Is ‘Career’ a Dirty Word?

Is-career-a-dirty-wordThis is something that has been playing on my mind a fair amount recently, so I thought I’d write a wee rant about it. Apologies in advance!

Life is so full of rules and conventions that we’re expected to stick to.

We grow up being constantly pummelled with the need to work, study, learn and decide what we want to ‘be’…

These days 11 year olds are asked to seriously consider what they want to spend their life doing and what they want to do for a career. Eleven. Seriously?!

At age 11 I was more concerned with what emojis to use in my msn name and how to cheer my furby up. Stressful stuff.

The world has gone mad I’m telling you.

Why is it that in our society we are taught that to be successful and happy you have to have this job, make this amount of money, drive this car, get married by the time you’re 30 and have 2.4 kids a few years later?

Career is a dirty word

What about exploring the world, getting lost in a new city, jumping stark bollock naked into a lake, climbing a mountain, sleeping under the stars?

There’s more to life than a career.

We are absolutely tiny. Our space on this earth is so microscopic that it’s almost irrelevant. The world is a vast and incredible place and it’s ours to explore.

We are just one of over 7 billion people who call Earth home. Every single one of those people live their life in a different and unique way. Some are happy and some are not. There are billions of ways that you can choose to live your life – the route you choose to happiness is up to you.

This is what I wish was taught more to 11 year olds these days.

Inspirational Quote

Some people grow up knowing exactly what career is meant for them. They want to be doctors, teachers, scientists, lawyers, vets etc. and they work damn hard to get there. These people are awesome.

Thank goodness for anyone who works hard for a career. If it wasn’t for people like that; with their drive and clarity, we’d all be royally screwed.

I’ve got no beef with career minded people, I tip my hat to them. But I am a little rageous about the misconception that this is the only option.


This rant was inspired by a story that someone told me the other day.

The story was about a man who had worked his way up from Assistant to CEO of a big company. He’d worked his bollocks off, day-in day-out for the past 50 years. Living for the weekends, but then working the weekends. Waiting for holidays that were over before he could blink.

But he did it. He made it. He was the big cheese: The CEO.

He had the career, he had the money, he had the ‘success’.

But one day he woke up asking: “Is this it? Is this really all there is? Is this as good as it gets?

He decided the answer to his questions was ‘no‘. It can’t be. So he made the decision there and then, to retire. He would hand over the reigns and start to live his life. He’d travel, see the world, have adventures, wake up in a new place every day, do things he’d never dreamed possible. That would be his life now.

The man died the next day.

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”

I don’t mean to be all negative and prompt you to reach for the chocolate and vino or cry into your cornflakes, but this is a very real reality. Our life is limited. And we never know what day may be our last.

I currently work at an amazing charity that arranges Special Days for seriously ill young adults across the UK (and I am incredibly proud to do so). Every day at work I am reminded of our vulnerability and mortality. There are so many things out to get us and life is so short – even at the best of times. You never know what may happen tomorrow, so make the most of today.

Never get so busy with a career


I‘ve gone through my life so far not having a bloody clue what I want to ‘be’ – much to my family’s dismay! I’ve always been arty, but by no means an artist. I can sing, but no where near well enough to be a singer. I love to act, but suffer stage fright. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but didn’t see any viable ‘career’ path from that.

I studied ‘Cultural History’ at Leeds University… the most vague and unfocused degree possible. I took it in the hope that it would cover so many areas of potential interest, I’d emerge with the miraculous realisation of what career path I needed to chase.

I didn’t have a bloody clue.

The most valuable thing I learnt whilst at University was learnt when I left my studies behind for a few weeks (oh the irony) and hitchhiked from Leeds to Africa.

This trip opened my eyes to the kindness of people, the beauty of the world, and the pleasure that exploring different cultures can bring. I had travelled before, but not like this. I was grinning like a cheshire cat. The whole bloody time.

I knew then that travel was what made me happy. Isn’t this the most important thing of all?

I may be a little daft but I’m not totally stupid. I know that we live in a world where money is important – especially if you intend to have a family (which I most definitely do).

But how much money you need to be happy is entirely up to you. If buying the latest Apple product every two weeks is what floats your boat, then a structured career path may be necessary. But if it’s long term travel that lights up your soul and you’re happy to do so on a budget… you can afford to be a little less restricted.

You don’t have to be stuck in a 9-5 job to live the life you want. And in a lot of cases, being in a 9-5 job will actually make the life you want impossible.


At the moment I’m really lucky to work for an incredible charity where I go in to work every single day knowing that what I do makes a difference. Not many people can say that. It’s such a rewarding job and I count my lucky stars I found it. No day is ever the same. I get to design, write, photograph and work on the social media – all the things that I love to do.

It’s the perfect job for me right now. But for me, it’s not a career.

Sitting at a desk in an office 5 days a week, commuting 40 hours on the M25 every month and seeing less daylight than Dracula is just not going to work for me in the long term. (I’m more than open about this with my boss as well!)

There was an awkward moment at our staff away day last year where we were all asked to draw a plan of our perfect office space. I got right to it. Grabbing the coloured pens and scribbling away. I didn’t even pause for thought. It wasn’t until I downed my pens, and looked around that I realised my error. Where EVERYONE else in the room had drawn an office building with nice big beanbags and staff rooms… I’d drawn a beach. Ooops.

