For most of recent history, job seekers were able to follow a straightforward path to solid employment. With advancements in technology and a shift toward the gig economy, there are now several routes to a satisfying career. Unconventional career paths can lead to job success with the right preparation.
In this article, we will explain what unconventional career paths are, why you should consider pursuing one and how to navigate the associated challenges with tips.
Related: 10 Best Jobs for a Career Change
What is an unconventional career path?
An unconventional career path is an unusual manner of creating a career or finding a job. Generally, unconventional careers paths can be sorted into one of three categories:
Unconventional career path one
Those on the first unconventional career path spend the early part of their work-life trying many jobs. This leads to a scattered job history with little cohesion. At some point, this group might decide they want a traditional career and have to find a way to explain how their experiences qualify them for their desired position.
Unconventional career path two
Those on the second unconventional career path begin their careers working in traditional settings but decide they are interested in a different career, often one that involves working for themselves in some capacity. This group must find a way to transition from working for a company to supporting themselves and a growing business.
Unconventional career path three
Those on the third unconventional career path know from the start of their working life that they are interested in pursuing a non-traditional career. This might include working remotely as a freelancer or inventing a new product. This group must find a way to foster a career away from the traditional supports of an established company. Some recent graduates are finding themselves on this path due to the prevalence of the gig economy and the overabundance of job seekers with bachelor's degrees.
Why should you pursue an unconventional career path?
While unconventional career paths may present some challenges, they can lead to abundant happiness and success. People who choose to pursue an unconventional career tend to enjoy their work and find great personal reward in their career choice. Unconventional careers often allow workers to choose when and where they work leading to the ideal work-life balance for the worker. Other benefits include:
- The possibility of a high salary
- Interesting job opportunities
- Job satisfaction
- Learning new skills
Related: How To Change Careers
How to navigate an unconventional career path
Regardless of which unconventional career path you are on, these steps can help you navigate the path to success:
1. Determine your goals
Begin by establishing your long-term goals. What do you want to do? Who do you want to work for? From there, you can set short-term goals necessary to help you reach your end objectives.
2. Research the industry
Find out all you can about your industry. Even in unconventional career paths, there will be others who have met or are striving to reach similar goals. Learn how those who have achieved success in your industry did so. Talk with others in the industry to see how they established their careers.
3. Volunteer and network
Once you know what your goals are and how to get there, go out and make connections. Networking and volunteering are great ways to meet important industry players who may be able to help you find work. Volunteering also gives you experience if you are moving into a new industry.
4. Write a strong resume
When you are ready to apply for a job, you will need an excellent resume. Make sure your resume is eye-catching for the hiring manager. Use your previous work experience to highlight transferable skills if you are moving into a new field. Write concisely and use action-oriented language.
5. Write a compelling cover letter
Resumes are great overviews of your skills and experience, but a cover letter is where you can explain your passions, goals and qualifications in-depth. Cover letters are especially important while on an unconventional career path. Use your cover letter to answer any questions you think the hiring manager might have about your work history, experience or goals.
6. Use your connections
When applying for positions, use the connections you built while volunteering and networking to help you find openings. Connections can also be great references for hiring managers to contact.
Keep these tips in mind as you travel your unconventional career path:
- Accept discomfort: The first steps on an unconventional career path can be challenging. Accept before you begin that there will be moments of discomfort as you learn about your chosen industry and work your way towards a satisfying career.
- Have a plan: Make a plan to reach your goals. Your plan may shift and change as you learn and grow, but it is important to always know what you are working towards.
- Remain confident: Unconventional career paths do not have the same supports that traditional careers do. Keep confident in yourself and your plan. Research and learn so that you can make the best decisions to reach your goals.
- Keep your day job: It may take time to find a job in your industry that pays enough to support you and your family. Keep your day job or find flexible work that covers your costs as you pursue your long-term career goals.
- Make sacrifices: You may have to make material sacrifices as you begin your travels down the unconventional career path. Limit your spending so that you can use your resources to support your career goals.
- Build a support system: Find people who support your goals. A support system is vital in remaining consistent and focused in times of challenge. Your support system can be family, friends or others in your industry, but ensure that they are positive and will champion your ambitions.