Your “Walkabout” Career Path

Christi Hegstad August 28th, 2013

I love to ask people about their career paths – to find out where they started, where they are today, and what the steps in between look like.

Most of the time, contrary to popular belief, the path has been more of a “walkabout” than a straight line. One colleague recently compared hers to Billy’s famous walking paths in the Family Circus comic strips! 🙂

I have also noticed that those with a walkabout path are almost apologetic when describing it. “I didn’t really plan things out,” they’ll often sheepishly admit. “I just said ‘Yes’ to an opportunity, then saw another open door, and kind of made my way through.”

Sound familiar?

If you can relate, let me reassure you: you don’t need to apologize or feel embarrassed about this! It’s actually very rare for someone to have a “straight line” (or straight up the ladder) career path, especially in this day and age. Your roundabout experience shows that you’ve been open, willing, and have embraced opportunities to grow without always knowing where they might lead.

That’s valuable!

Personally, my path has changed significantly over the years. I switched majors four times as an undergrad, made a last-minute change from Sign Language interpreter school to an HR grad program, and MAP Inc. has definitely evolved in myriad ways over the past 10 years. 

As I mentioned, that direct, one-step path from A to B is rare – although there seems to be a universal longing to know, from a young age, what we want to do when we grow up. We envy those lawyers, for example, who can say, “I knew from age 10 that I wanted to practice law.” 

There’s something beautiful in that knowing, for sure. But also, those are often the people feeling the most stuck once they hit mid-career and wonder about changing paths. “I’ve spent my whole life preparing for, and working in, this field,” clients will often share. “How can I change now?” (If you’re in that position, know that you, too, have options!)

Here is what I’d like to offer you today: Know that whatever path you’ve chosen – whether a meandering one with 20 detours along the way or a swift A-to-B straight line – has served a purpose for you, bringing you to where you are today. And I’m willing to bet that although your roles and fields may have changed multiple times, your values remained consistent and your strengths surfaced regardless. 

Those are the guideposts by which to build your career: your values, your strengths, your purpose.

If the walkabout path has become exhausting, or you feel you’ve moved away from your purpose, or you’ve been spinning in circles without forward momentum, then it’s worth exploring a new way of working. Clarifying your vision, values, and future career path can make a profound difference here – both in how you work today and in the difference you’ll make moving forward.

But always remember, none of it was wasted. You continue to use the skills, knowledge, and lessons you’ve built up over time, even if it’s not always apparent how. Learn from your past steps, and let them form the stepping stones to your visionary, purposeful future!

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Has your career been a straight shot, or a winding path? Share your comments below, on Facebook, and via Twitter – we love to hear from you!

Dr. Christi Hegstad helps you successfully do what you love! As President of MAP Professional Development Inc., she coaches professionals to get unstuck and reach Bold Goals with clarity, confidence, and meaningful action. Learn more at and follow Dr. Christi on Facebook and Twitter.

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