It’s Okay to Pursue Several Career Paths

021211-its-okay-to-pursue-multiple-career-pathsDear J.T. & Dale: I enrolled in college with the goal of becoming a physical therapist. After my freshman year, I signed up for the Navy. But after an extended trip to Mexico, I decided I was too young to dedicate all those years of service. I started an office job, but being cooped up in a cubicle eight hours a day was driving me crazy! I tried my hand at eBay auctions but went into debt. Now I have a good job and am also going to school to be an architect. But I can’t stop imagining how happy and fulfilled I would be as a physical therapist. If I change my major again, it will be like wasting two years of study. I’m 25, and my peers have solid careers while I’m still trying to finish school. — Simon

Dale: Most people don’t really choose a career path; they stumble into a job and then keep trudging along the path of least resistance. You, however, have chosen to travel life’s journey with my old friends, Mr. Trial and Mr. Error, life’s slow teachers. Their lessons are hidden within the story you write together. Perhaps their Big Lesson for you is this: You’re not going to be content doing one thing all day, every day. But isn’t that what physical therapy would be? Perhaps you should explore careers that are project-based, ones where you finish and move on, which includes everything from consulting to advertising to making movies.

J.T.: Ask yourself this, Simon: Would you like to trade places with your peers who have “solid careers?” My guess is “no.” If I’m right, you may have what career expert Ilona Vanderwoude calls a “Renaissance Personality,” blessed with highly diverse skills and interests. She recommends a hybrid career. In your case, this would mean pursuing more than one passion, perhaps by working part-time as a physical-therapy assistant while continuing to study architecture. There are no rules that say “only one career per person.” [You can find more about Vanderwoude and Renaissance Personalities at]

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm,, and of the career management blog, Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with Please visit them at, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2011 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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