Strategies & Tactics

The Fantastic Journey: Lessons From a Career-Transitioning Road Trip

April 1, 2019

[andrea hill]
[andrea hill]

After five years at “The Happiest Place on Earth,” I made the decision to leave The Walt Disney Co. in California and move back across the country to my hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

Many were surprised by my choice, as I’d been somewhat of a rising star at Disney. I had just completed a stint representing the company as an ambassador on a national tour to find jazz musicians and bring them to Disneyland for a special music group. It seemed like I was just getting started at the company.

I didn’t exactly plan to leave, nor did I know where I was going next. I just knew it was time for a career transition. I said bittersweet goodbyes, packed my bags and set my sights on the long road ahead.

After many hours of reflection, here are the top five things the experience taught me about making career transitions:

1. Everyone will think you’re crazy.

No matter what you do, people will have opinions on your life and the decisions you make. After I received my master’s degree in business and teaching, my family and friends were shocked that I decided to pursue my entertainment-industry dreams with an internship working on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction at Disneyland.

The job may have seemed like a career downgrade for me, but I knew it was an opportunity to get my foot in the door of one of the biggest companies in the world. Five years later, the move had paid off.

The lesson: Listen to sound advice from those who know and love you the most, but don’t squelch that inner desire to chase your wildest dreams. You never know what can happen, and you don’t want to go through life pondering a bunch of “what ifs.”

2. It’s OK not to know.

On Route 40 through the Mojave Desert, cellphone service and even radio signals hit a dead zone. Between inland California and Arizona, I saw no signs along the worn-out road. It took me a while before I even knew whether I was headed in the right direction.

Had I planned exactly what I intended to accomplish at Disney? In truth, I had no expectations or any idea of what was coming. I just did the best I could, making connections and impressing leaders with my enthusiasm and hard work. When I left the company, I didn’t know what I would do when I moved back to Ohio. But I now have a great opportunity with a job description that was written for me.

I’ve often envied people who have 5-, 10- or 15-year plans. However, I’ve learned that life’s best gifts often arrive unexpectedly. Enjoy your journey by being in the moment and staying open to what’s ahead. You never know what door will open for you next, and you may find it’s exactly where you should be heading.

3. Be grateful.

Transitions are special times in our lives. As The Byrds sang in their classic hit “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” there is a season and purpose for everything — including roadblocks, detours and even heartbreak.

Be grateful for where you’ve been, the people in your life and those who have helped you. Also, be grateful for the present, despite the challenges and logistics of your transition, whether it’s a physical, mental or even a spiritual change. And be grateful for the future, too.

Your gratitude will influence your career direction in positive ways. You’ll feel it, and others will see it.

4. Take your time. (And don’t try to match someone else’s pace.)

During my long road trip home, I had a loose agenda of things I wanted to see along the way — the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert in Arizona, the city of Santa Fe, N.M., the Beale Street music clubs in Memphis, Tenn., and some Civil War memorials.

I had AAA roadmaps to guide me, and the GPS on my cellphone helped track my miles. But I never knew where I would eat or spend the night. I even had to backtrack when massive storms loomed ahead, forcing me to travel south instead of north. The detour cost me an extra day and hotel bill, but it was worth the experience.

Remember that your life has its own timeline, and your priorities can change depending on your situation. If I had compared my pace to those of other drivers on the road and tried to race them, I would have missed many moments that wound up being special and unique to my journey. Life is not a sprint in one lane, but a marathon on your own track, made just for you. Enjoy the ride.

5. It can be lonely, but you’re never alone.

During my solo trip I often didn’t see anyone else for hours, especially in the desert. However, I still met lots of wonderful people along the way. And whenever I had access to Wi-Fi, my family and friends cheered me on via social media and text messages, as I shared updates about my trip.

The lesson: There may be times when you feel like no one is on your side. But if you open your eyes and look around, you’ll always find folks rooting for you because they believe in the same things you do. They see someone stepping out in faith and taking the bull by the horns. Even people you don’t usually talk to will say how you’ve inspired them to find their own adventures and purpose.

When your career turns onto a new path, live your best life, hit the hot pavement and share your story with the world. The challenges will be hard, and you might not know where you’re going, but your next transition just might be your best adventure yet.

Homa Lily Moheimani

Homa Lily Moheimani is a native of Columbus, Ohio, and currently manager of media and communications at the Ohio Restaurant Association. With professional experiences from The Walt Disney Company and higher education, she considers herself a “Chief Storyteller.” Follow her next career-related, outdoor or musical adventure on Instagram: @homalilymusic

Comments

Luisa Mesones says:

Quite an inspirational piece, wonderful reading.

April 12, 2019

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