What if we all knew how many heartbeats we had left? Would you waste a weeks worth at a time doing something you didn’t want to do? You wouldn’t. You’d make a change.

I intend to do just that.

My dream ‘career’ is one in which I am not tied to a desk in an office. And one where I am not tied to one specific job day after day. It is one where I have the freedom to travel and work when and where I please.

This isn’t a pipe dream. A lot of incredibly inspiring people are living this very life. And one day I hope to be one of them.

We worry about so much ridiculous stuff on a day to day basis. Whether we’re going to get stuck in traffic on our way to work, if our boss is going to be in a good mood or not, how that meeting will go… We need to get over it, these things are out of our control.

All we really have control of are our thoughts and our actions. So my aim is to stop worrying about things I can’t change and start focusing on creating the life I want. (I say this as a chronic worrier. It’s going to be tough!)

Over the next few years I will be working my rather large bottom off developing my skill set and my alternative ‘career’ as a freelancer. Working towards the day when I can dip in and out of design, photography and writing as I explore the world.

I hope this blog will be the perfect place to bring it all together.

Watch this space.


To me, the word ‘career’ is a little bit dirty.

I get pretty peeved off with the presumption that a degree and a career is the route to success.

Not always.

Think about what really makes you happy. What gets you excited? What gives you the good kind of heart palpitations? Think outside the box.

If this is a career – then fab. Good for you. Go grab it with two hands.

If it’s not, then that’s okay too.

  • Runawaybabe

    I believe that my career is a part of me but not who I am. I have a lot of friends that are achieving amazing things but they still fill empty. For me, a career is something that makes me feel fine but not complete but as an adult I have learned to go with the flow because as you said, one day we are here, tomorrow we don’t know. Great post.

    • Gabrielle @ TheGlobeWanderers

      Fab points Rocio – a career isn’t everything, we need to ‘seize the day’ so to speak. Thanks so much for sharing & so pleased you enjoyed the post :). Gabby

  • Pingback: 10 Rubbish Travel Tips you Should Ignore - The Globe Wanderers()

  • Abbi from Life in a rucksack ✈

    Love this article Gabby. It really has hit home with me. In life, we are taught you go to school, then university, then get ‘that job’ and work your way up, to achieve, to have money, to have a status, to be married, have kids – and all of that is supposed to equal happiness, well bollocks to that I say!

    I loved your point about 11 year olds also – I remember being asked that question at the end of Primary school. Funnily enough I said I’d like to be an air hostess, as I loved to travel and I loved planes (funny that hey!)

    Lately, since returning to the UK, I have noticed how much more career focused people are here, more so than in New Zealand. I am an Occupational Therapist by profession, and in New Zealand, I was just that, as were my colleagues (despite their years of experience), sure they’d get paid more, but it was less of a hierarchy, which I liked.

    Back here, and in the NHS, we are placed into a banding from band 5-8. I am currently working into band 6 role, and I constantly get asked about my new job “is it a band 6 or 7 role?” who the heck cares what it is – it is a job. end of.

    Lately I have been thinking more about how, although I enjoy my job (at times), it is not the be all end all. When I first started out (before I travelled), I wanted to progress to senior level, go back to uni and do a masters, write for a journal on my profession, now, it is just a means to an end, though it is good that I enjoy doing it.

    Recently I have been thinking of using my skills to help in the developing World, and would love to start a social enterprise, much like what I witnessed in Cambodia and Vietnam. I want to inspire people – not bust a gut trying to meet targets from a falling NHS CEO!


    Sorry about that – but there is much more to life an having a career I reckon. Do what makes you happy!

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Wow Abbi thank you so much for this comment – you win the longest comment on our blog award! 😉 So pleased the article resonated with you. Love that you wanted to be an air hostess – travel has obviously been in your blood since birth!

      The social norm of what is ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ is just irrelevant. Every one of us is different and our route to happiness is unique. For some getting ‘that job’, money, a nice house and a family may be the be all and end all. That may be enough to make them happy… for others though – like us – it’s just not enough.

      I felt the same way about New Zealand. There definitely seemed to be more of a focus on quality of life rather than hierarchical career paths, which is a nicer way to live your life. It can’t be nice for you having to constantly justify your career in terms of ‘bands’. You’re right – you have a job, and a worthwhile job at that, it should be enough for people!

      I feel exactly the same as you. As I mentioned above, I love working where I do. As cliched as it is, I come to work everyday knowing that what I do, will make a difference to someone’s life. However, since I’ve grown up and become more confident in myself and my own mind, I know that climbing the career ladder just isn’t for me.

      I need to travel, explore, see the world and make a difference as I go. I love your idea about using your skills in the developing World. If ever you need a couple of extra pairs of hands – you know where we are! ;).


      • Abbi from Life in a rucksack ✈

        Hi Gabby,

        Ha, so sorry – I have a tendency to ramble sometimes, and get on my high horse about subjects I feel strongly about.

        Fantastic post though, and looking forward to reading more about your reflections on travel and life.


  • Pingback: The Biggest Challenge You'll Face When You Travel - The Globe Wanderers()

  • Pingback: Travel Blushes: Pursuitful Pairs()