Generations ago, most people would begin down a single career path and follow that through to retirement. In recent decades, the economy has changed and evolved so rapidly that those old, linear career paths have become a rarity. The 21st century has shown more flexibility in allowing people to change jobs and careers far more often than in the past. 

If you are considering that type of non-linear career path, it is essential to know how to take the proper steps to find success. Many believe professionals understand where they want to go and how to get there. But in reality, most of us end up walking a non-linear career path that brings us places we could never have envisioned.

Living in the age of the “episodic career,” people in the corporate sector discover the focus is less on reaching a specific long-term career goal and more on taking the opportunity to explore and grow as an individual. Many people in the workforce want to try multiple industries before they settle down on a single path or switch directions from their original post-grad route.

But can a non-linear career trajectory succeed in the long run? Well, it did for me and can for you too. Without further ado, let’s jump into unwinding the swirl of navigating an out-of-the-box path:

Mind your mindset

Being successful in an unconventional career path demands uniqueness and 

an unconventional approach to everything. When discussing the opposite of orthodox, your thinking methodologies should always correlate to something distinct. You could be a product manager or tech professional trying your hand at filmmaking or a philosopher trying to make it big in investment. Since it’s about mindset, make sure to avoid bizarre judgments.

Without clearly defined goalposts that a non-linear career provides, you have to be able to measure and evaluate your progress. Additionally, it can’t be overstated that you need the right mindset for success. A common pitfall while pursuing an alternative route is getting caught up in what you “should” be doing.

I’ll agree – comparing yourself to your peers and their clear-cut moves is pretty tempting, but remember to have faith in yourself and be proud that you’re forging a new path. If the nagging voice gets a little too loud, remind yourself that with a non-linear journey, success won’t happen overnight. My golden advice is to keep your spirit high and put faith in your steps – even missteps because they are opportunities to grow and learn further.

Build a network and establish connections

Stepping out of your comfort zone is complex; for others, socializing becomes the ultimate surviving key in any business sphere. Since we live in a society, it is well-known that everyone has a support system and network that helps them thrive. While opting for an unconventional approach, never presume that you have to figure it out solo. You will always find like-minded people who might become your mentors, advisors, inspiration, and co-workers. I have learned from my professional journey that growing your professional network is a blessing in disguise. Building a network can provide potential connections to your next step and leave you with camaraderie and support. Here is a pro tip: start finding your peers by joining groups on LinkedIn related to your industry or long-term goals.

Continue honing and developing your skill set.

It may seem obvious, but one of the best ways to travel smoothly across industries or titles is to polish transferable skills. For starters, a transferable skill is an ability or expertise used in various roles or occupations like communication, problem-solving, leadership, etc. Accumulating these social skills is a great way to have that sideways mobility that can round out your experience. While it may seem like a significant endeavor, it can make all the difference because you might have more transferable skills than you know.

Embrace the unpredictability

It’s 2022, and if the past year has taught us anything, life is unpredictable. From battling the pandemic to facing the burn of economic inflation, there is no denying that things can change in a blink. The odds of unpredictability multiply when you choose a non-linear path. It can be uncomfortable but do your best to embrace the twists and turns. My best advice? Keep an open mind about new opportunities, and don’t shy away from something that will allow you to learn or grow – personally or professionally.

Also, one thing that I vouch for is to let yourself celebrate wins. Share your professional accomplishments with your network on LinkedIn, and go out with friends to celebrate landing a new role or award. Even if you are not standing at the top of the ladder, every success is worth celebrating.

Bottom line

If you think an unconventional career path might be the right choice, start considering your first steps. One of the best ways to find guidance on your career path is to connect with an experienced professional from a field – a mentor. They can help you take the next step in your career journey non-linear!