Whether you are still at school, at the start of your career or maybe just dissatisfied with where you currently are professionally, it helps to think of life as a journey that does not have to be clearly mapped out or make sense from the outset. What is important is what you learn from each station and the decisions you make or even revise along the way.
The following is a recount of my personal journey to where I am today. You will see there is a reason that my Instagram and Facebook profile names contain the word “Lebenswege”, which is German for “life journey”.
I am never going to be a teacher
When I graduated from school in 1992, the guide at the jobcenter advised me to choose chemistry as a profession. My long term goal was to “do something about our environmental problems”, but he told me that this way I would get a “broader horizon”.
So I went to study chemistry at the Carl-von-Ossietzky-University of Oldenburg and loved everything about it. Back then, I met my former chemistry school teacher and solemnly vowed to him that I would never, ever become a teacher 😉
Being a researcher is not what I had in mind
My Diplom thesis was about heavy metals in soils and I spent the time researching for it at the agricultural campus of the University of Nottingham. Before that, I had spent three months on an Erasmus exchange in Derby, where I had fallen in love with Great Britain, the language, the culture and the people.
For my graduate studies, I enrolled at King’s College, London in 1998. There, as part of my PhD thesis, I looked into hydrates and wax crystals which form in natural gas and crude oil pipelines. Even though I still enjoyed life in England, in 2002 I decided to move back to Germany to be closer to my family again.
I spent two years at the University of Potsdam as a post-doc working on sensors for measuring protein C in blood. Soon I realised that the expectations within the academic system were for me to spout buzzwords and make noise to rake in grant money. This was completely add odds with my personality. The thing I enjoyed most was teaching students and supervising their laboratory classes, which should have given me a hint or two. My overall dissatisfaction with my life as a researcher soon led me to leave this job.
Looks like I am going to be a teacher after all
After moving to Brunsbüttel, another on of my great loves, I started remotely studying “applied environmental sciences” at the University of Koblenz, cut short when I saw an ad by the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Education for lateral entrants into teaching at schools here.
From 2005 to 2007 I did teacher training in Glinde. Afterwards, I worked at schools in Dithmarschen. I found that (contrary to my promise to my former teacher years ago) teaching was exactly my thing, as was the extra training as a reading coach. However, the bureaucracy and restrictions on how I was to do my job were not. Eventually, it was time for another reorientation.
Coaching as an extension of my repertoire
From 2012 to 2014 (parallel to my teaching at schools), I did training in systemic coaching with Conzendo. This course was transformative. For the first time in my life, I failed an exam at the first try. At the same time, I experienced the joy of accompanying people through tricky processes. My plan back then was to terminate my teaching contract and just do professional coaching.
Eventually finding my place
What actually transpired, was that since 2014 I have been self-employed as a professional teacher and tutor, cooperating with the adult education center in Brunsbüttel, the tutoring institute “Studienkreis” (for the Elmshorn, Quickborn und Krupunder branches) and the Lerncoaches in Halstenbek.
Currently, I am close to finishing the Danish course and enjoy brushing up my French on Duolingo. I am looking forward to all the new knowledge and expertise I am going to pick up in the coming years. It very much looks like I myself will never be done learning.
Conclusions from my journey
My journey did not exactly take me where I had set out to be. Looking back, I could not be happier and all the stations on my way were transformative stepping stones. I took valuable lessons from being a researcher, a school teacher and a coach, as well as a lifelong avid learner myself. Now, I get to accompany and support others through their learning processes and exams.
If you are not sure about what you want to do five years from now or are confused about if you chose the right path, I am here to tell you a few things from my experiences:
- Nobody has to have it all sorted from the start. You are allowed to make adjustments along the way.
- You don’t have to let certificates or diplomas dictate what you do for a living.
- If you feel sad on a Sunday, and celebrate each Friday, take stock and see what you can change.
- Nobody is irreplaceable. You don’t have to stay in a position just to “not let the team down”.
- When you find the place you are meant to be, you will know. You will do your work with a smile on your face.
I wish you (and everybody else) that you may find this special place in life where you can do what you love and what you are excellent at for people who appreciate you. That you find this place sooner rather than later but also that your journey to this place may be educational and amazing.
What about you? Was your career also far from a straight line? Did you also pick up many different lessons to combine them in your very own special toolbox?