Ep. 267 Are you on an accidental career path?


In this week’s episode, Anna reflects on accidental careers (and their pros and cons).

In the UK especially, we tend to study one thing and then ‘end up’ doing something completely different as a job in what you might call an accidental career.

In this week’s episode, we ask…

  • Are you following an accidental career path?
  • Is it really such a bad thing?
  • And, if the answer to both those questions is yes, then how can you move forward from here?

Tune in to dive deeper into this idea of accidental careers.

Accidental career

Are you on an accidental career path? That’s the question we’re asking in today’s episode. And you might wonder, does it even matter? Does it matter if I haven’t chosen every step along the way, with great strategic intention, and maybe it doesn’t, maybe you’re super happy where you’ve ended up and you don’t mind where you will end up in the future. But if you worry that you’re perhaps missing out on opportunities, if there are long, hidden elements of you and your personality and preferences and passions that you would love to see come to the fore. And maybe you don’t want to have those regrets in the coming years, it might be time to open up your eyes and reflect on where you’ve come from, where you are, and where you want to go. So are you on a next accidental career path? Let’s find out. You’re listening to the reimagining success podcast where we help you design a business and a life that allows you freedom from the nine to five. I’m your host, Anna Lundberg, ex corporate Good girl, now a business mentor and coach, author mom of two. And I’m here to help you create more freedom, flexibility, and fulfillment. Now let’s get started with redefining success, outside of the nine to five. We’re heading towards Christmas here in the UK.

And we’ve already got our tree, we are all set to be super, super festive this year, I feel like often, I don’t make the most of this time. And let’s face it the time after Christmas, January, February is pretty dreary in the northern northern hemisphere. So it’s quite nice to make the most of it. And obviously, with young kids, it’s really lovely and festive to do lots of nice things with Santa, with lights with baking, and so on. So I’m going all in this, I hope you are too or at least that you’re enjoying these last few weeks of 2023 as we do so I do have a few more episodes for you to close out the year, looking at kind of career paths, career goals, fulfilling careers and that kind of topic more generally, we’re not talking about building a business specifically or marketing, or even personal branding, it’s really taking a step back to reflect on where you are. And I thought the question for today was interesting, which is this? Are you on an accidental career path? Now an accidental career, I think, because when you just kind of fall into something, and it’s not a one off thing, right? It could be that you study one thing, you end up doing something else, it could be that you know, someone you knew kind of recommended you referred you and you got a internship. And that kind of led to a proper job. It could be then later on in your career that you kind of just keep getting promoted. Because you’re so amazing at what you do. And it’s not even intentional, you end up being a people manager, even though perhaps that’s not what you wanted. And you know, again, that you meet somebody or you have to move because of your spouse, and that leads to something else. So there could be a whole host of reasons why end up on that kind of accidental career path. And you might ask, does it matter? And in fact, I was I did a quick Google Now. And I haven’t read any of the articles, because I didn’t want to be affected by what other people have written. But the first few articles actually were sort of positive reflections on people who fell into careers they love. So if that’s you, I think if that’s you, you’re probably not listening to this episode in this podcast. But but correct me if I’m wrong, and but if that’s you, that’s amazing. And I think, you know, certainly there’s no point in having regrets about these things, because there’s nothing we can do about it.

But we can have such amazing experiences we can meet people perhaps even loves in our life or come from work.

That’s one of the most common places of falling in love, right and meeting our special someone as it were. So that could have happened to you meeting friends, colleagues, and learning and having all sorts of opportunities and travel and awards. And who knows what else, right? It’s learning lots of things, which is amazing. And you know what, it’s actually pretty difficult. And that’s probably why we ended up on an accidental grip have to plan out our career, when when I thought about you, I thought I was pretty mature and grown up when I was sort of 15. But when we are that kind of age, even at 19, you know, even early 20s, maybe even now, many decades later, we just don’t know what we want to be when we grow up, how could we haven’t experienced those things. We don’t know what it’s like to be an office, we don’t really understand, I certainly had no idea what it meant to be in a particular, you know, vocation, if you want to call it that. And we have a very black and white view of sort of, you know, you’re going to be a vet, or a doctor or a superhero, or an astronaut. So they’re very kind of clear cut clear cut career paths. And that doesn’t even exist, it doesn’t even begin to capture all the nuances of the roles that exist. And of course, we also know that many roles won’t exist in 1020 years, just like many new roles are coming and of course we’re things like AI, artificial intelligence, shifting everything that The landscape is going to look very, very different. Not to mention the fact that most of us, if not all of us will be pivoting and having multiple careers going forward. So does it matter? If you’re on an accidental career path? Well, no, if you’re having a ball of a time, if you’re loving it, and and you know, you actually as the Cheshire Cat, and Alice in Wonderland says, Don’t mind where you end up, that’s absolutely fine, right, by all means, enjoy the journey, and just go with the flow, man. But I would suggest that we might be missing out on something we might be missing out on, you know, a lifelong ambition that we had, that we’ve kind of forgotten about, you know, perhaps a drive for creativity, which is often kind of what’s the word repressed, I suppose we’re told we have to get a proper job. And so we don’t pursue that more creative career path, perhaps were lucky enough to continue doing that as sort of a hobby or you know, to keep that up.

