Is It Possible to Stumble into Your Dream Career by “Accident”?

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By Stacey Aaronson

During a time when scores of people are facing a pivot in their careers—or even complete reinvention—after so much upheaval has rendered unplanned fresh starts, is it possible that such a shake-up could carry a serendipitous consequence: to bring people into alignment with their true gifts?

If you’re one who has recently lost a job, or had to close your brick-and-mortar business, this is likely a time of unrest, and understandably so. None of us enjoys being forced out of the familiar, or suddenly losing a relied-upon income. For some, those stakes can be tremendously high, throwing people into despair and even depression. But what if it were possible that this change had more significant meaning than you realized?

Though my unmooring came about a decade ago, when my position leading a boutique retail company was phased out after the 2008 recession, it was no less scary than the situation many are in right now. I was thrown into a pool of innumerable applicants during the highest unemployment period since the Great Depression, where I spent a full year applying thoughtfully for jobs I was certain would land me my next great career move. Yet, I heard almost nothing but crickets, leaving me wholly dumbfounded and defeated. How, I wondered, could I come so professionally and educationally equipped with my noteworthy years of experience and score a sum total of six interviews, none of which panned out?

When I got real with myself, I knew I’d stayed in my last position two years longer than I should have. I’d been receiving whispers that it was time for me to move on, but I ignored them in favor of familiarity and nice hours, despite feeling I was no longer aligned with the direction my job had taken. When the timer buzzed at zero, however, and I had no choice but to leave, I actually got excited about the new career adventure I’d embark on that would surely be fulfilling. Until, that is, a year stretched by, my savings were long gone, and no one seemed interested in what I had to offer.

Or so I thought.

My problem wasn’t being unqualified, or even overqualified, it was that life was telling me loud and clear that I was meant for something greater than I was pursuing—something that would allow me to use the talents I’d come here with but had never fully activated in the way I was capable.

From an early age, I had a penchant for language and an uncommon obsession with grammar, which naturally fed my passion for writing and storytelling. But based on the gloomy picture a teacher painted for me of what it could look like to be a starving writer or an underappreciated, overworked editor for a publishing house, I chose to personally revel in those talents when they came in handy (and they often did) but not pursue either one professionally. Ditto for my self-taught skills as a graphic designer.

But now, here I was, with twenty years of excellent experience that wasn’t magnetizing me toward that new dream job. Did I think this was the time to depart from that hard-earned expertise in leadership roles and completely reinvent myself using talents I possessed and loved? At the time, no. In fact, it felt irresponsible not to capitalize on my tried-and-true skills. What’s more, I wasn’t sure what my “fresh career” would look like.

And that’s when life allowed me to stumble into my dream career by “accident.” 

I was more than ready to pursue a path that would utilize my untapped gifts, but I needed help knowing what that might look like. So, I put my desire out into the Universe, and within a short time, an offer to design an author’s book cover came my way. That one opportunity led to creating both a book cover and interior for another author, and then editing and designing a full book for the next. After throwing myself into further self-study on stellar book production and the burgeoning self-publishing platforms, my new career was born. That was a decade ago. I’ve now been gleefully and gratefully involved in the full or partial production of over 220 books, several of them winning notable independent book awards.

Looking back to that defeating time when it seemed I couldn’t get a single door to open for me, it’s clear that had I been hired for any of the jobs I’d applied for—and truly believed I was perfect for—I would have never been forced to reinvent myself in an arena where I would finally be aligned with my talents in an unforeseen, timely, and unprecedented way.

Sometimes life is like that. When we don’t heed that little voice telling us we’ve worn out the path we’re on and it’s time to take a bold step onto a new one, the shake-up to wake up can feel devastating and even brutal. But when you realize there’s actually benevolence in the nudging, however deflating it may feel in the moment, it can open a whole world of possibility, one that’s eagerly pulling the curtain back for one or more of your gifts to at last have the chance to shine.

Stacey Aaronson is the founder of The Book Doctor Is In, where she takes writers by the hand as a ghostwriter, editor, book and website designer, and publishing partner to bring books of excellence to life. She is also author of the memoir Raising, and Losing, My Remarkable Teenage Mother. Stacey lives on Whidbey Island, WA, with her soul mate of twenty-one years, Dana, and their rescued Maine Coon kitty. Visit Stacey at www.thebookdoctorisin.com and www.staceyaaronson.com.