Curvy Careers

I opened my email inbox to find a super exciting invitation! I was invited to speak to a graduate class at Teachers College, Columbia University. This class about advanced research methods and design propelled me into my current career; so to present to current students about my research and job was such an honor! Seeing this invitation, however, flooded my memory with the uncertainty about my career that had plagued me at that time. Prior to that class, my career trajectory was unknown - a feeling that is, unfortunately, all too relatable now with the COVID-19 pandemic, upending careers and causing the loss of millions of jobs. Such unexpected upheaval has left many unsure of their careers and maybe even looking to explore alternative career paths. After two radical career shifts, I am fortunate to have ended up at Frontier Signal with a job that I really enjoy. Our mission at Frontier Signal is to help all people find meaningful work; so I thought it could be useful for me to share my story about making big career changes and the key learnings I got from them. 

Make a change if something isn’t working for you

I first pursued an undergraduate degree in archaeology, and although still a passion of mine, I knew I didn’t want to pursue a career in archeology, so I thought education could be a good alternative. But, upon nearly completing my master’s degree in education, I again realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me. Now what? I knew I wasn’t going to stay with education just because I had once thought it looked like a good idea. I now knew that it wasn’t, so I had to make a change, but what should that change be?

No learning will go to waste

I reflected on the skills I had. I had conducted several different types of scientific research projects from controlled experiments in middle and high school to archeological excavations in college and observational studies for my education Masters. I had a strong, diverse background in scientific research and always found those projects interesting. Therefore, I concluded that looking into career opportunities in research could be the way to go. I proceeded to meet with a professor who specialized in quantitative research and who offered a class that looked interesting. I hadn’t taken an advanced math class in years though, so I left the meeting with instructions to teach myself cover-to-cover the content of an advanced statistics textbook to prepare myself for the coursework. Upon demonstrating to him that I had worked through that textbook, I could enroll in the class. 

Apply yourself 

I set aside hours every day to do a section of that textbook and returned to his office with a large notebook, containing all the notes I had taken from working through that textbook - I was admitted to the class! This course was challenging, but I had decided to explore a career in research, and I was determined to develop my quantitative research skills. Therefore, I stayed focused, immersing myself in the coursework and referring to online resources for help as necessary. 

Make your own path

I did well in the class and decided that I could see myself having a career in research, so I was committed to creating opportunities for me to hone my research skills. After completing that class, I asked the professor to join his research group, which I knew would afford me invaluable experience. He admitted me into his group, and my work in that group led to my current job at Frontier Signal, where I’ve drawn on my diverse background to help build a product that helps everyone find meaningful work, just like myself!

Topics: Careers, learning and development

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