But perhaps you’ve forgotten that long lost talent that you had. And that’s quite sad. Perhaps it’s just that you know, what, you’re kind of just on this conveyor belt now, and, and you don’t really care about the work you’re doing, or at least you feel like, you know, what you’ve kind of learned what you are going to learn. It’s not that challenging anymore. And now could be a good time to open up your eyes and do something different. So it’s just, you know, if you’re, if you’re missing out on opportunities, might you have regrets later, might you, you know, on your deathbed, the story to be picked up and look up, and look back and go, how on earth? Did I spend all that time in those meetings? And whatever, right. So, you know, are you on an excellent career path? If if you take the UK and I think we’re relatively unique in this regards, and you tend to study one thing, so it starts really all the way back at your university degree, geography, chemistry, and then you ended up working in finance, consulting, banking, whatever. And a lot of us did, you know, human rights and development and so on, and then ended up in something far more capitalist, and not so altruistic. For me, personally, I guess it went back to and I was super fascinated, super fascinated by career paths. When I was younger, I did all those career tests. I think at university, I was even careers advisor, the careers council at my school, and when I was considering which universities to apply to so in the UK, you applied to six, I think it was six on the UCAS application, and the universities. And she helped me apply to astrophysics and medicine, I say apply. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I did not study either of those subjects. So it did not apply to those, I instead took a gap year. And however, I the whole time wasn’t really sure what it wants to do. I was lucky, I suppose humblebrag here to be good at lots of different subjects, there was no clear path, it was kind of assumed that I’d go to university. And that was the academic background that my parents had an event and my mom’s parents, which was unusual for her generation had gone to university and had sort of high. High paid, I think there are particularly high paid but sort of semi academic professional degrees that was kind of assumed I never really considered anything else. But not really knowing where to focus on having an obvious calling. I felt easily just dissuaded by other people when they said, Oh, that’s not a good path, or you won’t, you know, be able to follow that or you know, you should study though. So I kind of was quite reactive to what other people says, I didn’t do a levels because I didn’t want to just choose three or four subjects. So I ended up doing the International Baccalaureate, I say ended up this was actually a very intentional rather than an accidental choice. But I did it because I didn’t want to make an intentional choice. So I studied. Let’s see if I can remember English, maths, physics and history at high levels that was kind of like an A level. And then German and Swedish as standard or subsidiary level.

I had wanted to study theatre studies. But unfortunately, there weren’t enough people who want to do that sniff so they go accidental, again, I ended up doing those languages. So that’s what I did it school and then took the gap year. And then I applied to PPE. So philosophy, politics and economics and did that at Oxford University. Again, great degree, lots of terrible politicians have come out of my college and that degree, but I did it because it was kind of broad. You know, I had no interest in politics or economics. Previously philosophy, yes. But it was kind of a degree that allowed me to use my history, but a maths and science logic and so on, you know, so it kind of kept my options open. I then rolled on into a postgraduate degree again, because I didn’t know what else to do. And then my accidental career started because I applied to, you know, nine out of 10 jobs or at the UN, nongovernmental organizations, that kind of thing. And then there’s sort of one job I did get and took was at Procter and Gamble in marketing. So that was sort of accidental now, for me, definitely. I had such an amazing time. It was the most incredible school. It’s opened up so many opportunities to me since then, and I met some amazing people, you know who you are. And again, I can’t really regret that time. I’m but that was very accidental. And it did always feel like there was a disconnect between that and what I wanted to do where I thought that I should be. And then secondly, even actually, when I made the intentional choice to leave, I kind of ended up with an accidental consulting career because I had a couple of friends colleagues, starting up a startup, I then had other x png colleagues who moved to other companies, and they kind of brought me on as a digital marketing expert.

So my skills were very much in demand. By the way, digital, I think, was a very accidental or be it, fortunate specialism, they just for whatever reason, was promoted into that role.

