I am approaching my 30th birthday. These are my last four weeks of my 20s and I look back and think: wow time really has passed by so fast. I don't feel like I'm nearly 30 and luckily the older I get the less I care about my age.
I don't miss those years of confusion and self-doubt that have marked my 20s. They say enjoy it while you can, your 20s are the best time of your life." Not so for me. And not so for a lot of other women I meet in their 30s who say their 20s were marked by what some people call the, "quarter life crisis" and a hell of a lot of confusion about career choices and options.
I was told to pursue a successful career, work my way up the ladder and gain experience.
In return I would receive a safe job, a paycheck, supposedly interesting projects, a few days of paid holidays a year, and opportunities to develop." This is what I call the conventional career route. After completing University in 2010 I did what most people my age do (or think they should do): follow a conventional career path, find a job in a big organization and work my way up the ladder.
Like many young people I was taught to fit in, get a good job and work hard.
I did not last very long.
Conventionality has never really worked for me.
At age 22 -- entering the working world as an intern in a big financial services company, I HATED the working world. I hated being stuck in an office, tied to a cubicle, doing work that to me, had no meaning or purpose, being told what to do by someone less competent and smart than I thought I was (yes, call me full of myself but at age 22 I thought I knew more than my boss), following stupid instructions and accepting things that made no sense to me. Even though I did not have the experience of some of my older peers I could somehow see the underlying problems within the organization. I knew the system was dysfunctional, not the people in it.
Looking back and seeing how far I have come in those years, I realize over and over again that I was simply different. I always felt different, thought different, yet I was not taught that being different, challenging the status quo and breaking free from conventions is something that I could do.
I left the corporate world in 2013 feeling a like a complete failure to the system. Secretly I admired all those hard-working people that went to work every day, following instructions and thinking that what they were given was what they had to accept as their reality.
Back then I so badly wanted to be one of them and fit in. Because fitting in was all I knew. It made me feel like I had an identity, like I was normal. Today I realize that listening to myself, learning to trust my own inner voice and deciding against pursuing a conventional career was and is the best thing I ever did.
I am part of a generation of people who want to work differently. Young, talented, ambitious people who have apparently done it all "right," obtained the qualifications they were told to obtain, gotten jobs, worked their way up the ladder. People with a deep longing to do meaningful work.
However somewhere along the lines we got stuck in jobs that don't really fulfill us, jobs that don't feel like they really have a purpose. Yet we stick to them because we are told that in order to "make it" in our society, we must stay in a safe job and work our way up the career ladder.
But what if we could re-define success and what work actually means to us? What if we could find new ways of living and working in ways that allow us to express our true talents whilst being a contribution to the world?
"A lot to ask for," you may think. And in fact, this is what people around me have repeatedly told me: "You are asking for too much. Get real." This is what society teaches us. Accepting mediocrity just because it is the safest, most established, conventional route to take.
I ask: when did it become normal to ask for too little? When did it become the norm to be rewarded for fitting in and suppressing our true potential?
Over the years I have seen that I am not the only person with an urge for more impact, purpose and freedom in my work and life. I meet and speak to so many people from all over the world who have the same desire as me: to do the work that they want to do and to contribute in innovative and creative ways. Yet they don't feel that this is possible because the organizations they work for do not reward unconventional thinking.
After years of struggling in a system that values complacency, fitting in and maintaining the status quo, I decided that it is OK to want something different for myself. It is ok to want more and to desire a more fulfilling life.
If like me a couple of years ago, you are yearning to pursue a different path, I encourage you to go and follow that instinct. There is a big need to change the way we think about and define living and working. Conventional career routes have been what society has labeled as the way forward. But more and more people are seeing the need for new and different ways of working. Conventional career routes aren't the only way. They may work for some people but they don't for a lot of others, including myself. And that is ok.
Mounia is a transformational coach and mentor, creative visionary and change catalyst. She helps people break free from conventions that no-longer serve them and build a life that feels 100% authentic. She is all about helping people build a compelling vision for their life, live freely and unconventionally and most importantly, uncovering and living their true potential so that they can be a contribution to the world. You can find her on www.mouniabg.com or connect with her on Facebook.