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Want to be Successful? Then Get Comfy with Uncertainty


A person’s career rarely ever turns out the way he expected, oftentimes leading to feelings of failure and regret. We’ll show you how expecting the unexpected on your career path is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success in the end.

embracing the unknown

(Photo Credit: Chris Barber/Flickr)

A survey conducted earlier this year by University of Phoenix found that over half of the 1,600 participants surveyed were interested in changing careers to a more desirable occupation. In other words, their current jobs just didn’t do it for them. Even more shocking, the survey unveiled that “ninety percent of working adults report that they had career plans when they were younger,” with 73 percent not in the careers they had expected.

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Children seem to know more about what they want to do in life than adults who are already knee-deep in their careers. Dr. Bill Pepicello, president of University of Phoenix, points out that “many working adults [are] coming back to school 10 to 20 years after they started their careers to prepare for a new career or find new growth opportunities in their current industry.” How can so many professionals be getting their careers this wrong?

Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw seemed to understand the cause of this strange phenomena when he said, “You don’t stop playing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop playing.”

There comes a time in every person’s life that requires him or her to do the unthinkable — grow up, or “stop playing.” This is usually the time when high-school ends, college begins, and it’s crunch time to begin paving a path to success so mommy and daddy don’t have to clean out the basement for their 30-year-old child to live in later on in life.

Undoubtedly, there is a great deal of pressure placed upon the shoulders of adolescents to “make something of themselves” and do X career because it pays well, or follow Y career path because it’s prestigious. However, 73 percent of the working population ends up in careers that they don’t enjoy. What’s the point of continuing this cycle if it only results in dissatisfied, regretful workers?

In order to successfully navigate through the ups and downs in your career, you must appreciate and accept the unexpected things that cross your career path. One professional who embraced the unexpected and found himself in his dream career is Steve Blank, now lecturer at the University of California San Francisco. In his LinkedIn article, “My First Job: Fired and Rehired on Day 1,” Blank found himself packing up his life and moving from Michigan to California for a new, promising job opportunity as a lab technician. Little did he know, what awaited him in California would make him reconsider his decision completely. 

Upon his arrival to his new job, Blank was informed by HR that there had been a terrible mistake — the person who had offered him the job did so negligently and no job offer was available at that time. With his entire life relocated and packed in his car, Blank found the courage to speak with HR and, three hours after, ended up being rehired as a training instructor for the same company that had just fired him. The lesson here is, as Blank puts it, “using uncertainty as your path is an advantage,” and “one day all the seemingly random data and experience [you’ve] acquired will end up as an insight in building something greater than the sum of the parts.”

In order to be prepared for when that unexpected opportunity comes knocking on your door, check out PayScale’s Make it Happen: A How-to Guide for Your Career, an all-in-one resource that provides you with the tools and resources to help make your career dreams a reality.

Tell Us What You Think

How has uncertainty helped boost your career? Share you story with our community on Twitter or in the comments section below. Inspire others by sharing.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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vulnavia rodriguez
vulnavia rodriguez

I’m a big believer in faith. This would not be a problem for me. Everything happens for a reason, life teaches you that. Now, I want to study psychology, if something happens along the way to change that it’s because my god needs me somewhere else. I want to help people and I know no matter where I go I will make the best of it and work and fight hard to accomplish that goal. Success is measured differently for… Read more »

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