And because there was no one else, and it wasn’t necessarily I done lots of digital things, but it was an incredible opportunity. And obviously, all marketing is digital. These days, I worked with Google and Facebook, and, and YouTube and all sorts of had some really amazing experiences there again, but the consulting was very much accidental. I would even almost say that the coaching was accidental insofar as I, for my own personal development signed up to a coaching course not because I wanted to be a coach. But because I found it really fascinating. And I thought it’d be useful in terms of understanding myself and my own values and sort of self coaching, I think, must have been the initial intent. And so that kind of organically led to me loving that wanting to, you know, support other people with that new tool and techniques that I’d learned, as well as, as I started to write and blog about my own career process. And other people came to me and asked me for help. So that kind of became the foundation of the business, the podcasts and everything that you see in here today. So in a way, that whole path has been accidental. So that’s why I’m not really criticizing it. And there were some really big wake up calls along the way, right, leaving p&g. Of course, that was a big, intentional moment. But then it’s very easy to quickly go accidental again, and end up doing something that isn’t necessarily what you want to be doing. And then again, when I discovered coaching, again, that was kind of accidental, but the most incredible discovery, right? So you know, people will come to you, if you work yourself with opportunities that perhaps you wouldn’t have come up with yourself. But they’re super interesting. They fit with your values, and exciting opportunities that you didn’t know existed. And by all means, we can take those on, right. So I’m not saying when I’m sort of assessing, evaluating accidental career path, I’m not saying that it’s a terrible thing. And I hope you agree. But again, if you are worried about having regrets later, if you feel like there was something missing, then perhaps now’s a good time to kind of reflect on the past year, but also the past decade. For me, it’s 10 years since I left my marketing job corporate marketing job. So that’s a good moment, if, if never before to reflect on where I’ve come from, and then to look into the new year.

And really think about, okay, how can I go about being more intentional. So, you know, in terms of moving forwards from this discovery, that we have been on an accidental career path. First of all, be compassionate with yourself, don’t regrets what you’ve learned and experienced, because unfortunately, we can’t go back, I can’t go back as much as I’d like to, to go to a different university, perhaps. And I don’t want to honestly because of course, the experiences and everything that’s led me to where I am today, and but you know, oh, I wish I’d started this, I wish I’d gone to that country. I wish I’d taken that job. And so and that’s, that’s not very constructive, thinking. So be kind to yourself, and don’t worry about the past. In fact, by all means, look at the past and look at all the highlights and the amazing things you’ve experienced. And then thanks to those accidental choices, I’m going to call them although they’re not choices, insofar as being strategic, intentional, productive choices. So be kind to yourself, no regrets, first of all, but secondly, let’s set the intention. Now going forward, it’s that we are going to be more intentional, more reflective, more proactive, and ultimately more strategic if we can be right. So that’s a new decision, new resolution, if you will, for the coming months years to come. Especially when we get to a certain age, we’re like, you know what, you know, still plenty of years left to work, but I would like to make some different choices maybe. And then you can start the process, which is going to involve a lot of, you know, reflecting and thinking about, again, the past, think about the future, where you are, what you’re good at what you want, and so on.

And we can talk about that and we will in coming episodes, but just know that it’s the first step of you know, a long journey, which will have as the squiggly careers people say lots of squiggles along the way, right? That’s also sort of an accidental journey. Now, I don’t subscribe to the fully squiggly, messy knots of movements because I really do think we can get so much more you know, I’m a big fan of goals. And I think we can get so much more fulfillment, not to mention than the freedom flexibility that I talked about as well in terms of how we structure our career and our our work. If we’re in tend to make these choices right. And then we can’t, you know, it’s very disempowering to blame the past blame our parents, teachers, boss, whatever it is, right circumstances COVID, whatever we want to blame, it’s far more empowering to take ownership to not be a passenger. But to really pilot the plane or whatever mode of transport you want to think of as the metaphor for your, your career, maybe a beautiful sailing boat of beautiful yachts here on the ocean, taking us to Your Dream Island of paradise, that’s not so lovely.

So, I hope this has been an interesting reflection. I know it’s sort of an initial step and initial thoughts, rather than an action plan.

But that’s often just as important, if not more important to really reflect on, you know, to have that awareness of what’s going on what has been going on, and then to set that intention of doing things differently in the future. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. Are you on an accidental career path? Let me know. And you can of course, message me on your favorite social channel or email me at podcast at Nope. Yes, podcast, one step outside.com. podcast at one zero si.com. Thanks so much for listening. And I’ll see you next week. Bye for now. That point where you’re asking yourself, Is this really what I want to be doing the rest of my life? And the answer is a resounding no. But you’re not yet sure what you want to do and says, I get it. I was in your shoes back in 2013. When I took a good hard look at myself and my CV, and up until then I followed the conventional path. Good school, good university. Good job. I was also single while more and more friends around me were settling down with partners and babies. Now fast forward to today and I built a coaching and consulting business. I published two books with more on the way I’ve launched a podcast. But more than that, I’ve been able to travel the world. I’ve made more time for friends and family. And I’ve designed and shaped a location 10 business and a lifestyle that’s 100% tailored to my own personal definition of success. And I’ve also moved countries I’ve fallen in love and I’ve had two beautiful little children. So if you want to redefine what success looks like for you, then get in touch to book a call one step outside.com forward slash call one step five.com forward slash call and I would like to help you do just that.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

1:1 Coaching & Mentoring – If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring. onestepoutside.com/coaching


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If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring.



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