My Career Collage: Crafting Your Future as a Work of Art from the Inside

artThinking about your career path can be a cruel business. Pressure rains down in the most unexpected places.

At the hair salon: “So what are you going to do with THAT degree?”

Your chemistry teacher: “Seriously, don’t even consider THAT. You’ll never make a good living.”

Grandma: “Oh, my dear, don’t be ridiculous! THAT’s good hobby stuff, but in order to create some job security…”

It goes on and on until you want to run for the hills with a bag of candy, your cell phone, and a box of tissues. It’s enough dream crushing to make you never want to talk about it again — and, you know, some don’t. Paralyzed by the fear of being shot down, making a mistake, or sounding foolish, it’s easy to play it safe and choose someone else’s path that might seem more practical or that might be the opposite of what you planned; and, you could end up with no real direction at all.

Either way, moving ahead without any real ideas is a recipe for career collapse. Doesn’t it all just work out eventually? Sure, I suppose it does for a lot of people, more or less, but think of it this way: there are ways for it all to work out less successfully.

Which life scenario would you prefer? Would you rather secure a career after obtaining a college degree that isn’t relevant to what you finally decided you wanted to do and after five years of job-hopping? Or would you rather work toward a career that you believe in after an intentional internship experience, working with a career advisor at school, and creating a thought-out academic plan (including a major, minor, and foreign language skills acquired in college and abroad)? The choice is yours, and it should be fun and exciting, both in the planning and in the doing. If you get what you are working toward, it can all fall into place.

So how do you get started on this designer career path, especially when your confidence is low or the ideas just aren’t flowing? Not ready to talk it out? As a teen or young adult (or mature adult, for that matter), sometimes it’s more comfortable to express ideas and dreams with something other than words.

When we need inspiration, we are often drawn to art. Beauty can stoke even the weakest fire. Instead of talking, start looking, feeling, and listening to that which makes you joyful. Start from a place of happiness when dreaming about your future. The art you choose can even be your own creation, just like your career path will be.

It’s all a creative process, so start embracing it as such. You are the artist of your own life. Get ready to get dirty, make mistakes, learn something, and try again. Get inspired by what you are drawn to.

If you are an audiophile, start expressing your fears, longings, frustrations, anticipation, excitement, and inspiration with playlist after playlist of your own design that keep you positive.

If you are more visual, get a huge piece of paper or poster board and make an old-fashioned collage. Make it physical, not on a screen. Cut out photos from magazines, quotes, newspaper clippings, anything that you can post up on your wall. Face it every day, and remember, “I can do this!”

If you write, maybe it’s a mind map that you need. Put yourself in the center and let your life radiate out from that center in categories that matter: family, career, wellness, education, friends, fun, and so on. Much like a family tree concept, literally mapping your life goals and priorities with creativity may help to guide your next steps so you can keep it all in focus.

Your life’s work should be a reflection of you and what matters deep down. Expressing who you are openly, fully embracing the discovery of that, and feeding on all that juicy potential and goodness are the best ways to start this process. Find the beauty in yourself, record it somehow, and then, when you are ready, share what you discover.

The resources and opinions you need to move forward with your career search will be there when you are most ready to receive them. The point is that you will have done some “work” in a fun, expressive way to prepare for the conversation. Getting to the rest of your life shouldn’t be painful yet; it won’t be easy, either, and it can be a beautiful creation from your imagination.

Care to share your creation? I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Creating!

Christine Wolf is a certified yoga teacher, returned Peace Corps volunteer, and an AmeriCorps Alum. She has an M.S. in Political Science from Illinois State University and when she’s not reading, teaching, or collecting happy Buddha figurines, she is a Student Services Coordinator in the Center for International Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She loves dive restaurants, travel, poetry, and working on behalf of women and girls. You can find her latest essay on education and human rights online in the Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict:


  1. […] This fun activity involves cutting out different shapes and pictures from assorted materials, and sticking them onto a board or large piece of stiff paper. Collages can have themes such as favorite film characters, or can be patterns made from different coloured papers that have been cut into various shapes.An adult version of this is the mood board, which many people use when redecorating their homes or even to help decide on future career paths. […]

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