The Modern Career: The Unconventional Road to Success

For most of us, the pressure of going to college/university, picking a major, and following a related career path, has been chiselled into our brain. A lot of our parents have worked in the same job, for the same company, for twenty to thirty years or more. Our parents will, or have already, retired with a full pension, and will die knowing that they lived comfortably doing the same job their entire lives, without ever having, or following, a craving for something more.

But we are not our parents. We have grown up in a vastly different landscape. The world is a different place than it used to be, and younger generations seem to crave something more than just 8 hour work days and full benefits. I am not saying every young person is following a non-linear career trajectory, but more people are following more creative pursuits, and going down the road less travelled than ever before. Some might even say that despite our job market being increasingly more competitive than the decades before us, our generation is happier and more fulfilled with our careers than generations before us. While some traditional things are still important, for many of us, we see that there is more to life than Keeping up with the Jones.

Sarah Milan created her own business known as Sarah’s Soaps to fulfill her needs for natural, preservative and chemical free skin care. As a result, she began creating handcrafted, natural, vegan, artificial free body lotions, bath soaks, and soaps.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I saw myself in my future career, so I struggled with what to take in school. I wasn’t driven towards my program, so I always searched for new creative outlets to explore. I was searching Pinterest one day and came across soap making. It was one thing that I never actually heard of anyone doing so I gave it a try and instantly fell in love with how practical yet artsy the process is.”

Her goal was to create a good product that would also be good for your skin and overall health. By doing so, she also was able to contribute to her local community in Niagara. She sells her products at a local craft market, salons, as well as online on the official Sarah’s Soap website.

“For me, it has totally been worth it. I am the kind of person that chooses to do things based on happiness – if something will make me or others happy I am going to do it. Life is too short to sit at a boring desk job day to day. That is just not for me. I am a creative person, and I need to be hands on,” says Sarah. “Since I have started my business I have met so many amazing like-minded individuals whom I have inspired and taught me so much. You can tell when someone is passionate about what they do, it shows.”

My Experience

What I’ve learned recently is that it’s okay not to have all your ducks in a row at 24. I’ve also learned that it’s okay not to follow a conventional career path. You are not confined to be defined by one single thing. You can be a server and a journalist. It’s allowed, and totally doable. You can be an owner of a business and also an aspiring opera singer if you want, and doing that doesn’t make you any less of a person, or mean you are less intelligent, or that you will be any less successful in life.

When I finished school, I felt this innate pressure to find a job in my “field.” The pressure wasn’t necessarily from my parents, but from comparing myself to this idea of what I felt I should be doing. I was serving tables and applying for jobs, and the more interviews I had, the more I realized two important things. One that I didn’t want to work Monday-Friday from 9 to 5 and sit at a desk all day. Two that I didn’t want to work for someone else. I realized I was the creator of my pressure and stress. It was my life, and I was allowed to do what I wanted. Why should I spend my life doing something I don’t like? I would rather be happy and follow my passion for creativity rather than conventional, and I think a lot of people are starting to view their career path in a similar light.

The Moral of the Story

At Novella, many of us are in this together. We chose to follow our passion and work for Novella while balancing other jobs to help sustain ourselves. We do it because we love it, and it makes us happy, and it’s what we WANT to be doing.

So, stop apologizing for doing what you want and following a career path that is seen by some as non-traditional. It’s your life, not theirs. And at the very least, at least you’ll know you tried. There are so many cool and amazing people doing amazing and creative things that would never have been considered, or even possible twenty years ago, so why not be one of those people? For fear of sounding cliche, just remember, you will always regret the chances you didn’t take.

As for Sarah, her advice for those who are struggling with the urge to follow a “non-traditional career path” is simple.

“Just do it. It is super cheesy and cliché but it is true. A career is a career at the end of the day, so why not do what you love?”

Sarah Milan, Sarah’s Soaps

ICYMI: Artisan Show Unites Female Entrepreneurs

Miss Soul Jewellery (L) and Joie de Vivre were two of the vendors on Sunday.
Miss Soul Jewellery (L) and Joie de Vivre

Last Sunday, a room in Artscape Youngplace was taken over by artisans and business owners, the majority of them women, all of them selling their creations to the public.

This “Artist and Artisan” show was held by the Raine Network, a non-profit group based here in Toronto.

“Right now the organization is a network of young entrepreneurs and marginalized women in Toronto,” says Jazzmine Raine, founder of the Raine Network. “It’s helping them empower themselves through this network of support.”

This was the first artisan market the Raine Network has ever put on, and to organize it they collaborated with Humanity Unified, another non-profit based out of New Jersey. Humanity Unified aims to aid female farmers in Rwanda. The Raine Network posted a call for those interested in being vendors online. From there, artisans interested in showcasing their products would pay a donation of $50 to Humanity Unified in order to be a part of the market.

The table for vendor Bella Buddha Beads.
Bella Buddha Beads

In the market, there were around a dozen vendors selling everything from food, to art, to knitted baby booties. Throughout the course of the day customers filtered in and out of the market, often stopping to chat with the artisans about their creations.

One table there was representing Sew It, a local entrepreneurship program run out of Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto. It is a free 12-week program, run a couple of times a year.

“We teach upcycling, sewing skills and business skills,” says Umi Ali, Sew It’s program coordinator. “Once participants graduate, they get the opportunity to show their work at different pop-up events in Toronto.”

Martha, one of the vendors, models a bag she made. Martha is also a graduate of the Sew It program.
Martha, one of the vendors, models a bag she made to sell. Martha is also a graduate of the Sew It program.

As an entrepreneur herself, Ali says she noticed there wasn’t a huge amount of support for women starting their own businesses. Umi began conducting workshops through Newcomer Women’s Services and was later offered the position at Sew It.

Other vendors were self-starters, including Rebecca, who makes and sells jewellery for her business Joie de Vivre. The artisan market on Sunday was the first show she’s ever sold her work at. Rebecca says she began making jewellery for fun a few years ago, but so many people kept asking her for custom orders that she decided to turn it into a business.

The Joie de Vivre table.
Joie de Vivre

“This is my five-to-nine job, after my nine-to-five job,” Rebecca says with a laugh. The nine-to-five job is working as a dietician at Sick Kids, but Rebecca says the dream is to one day run her jewellery shop full time.

Another artisan, Terri Passaretti, didn’t open her business Sweet Potatoes until about a month ago. Through her shop, Terri sells handmade baby booties and other knit goodies. While she has been teaching knitting classes for the past few years, Terri initially only learned how to knit as a hobby.

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes

Like Rebecca, Sunday’s market was the first time she’d sold her creations as a vendor.

“It’s great to be a part of something like this,” says Terri. “Everybody’s so supportive of one another. It’s so important to shop locally. So many people have talent and its lovely to see everyone come together and showcase that talent.”