How To Talk About Your Non-Traditional Career Goals

How To Talk About Your Non-Traditional Career Goals

The future of work is changing. Whether you are freelancing, starting your own nonprofit, or happily employed at an established organization, there are more ways than ever to design your own professional path, transition between fields, and create an impact.

But the range of opportunities can be tricky to navigate and even more challenging to articulate to others. Once you’ve figured out the right path, how do you share your hopes and dreams with friends and family?

Here’s how to describe, design, and pursue your non-traditional goals with clarity and confidence, even if you still feel like a work in progress.

Explain why “non-traditional” is the new traditional

The typical 9-to-5 arrangement is slowly being displaced by the rise of the “gig economy,” a labor market made up of short-term contract and freelance work. So learning how to create your own professional opportunities and keep yourself financially stable through a variety of professional and personal transitions has become a critical professional skill. Many people are finding ways to monetize their experience in the social-impact sector by finding shorter-term oppotunities on platforms like, Upwork, and Wethos.

According to a 2016 study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, independent workers now make up between 20-30% of the working age population in the United States, with some seeing it as an opportunity to pursue non-traditional careers, be a pioneer in an emerging field, avoid the stresses and bureaucracy of an office environment, or achieve a better work-life balance.

3 ways to build a strong narrative around your career goals

  1. Test your pitch. The first step to making your non-traditional career a reality is to speak about it as if it were already real. Talk about the career path that you are forging in the first person with anyone who will listen, especially those who don’t know you. When a person you meet at a party or networking event inevitably asks “What do you do?” this is your chance to get comfortable with the language you want to use to describe your talents and aspirations.
  2. Prioritize lifelong learning. Forging your own career path requires you to be especially proactive about learning, maintaining, and advancing your professional skill set. One way to do this is through MOOCs or massive open online courses. You can take classes year-round for free (or for a nominal fee) with some of the best instructors at universities around the world. Some popular platforms to find useful career resources and courses include Idealist Careers, Coursera, Stanford Social Innovation Review, TED-Ed, Skillshare, and Medium. Also keep in mind that valuable learning experiences are not limited to the academic space. Consider experiential and hands-on learning opportunities as well, like those offered by Yestermorrow Design/Build School and the Creative Circus.
  3. Create your own board of directors. A personal board of directors is a group that can include your mentors, personal cheerleaders, brainstorming partners, and people who are comfortable providing constructive criticism even when you aren’t asking for it. Your board should include at least one person with a background in the area you are pursuing, but having a diversity of professions adds perspectives.

It’s your life to live

It takes courage and determination to do something unconventional in search of your true purpose. Some people in your life may not understand your choices, but remember that it is your life and you owe it to yourself to pursue the work that your find challenging and fulfilling.

Did you enjoy this post? There's plenty more where this came from! Subscribe here for updates.

by Lauren Graham

Explore Jobs on Idealist