We are currently living in the age of career disruption.

Have you reconsidered your career in the past 18 months?

If so, you’re not alone. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated a long-overdue reflection on why traditional career paths and working “norms” should be left in the past.

Remote work had many questioning why they spent so many hours commuting and so much money living in an expensive city to go to their 9 to 5 jobs. On top of that, the layoffs and lack of job opportunities in traditional roles in 2020 led many workers to consider the possibility of working for themselves as a freelancer or building a start-up.

The rise in entrepreneurs, freelancers, and project-people

According to The New York Times, “Researchers at the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that Americans started 4.4 million businesses last year, a 24 percent increase from the year before. It is by far the biggest increase on record.”

Workers got creative as they searched for better, more satisfying ways to work and live.

Last year, NPR reported that in September 2020, two million Americans had started freelancing in the last 12 months, which increased the proportion of the workforce that freelances to 36%.

On top of this, millennials and Gen-Z are two generations defined by their desire to lead purpose-driven careers; instead of accepting “things are the way they are” and settling for old ways, they have disrupted previous generations’ career patterns.

Taking the path less-traveled is inherently lonely

Something that’s really stuck with me through this change in the workforce is that paving your own unique, individual career path, is lonely and there’s a deep need to change that.

The pandemic didn’t impact my decision to pave my own path (I chose this lifestyle ahead of 2020), but the recent data reinforces that I’m not alone — millions of people have taken the leap to work differently and likely will need support as they navigate uncertain waters.

Discovering that the traditional path wasn’t for me

Since a young age, I’ve known I’ve liked doing things differently. I liked learning through doing. Hated multiple-choice tests. Never liked the concept of there only being one right answer.

I loved creative projects — writing assignments were always my favorite in school because they were a chance to express myself. There was something really special about knowing everyone in the classroom would come up with a different answer or story to tell. We were all creating something unique.

In college, I finally had the freedom to design my learning experience. I didn’t “do college” the way it was described in a brochure. I really leaned into my true identity as a projects-person and someone who liked doing things differently. I took every hour outside of the classroom as a chance to experience special moments, grow in new ways, and meet new people.

I worked on dozens of projects during the four years, whether it was for a student start-up, a large corporation, or my own side hustle. The college experience I designed for myself was extremely non-traditional. Oftentimes, others thought I was totally crazy for doing so many different projects at once; but, the reality was, I felt most myself when I was wearing a bunch of different hats.

Defining my Ground Truth

I had a pivotal AHA moment during my junior year of college.

I attended a workshop led by Dana Ray, a remarkable language strategist & communications consultant. During this workshop, she taught me the importance of naming my work and why I do what I do.

Naming my Ground Truth alongside Dana Ray (to my right) and other workshop attendees

Through this experience, I learned to embrace that the traditional way of doing things isn’t for me AND that’s ok. In fact, that’s more than ok. It’s great. And, there are people out there who are also celebrating the journey of taking a non-traditional path.

Dana stepped into my life to help me see that the dots in my zig-zaggy path DO connect and there’s power in pausing to naming that connection.

The process shared in her workshop helped me find clarity in myself, make smarter decisions, and find people in my life that supported that journey.

As Dana likes to say, “What’s your Ground Truth?”

What’s the thread that connects how you show up in the world?

From there, my “Ground Truth” emerged:

“I seek to better understand people. I love building relationships, making people smile, and promoting inclusion.”

If I didn’t have my “Ground Truth”, I would not have been able to tie my story together in a way that I felt confident saying and repeating. It allowed me to connect the dots and say this is why I do what I do. Nothing about my experiences is random because they’re true to who I am. And they’re part of my path forward.

Launching into the post-college world

My desire to better understand people has been so alive in my work post-graduation.

After college, I joined a small start-up led by best-selling author, Seth Godin as one of five full-time employees, working with a community of freelancers. Here, I was a creator. I built online learning programs, led community experiences, and created ways to connect with people on a deep level. I built programs that redefined what it looked like to gather for people who opted into non-traditional career paths. My job title didn’t describe half of my projects because I was a professional Many-Hats-Wearer.

Today, I’m Head of Community and the first full-time hire at Groove, a small start-up that’s bringing people together who work differently and are paving their own paths. After all, at my core, that’s who I am too. And, once again, I’m leading many different projects.

Today, the language I use to describe my work is: “I am building community at the intersection of connection and productivity to create the opposite of loneliness and help others achieve their goals.”

My “Ground Truth” isn’t static. It’s something that grows with me.

Finding others who support that path

I’ve experienced first-hand the loneliness of paving my own path — the feeling that people around me just don’t get what I’m looking to create for myself.

I received this unsolicited feedback for years…

  • “Life would be so much easier if you just did it the normal way.”
  • “Slow down.”
  • “You’re doing too much. Be careful you don’t overdo it.”

And, then, I experienced the magic of finding people who really understood me and it everything changed — people who helped me see the possibility of pursuing a less traditional career path, who cheered me on to keep being myself.

I am where I am today because of two things…

  1. I had a fire in me to do work that I loved and believed that I had the power to make a difference in helping others see that too.
  2. I met supportive people who celebrated that I did things differently, instead of shaming me for doing so. They, too, were on non-traditional paths, leading by example. Together, we encourage each other to lean into our individual work with more confidence and new energy.

Groovers are creating their own paths with the support of each other

Groove is quite literally bringing people pursuing non-traditional paths together to cowork and be the support they’re craving and need to fulfill their goals and achieve their work; it’s an online community of creatives from all over the world, pursuing unique paths as freelancers, entrepreneurs, and remote workers. The people who show up in this space remind me of my supporters along the way.

Active Groover, Hannah Brencher, is an Entrepreneur, Writer, TED Speaker, and Mental Health Advocate. She’s such a fabulous example of someone who made the leap to crafting her unique career path and has found a supportive community within Groove.

“I quit my job nine years ago at age 23 and then, built my career as an entrepreneur from scratch. I knew that when it came time to start a family that I wanted the freedom and ability to see my kids grow up one day (and show them the value of being a working mom!) while fulfilling my desire to own my own business. Now, nine years later, I’m fully living that reality of what I set out to create for myself; I can watch my baby grow up, support my family as the main financial contributor, and create work I’m proud of.”

Ben Teller claims to be the #1 Fan of Groove. He’s a Social Media Consultant, Connecter, & Young Adult Cancer Advocate who began his career in the corporate world and made the switch to work for himself during the last two years.

“Choosing a non-traditional path wasn’t my plan. It just happened. For me, it was about doing what was best for my personality. I wanted to try a lot of different things, and the traditional path isn’t suited for that. I love people, building relationships, and learning, so for now, I think it’s easier to achieve that on a non-traditional path. But the best thing about non-traditional is that maybe one day the traditional and non-traditional worlds will collide! Who knows!”

When you put a bunch of people together craving connection and accountability to pursue their goals, it’s really something magical.

“I think one of the hard parts of owning your own business is the isolation that can come from working by yourself, especially working from home so I can have time with my girl throughout the day. Groove plugs me into other people doing amazing things around the world. I get to learn new things, interact with people, and ultimately be more focused on my work because there is someone else on the app holding me accountable and cheering me on. I didn’t realize I was missing this camaraderie until I found it from Groove and I’m so thankful I did. It makes me feel less alone and so much more capable throughout my busy, chaotic days.” — Hannah Brencher

If you’re someone who’s building your own unique, less-traveled path, and you want some others to cheer you on as you work alongside each other, I’d love for you to join us in Groove’s beta test.

It’s for career disruptors — people who agree that working solo, on our own unique paths, should be more social; it should be better.

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