Like most of us, I spent the first two decades of my life trying to answer the question, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” Even then, it struck me as a ridiculous thing to ask a child with limited experience in the world.
Despite my lack of a career direction, I convinced myself that I’d find the answer once I was in college. My plan was to sample anything that caught my fancy until I connected with the perfect match. That clever plan was thwarted when I arrived at college registration and was told I couldn’t enroll unless I declared a major. That was considerably more commitment than I had planned to make, but I pondered my dilemma briefly and announced that I wished to major in English.
Three years later, I headed off with my diploma in hand to teach high school English. I lasted for five years and left with neither a plan nor prospects. After spending a couple of months trying to come up with an appealing career, I decided to visit the area employment service. To my astonishment, I found a job. They hired me, on the spot, to become an employment counselor.
For the next 10 months I spent all day every day talking to people about jobs. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only clueless person. Almost no one had any sense about doing work that would be a source of more than a paycheck.
Eventually, I got a third job as an interior decorator in an upscale furniture store. Although I had neither training nor experience in doing such a thing, I brought so much enthusiasm to the interview that I was promptly hired.
That was the last job I ever had. During the time I was there, I stumbled upon a book about two young women who had started their own business in New York offering to handle creative projects for their clients. I was enchanted and decided my next boss would be me.
It was the best decision I ever made. However, having those previous experiences in employment gave me valuable skills and insights that led me to where I am now. Looking back, I can see that each of those jobs gave me a piece of my own puzzle.
My teaching days uncovered my love for sharing ideas and information. My stint at the employment service had me searching for better ways to help people uncover the work they were born to do. And my brief career as an interior decorator showed me that I was far more creative than I had ever realized, and that creating different projects was a huge source of satisfaction.
While those jobs taught me things about myself, being self-employed is a continuous learning adventure. I learned that my best work isn’t done from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. I learned I could create a business that paid me to travel. And while there were many new things to learn as a business owner, I treated them as experiments that taught me fresh lessons.
Being the boss instead of having a boss is both motivating and rewarding. Although we each have our own ideas about what constitutes a reward, freedom to explore, create, and learn seem to be popular with everyone. Solving problems becomes a creative activity, not a chore.
Our worlds grow bigger as we meet new people, launch new projects, and have the confidence to take on new experiences. We never need to seek permission to cancel an activity or offering that we’ve outgrown. Best of all, we discover talents and skills we never knew we had.
If you’re still unsure about the business you’d like to pursue, take inventory of the jobs you’ve held. What did you enjoy most? What do you never want to do again? You may find pieces of your personal puzzle hiding in plain sight.