meander. For me, there have been a lot of detours along the way.

I started at Architech three years ago, first joining as a project manager and scrum master. In many ways, it was very similar to the role I’d left behind at the company before it — but with plenty of new challenges as I moved from the client side to working for a vendor. It also gave me a jumping-off point, letting me progress quickly to my current position: program manager. And hopefully that’s just the start of my growth within the company.

Personal growth has always been at the front of my mind as I navigate my career. I’m always looking for new opportunities and fresh challenges that will keep me engaged and evolving. That’s why, over the past 24 years, I’ve had 12 different jobs, learning early to follow my instincts when they say it’s time to move on to the next thing — whatever that might be.

Even when it meant that my career path didn’t look the same as everybody else’s.

Taking an Unpredictable Path

Today, nonlinear careers are more popular than ever, with millennials on track to making more career switches than the baby boomers before them. But taking an unpredictable career path isn’t always easy. There’s no proven, well-trod route to follow, no clear next stepping stone to move on to. The fear of failure, and of making the wrong decision, is constant with every move — and if anyone should know that, it’s me.

When I started my career, after college, I didn’t know much of anything — including what I wanted a career in. So I started trying out a series of different roles to find my place, joining a telecom company that allowed job shifts every 18 months. I started in admin, moved to a budgeting position, then went on to circuit design. In that last position, I realized how much I loved all of the math involved, so I continued moving in a direction that embraced many of those same skills, including IT support, business analyst, and project management.

There were plenty of moments along the way where I agonized over making the wrong decision. And I know others in a similar position fear being seen as a “job hopper” by prospective employers. But my experience coming into Architech shows that the best companies will see that experience as a plus, not a minus. It’s just a matter of finding the role and employer that’s a match for you.

So what do you need to know if you’re getting ready to diverge from the predictable career path? And how do you know a company is the right fit for your specific goals?

Detours to Career Happiness

While many people find their career bliss by following a well-defined path, there are others who find that happiness through more surprising directions.

There are a variety of reasons for that. For me it means I never get bored, because as soon as I start to feel like I’m getting stagnant in my role I search out a new chance to grow. For others, it might be a matter of searching for exactly the job that’s the right fit. Or when the job market is more limited, it may be a matter of following whatever opportunities are actually available.

Whatever the case, I believe a nonlinear route comes with its own benefits. You bring a range of skills to your current position that you wouldn’t otherwise: social skills that come from interacting with a variety of different types of people, practical skills that are transferable to new roles, and the emotional intelligence that emerges from dealing with new types of challenges and conflicts.

My advice is not to be afraid of failure or of trying things outside of your comfort zone — not if you want to get the most out of that unpredictable path. And don’t be worried about what your resume might look like. After all, the skills you’ve acquired can also help set you apart in the job market.

Search out roles and employers that will embrace all of what you are — and opportunities that let you continue in that growth so that you continue to stay engaged.

Personally, that’s exactly what I found at Architech.

Finding the Right Employer

While leaving my last company meant I was giving up seniority and an employer that had supported me up until then, I knew at the time that I was ready for something new. And I realized as soon as the first interview was over that Architech was a company that saw the value of all of my experiences, while offering a range of learning and development experiences to build on them.

Today, in addition to a job that challenges me, I benefit from:

  • Summit days throughout the year, dedicated to employee growth and development.
  • A learning and certification budget that lets employees develop new skills, attend conferences or pursue certification.
  • The Build a Better Future program, which supports employees’ charitable and volunteer experiences, encouraging us to get involved in the community.

In other words, they put their money where their mouth is — supporting their people in all facets of their growth. It’s the perfect fit for someone like me, who hates getting bored and craves new learning experiences. I’ve used those opportunities to expand on my leadership skills and support my outside volunteering experiences.

I see myself growing my career here for a long time. And for someone with a fear of getting stagnant, that’s pretty high praise.

To learn more about how Architech is committed to growing our people, check out our Careers Page.

Karen Marrello

Program Manager