intentional careers

Over the past few days I’ve had three important conversations with friends about various careers paths. Upon reflection, it has occurred to me that I have not shared my views on career life and intentionality.

In a world where people, women especially, face a vast array of career choices, there seems to have risen an equally vast array of judgment and ridicule.

No longer is it assumed that women will stay at home, go to work, have kids, or even get married.

And while we could be celebrating this freedom in our society, it seems that each camp faces ridicule from another.

Stay at home moms feel uncomfortable explaining what they “do” in social settings, corporate women are bombarded with criticism about their maternity leave (or lack of one), and the blogging community seems to overemphasize self-employment.

But the truth is that when it comes to living a life with intention, there is no magic bullet career path for every person.

Every career decision has trade-offs and opportunity costs. And when it comes to designing a life with intention, this is not a problem. Intentionality implies that we have the ability to personally select from a variety of choices the one that best suits our current life and long-term legacy. It does not mean that choosing every answer under the sun will leave us most satisfied.

Removing unfulfilling layers is what creates a high quality life, not adding complication due to unnecessary stress and societal expectations.

There truly is no single “right” answer for every person’s career.

The world does not need more CEO’s, stay at home moms, part-time corporate workers, or self-employed business owners.

The world needs more people operating out of joy, freedom, purpose, and intention with support from the community at large. 

My hope is that over time as more and more people start selecting a life worth living, according to their internal compass, the more the world will begin to see that people from all walks of life in all career (and non-career) paths can live with joy, peace, and personal fulfillment.

That is what we are set on this Earth to accomplish. Trying to argue about which career path is best for everyone is futile and missing the point.

We are meant to help others. It doesn’t matter if we are in a board room, a play room, or a school room.

It’s time we start seeking to understand people’s positive and well-meaning goals and motivations and then celebrate their fearless pursuit of those aims.

The rest is just details.


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  1. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. This post reminded me of the recent piece by Barnard College President Debora Spare:

    Living in Europe has taught me to see that women in the States really do have a harder time getting the “best of both worlds” as a mother and career woman. Social systems here help support a woman’s career = it would be nice to see the same support widely endorsed back home.

  2. Well said Jess! I had a somewhat similar conversation with my mom recently. She had gone to dinner with some friends and most of their children were battling some sort of depression. It led to a discussion on the shift in expectations between her generation and mine, especially for women. She had a society driven purpose as she was growing up, get married, have children, raise a family. My generation (I’m 30) has been encouraged to find a purpose which can be overwhelming when you think there must be one thing out there that I must be doing. This is why I love the message of finding joy, happiness, and personal fulfillment. Whether you are a stay at home mom, CEO, etc…if you’ve found your joy, then I say your on the right track.

  3. Good point, Jess. I have been struggling as I’m in the midst of going back to school part time and working almost full time as to whether or not what I’m heading into is the right thing. With the economy as it is, it’s easy to say “well, I should probably just go into nursing or accounting or something along those lines because that’s where the jobs are” rather than “I’m going into X because this is what I feel passionate about.” It’s just a scary place to be and hard to put yourself out there not knowing if the job will be there in the end. But I suppose if we’re passionate enough, we can create our own opportunities in any field of work.

  4. olivia

    That is a wonderful post. I can completely relate at this point in my life so this helps put it into perspective.

  5. I think this might be my favorite post yet.

    “The world needs more people operating out of joy, freedom, purpose, and intention with support from the community at large.”

    this, I imagine, would have a particularly huge impact if applied and emphasized to 8th grade girls. (and refreshed several times thru out high school). thank you Jess.

  6. Jess – this is SUCH a well-written post, and I am totally with you on that. I also struggled with that a lot, especially after the birth of my first daughter. I was on the career-track before that, and then everything was sort of turned upside down….for the better, I realized after a while. You are so right, we really don’t have to answer to anybody’s expectations – yet it’s hard sometimes to ignore the talks. Love reading your blog!

  7. Celise

    Thank you so much for this post. As an unemployed 22 year old, just out of college, with still no clue what she wants to do in life, this post came as a relief for me. I realized that I’m thinking way too far in terms of the future, rather than focusing on what I want to accomplish right now. Reading this has made me think about the most important part about choosing a career path– doing something that makes me happy.

    I’ve been a reader of your blog for almost a year now, and I always enjoy your posts. Just had to say thank you for this one in particular! 🙂

  8. Kerry

    I really needed to read this today! I often feel pulled in different directions when talking to my mom, friends, and bloggers. I really need to find what is right for me and pursue it and I hope I can encourage others to do the same!

  9. This is fantastic, Jess. I’m in the process of figuring out exactly what services that I want to offer for my creative business. I want to make sure that I’m choosing things that I WANT to do rather than things I CAN do. Thanks for the inspiration and emphasizing the “support” part.

  10. Joanna

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Well said.

    Imagine if everyone just did what made them happy, chased their dream instead of someone else’s. The world would be a much different place. A much happier place.

    I’m excited that through my coaching practice I can help women uncover what it is they really want to do and then honor that desire in their lives.

  11. kelsey

    Thank you for helping me realize that being a part of the blog community has made me desire self-employment and being a stay-at-home-mom to the point where it may be unhealthy.

    I recently got to a point where I knew I had to remove an unfulfilling layer from my life. I haven’t publicly announced this yet, but I just got a new job where I will be working four days a week instead of my current five. I am so excited to get another weekday to spend with Rooney!

  12. Jess

    I’m so happy to hear I’m in good company when it comes to supporting people of all career and non-career walks of life!

    Hopefully over time more and more people will be this way as well. We all deserve acceptance and support in these important – and personal – decisions.

  13. Sarah

    Great post, Jess! I’m beginning the transition to a new career, so this is timely advice. It’s hard not to do what my parents, friends, or “society” thinks is best (all three being very different options). In fact, it was my pursuit of trying to please others that led me to this point. It’s time to do what’s right for me and makes me happy.

  14. Rachel

    Thank you! Oh I so needed this right at this moment. Extremely well-written. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  15. I’m so glad I found your blog – I really needed to hear this today. I’ve been struggeling with my career path a lot lately, especially now since I just found out I didn’t get a job I had two great interviews with. I wasn’t sure I wanted the job, but I was disappointed that they didn’t pick me. It’s hard for me to be patient and know that God is working on this for me.

    But, I’ve been trying to focus on a career that has intention and is local. Thank you so much for sharing. =)

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