Career Change: Climbing the Learning Curve

learning curve

It’s been five years since I decided to apply to Algonquin College’s ODAN program. Five. Years. It’s been three years since I graduated. I’ve felt like I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants since then, constantly working my way up the learning curve of new roles and a new industry.

I’ve bounced around various corners of the outdoors industry in these three years. Many people have taken a chance on me and my work. Up until this fall it seemed to me that I was constantly taking: taking trips, taking job opportunities, taking knowledge shared. Other than learning from them and doing the work (which is important of course), it didn’t seem as though I had many opportunities to give back or pay it forward. I didn’t feel like I had enough knowledge or expertise to give anyone.

It got me thinking about whether we can pay it forward while we’re still on a learning curve or if we should wait and pay it forward with interest.


Paying it Forward


Simple gestures of thanks go a long way while you’re working your way up the learning curve: a cup of coffee, a pint, saying “thank you.” They’re all appreciated.

Work the Next Level Up

It started off as a bit of a “fake it ’til I make it” when it came to canoe guiding my first summer, despite all my certifications. I shifted from working finance and marketing behind the scenes to representing the company face-to-face with clients in order to fill a gap in guide scheduling. It made me nervous. By stepping up and filling in for three trips, I was able to help out the organization I was working with and refine some of my guiding skills.


With Interest


Find a cause you feel passionate about and look for opportunities to apply the skills you have to what that cause needs. I applied my Excel skills to some reporting that ONEXONE needed to better understand its school breakfast program. I’ve  scoured social media to look for opportunities as well as kept an eye on websites of organizations I’m interested in helping.

Teaching or Mentoring

It’s made me happy to be able to pay it forward to Algonquin College by teaching in the program that kicked off my career change. Not everyone will have that opportunity. However there will usually be the opportunity to mentor someone who’s coming up behind you in your field. Take five minutes to answer her questions or make a connection for her from your network.


Be patient with yourself as you climb the learning curve. The time will come when you’ll be able to pay it forward.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? What did you do? Comment on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Published by Kate Monahan

Travel happy. Outdoors professional. Writer. Photographer. Educator.

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