Illustration of a stick figure doing archery over a solid background missing the target.
Cover Image © Leremy

The Professional Unprofessional & Career Goals

No one starts off great at anything new. They might be alriiiiight, but they aren’t “great”.

In a way, one thing that we all share at one point or another is that we begin our endeavors as “The Professional Unprofessional”.


Embrace fresh starts.

Starting off this way, and acknowledging it’s ok, can actually save you a lot of grief AND give yourself permission to try new things.

A stick figure pole vaulting.

Weaving in my personal professional story as an example, I’ve always liked charts and graphs. Even as a kid – I loved pictures (especially comics), and I just loved the idea that there was this image out there that can convey information.

So, I started learning. I knew that I wanted to try this thing out, so I started learning about Analytics back in school – and I admittedly sucked at it. I was a former English Major who switched over to majoring in Business. That means the creative thinking side of analysis came easy enough to me, but I wasn’t (and still am not) the best at math.

I struggled.


Grow stronger through struggle.

As I said earlier, no one starts off great at anything new. I quickly found that I wasn’t an exception to that rule.

A stick figure pushing a boulder up a hill.

Yours truly went from being the literal lowest score in my Statistics class, to studying 4 hours a night (even on the weekends) and landing the highest score in my class at the end of the course. I presented ideas to people that were just ripped to shreds because the business acumen wasn’t there and the analysis that went into my assumptions was shoddy (at best).

A high & mighty manager once asked me what I was interested in, and after I answered honestly and with enthusiasm – he (paraphrasing) told me that what I was interested in sucked and that no one wants to do that or respects the person who does (I really wanted to create tools that helped end-users make critical decisions). It was demoralizing, but I endured it all.


Focus on what matters & learn.

I didn’t stick it out because of my pride or ego. I didn’t have a chip on my shoulder and I for damn sure didn’t feel like I had to prove anything to the world. I just knew what I wanted to accomplish. My goal was clear in my mind, so I had to focus on pursuing it.

A stick figure practicing archery targeting a bullseye.

Pressing through distractions and discouragements with your eye on the prize is something that every aspiring “Professional” has to do at some point. You decide to focus — you never “just happen to”.


All of that will add up to an Achievement.

I eventually left that company with the manager who disliked my personal vision and moved onto somewhere else that treated my desire as an asset, not a fault. They saw my curiosity for the field of Business Intelligence and opted to teach me whatever I was willing to spend learn & master.

A stick figure hitting a bullseye while practicing archery.

I ended up happily working on – ironically – “tools that helped end-users make critical decisions” in their day-to-day. I have led small teams and projects. I have stood up systems that are used by key portions of our business. I have trained others in the craft of making images that convey information, and I actually just recently got a company-wide award in-part because of my focus on that goal.

I hit my target (for now) – but it all started with me accepting the fact that I got to enjoy being a Professional Unprofessional at some point. I stuck things out and stayed focused until that hard work paid off.

Now I’m dabbling in other things as a total newb, and it’s as exciting as ever! There is a freedom in that “restart” process that I don’t think many of us allow ourselves to enjoy as we build up our careers. I encourage everyone take the time to be new at something – anything – every now and then. The mental benefits of not feeling the pressure to deliver professional-grade work on EVERYTHING can be huge.

Start. Struggle. Focus & Learn. Achieve.

Peace, and thanks for reading.


The soundtrack for this post provided by…

Image Credits:
All Images © Leremy (Shutterstock)

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Created by Alex Volkov