A few weeks back I keynoted a conference about how we can innovate our careers. The conference was the invention of Kimberly Maki, who has herself done many innovations. She grew up on the technology side of broadband, then held non-profit leadership posts, and now is coaching and consulting.

Since the audience was largely women, I shared research from Work360, an organization that did the largest survey to date on working mothers and COVID-19. One quarter of the over 500 women surveyed said they wanted to make a “fresh start” in their careers.  Of those:

  • 60% are looking for a new Full-time role with better flexibility, benefits and career opportunities
  • 20% will take a break to care for their kids
  • 10% will look for a Part-time role
  • 10% will move to become self-employed

These statistics are just a microcosm of what’s going on nationally today.

As for me, I’ve been in the business of career innovation my whole life. In my 20’s, I moved four times with HBO for new work and new cities to explore, being an untraveled Michigander who hadn’t seen much beyond her own stateside experience.

All told, I’ve had eleven jobs working for three companies. I’ve shifted and recharged my work over the years, out of both restlessness and curiosity. As a senior leader, I once asked for a four-day workweek and was granted it, with reduced pay. That was a failed experiment—I worked harder than ever for less money. Don’t try that.  Today, you can set yourself up with parameters, like on those reduced days, you won’t check email. That’s a big one.

I’m happy to honestly say that with those eleven jobs in corporate America, I made my own path. I’m still making it today, as I write books to help others develop their best selves in work and in life. Who knows what my next career will be?

This is what I want for you too–to give yourself permission to create your own path. You might stumble and fall, but you’ll surprise yourself by the resiliency you have, deep in your soul. You have this moment in time to leverage how you want to work, and more fundamentally, what you want to do.

Yesterday I was visiting with students at a large public university (in the same room, not virtually!) and met some fascinating young adults. One was a senior who’s majoring in jazz trombone. Another is getting a degree in astrophysics. I also met a young woman who is graduating in digital marketing, and she wants to build websites, but she’s an artist too, and sells her art on Instagram.

It would be a crying shame to have any of these young adults sit as dead weight at some desk job. They’re getting ready to follow their passions. They will do as the poet Rumi says: “Let what you love be what you do.”

Will you?