Since we’re on the topic of professional discontent, job changes and career trajectory, I thought I’d share an article that resonated deeply at the time when I wrote this and this. It’s a short piece by Amy Poehler on a summer she spent scooping ice cream as a teenager. You can read it here.
In the midst of her narrative there are two bits of career advice that I have reminded myself of time and again and have passed on to others who are navigating professional growth, changes and setbacks.
“I wasn’t sure yet that I wanted to be an actor. I was planning to go to Boston College as an English major and maybe become a teacher, like both of my parents. But when I stood in the dining room and demanded attention I was reminded of things I already secretly knew about myself. I wasn’t shy, I liked to be looked at, and making people laugh released a certain kind of hot lava into my body that made me feel like a queen.”
Stated another way, what do you secretly know about yourself and what makes you feel like you have lava pulsing through your veins?
“I quit when the summer ended. I had started forgetting to charge for whipped cream. I was failing to use the ice scoop. A customer told me I was banging the drum “too hard.” She was right. I was angry; I wanted to be gone. It’s important to know when it’s time to turn in your kazoo.”
Stated another way, know when it’s time to exit.
I find the story simplistic and relatable, yet challenging and confronting. What I love about this piece is the theme of honesty with ourselves – acknowledging what we already know to be true about who we are, working to define then enact our passions, having the self-awareness to know when to leave, and knowing where our time is best spent and our presence is best suited.
I think what Amy Poehler is really advising is authenticity and the courage to pursue what we come to know to be true about ourselves. The title is instructive here, as the hard work of becoming who we truly are and aligning our professional trajectory with our true selves will never be easy. But, the cost of inertia — of mindlessly or disingenuously pressing on – is far higher. So I agree with Amy: go ahead, take your licks.