The Rabbit Hole Theory: A Different Kind of Career Advice

Through-the-rabbit-holeRecently, I found myself looking back at what I wish someone had told me when I was a newly minted grad ready to tackle the world.

I was far from certain what I wanted to do in life. And I always admired those who, at a very young age, saw something and knew for certain this is what they wanted to do.

But that wasn’t me.

I took the more round-about approach: a try-a-lot-of-things-and-see-how-they-fit method, which I now call my “rabbit hole theory” – and I learned a lot along the way.

First Steps

My first suggestion to anyone who is as uncertain as I was is to take a look at what you seem to do repeatedly – what you really enjoy (no, video games don’t count unless you know how to write code!). Then ask yourself why you like doing them? That “why” might begin to tell you a lot about yourself and what moves you.

Then, begin to look for people with similar interests – and find out what they do for work. Some of those people will be behind your learning curve, and some will be ahead of you. Either way, but you will quickly get ideas on how to expand your skill or passion, figure out what worked and what didn’t and find some career options you may not have considered.

How Does Your Passion Fit Into your Career Right Now?

Next, ask yourself how that skill or passion fits where you are right now in your career.

If it fits into your existing academic plan or your current company’s goals, look for ways to expand it by talking to or meeting people who might be receptive to your ideas. If it doesn’t fit in any way, accept that you might be in the wrong position. That doesn’t mean quit; you still need to put food on the table (and hit Starbucks every now and then).

But start looking for the place or situation that will support what you do well. This may mean networking after work or perhaps going online to find the tribe that supports you. It’s up to you to find out where you and your skills fit, and then go after it.

I say this because you will have several jobs over a lifetime; some will feed your Starbucks habit and some will feed your soul.

Life has trade-offs.

You Will Go Down a Few Rabbit Holes

I’ve already given you a hint of my worldview, so my advice is this: Go down a few rabbit holes… like Alice in Wonderland.

Select a path and see where it leads you. The advantage of youth is you have time to experiment. Go down a few rabbit holes by reading the life stories of people you have seen on the news or admired from history (no time to read? Audio books work just as well). Get a stable of mentors and allow the struggles and triumphs of others to guide you. Try something just to see whether you can do it, and add that to your store of knowledge.

As you build up that storage box, stop sometimes and review how the various pieces fit together in terms of where you think you want to go. Often, now that you understand more about yourself and your skills, you’ll find that something that seemed way out in left field actually fits really well now.

What I think you will find is there are very few charmed lives that didn’t at first require focused hard work.

Go Big

Humans are imitative creatures and tend to do what they have seen others do. There is nothing wrong with that; just ask yourself how you think you can add to the mix in a way that will generate more, or allow others to see or do something in a more expansive way.

As you explore your rabbit holes – and yourself – think big.

As you’ll see, the rabbit hole concept puts less pressure on you to achieve, which in turn generates less stress. Rather than striving to achieve some linear career plan – getting from Point A to Point B with no creative digressions – following the rabbit hole theory allows you to develop a quizzical nature.

Ultimately, it enables you to better understand the forces in and around you – so you learn much more along the way.

Okay, all you Alice and Alex’s out there, I just saw a rabbit hopping by… and so my next journey into Wonderland begins!


Cherrie mcKenzie 3About the Author: Cherrie McKenzie is a former stockbroker and therapist who explores the psychological side of business on a blog and podcast at She has National Board certification in Clinical Hypnosis, coaches related to visualization for peak performance. She conducts workshops and produces multi-media coaching sessions to provide commonsense techniques for better results in every day life.



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