Updated: Jun 30
Before the COVID19 quarantine shook up our lives, I had the chance to speak with Karen Swyszcz. She tried to explain to me how she was able to navigate through a "traditional career path" and realize that she can create her own way -- and it definitely is not as straight as we sometimes feel like it should be.
I'm always curious to see what people were doing in high school and what was going through their mind when choosing what they are doing after graduation. Like many, Karen found herself excelling in courses that she considered "boring" but one this is for sure, she needed to get a degree for the foundation of her future.
"I had no idea what I wanted to do. I chose engineering because I was told it was a respectable profession, I could get a good job with good pay. I also had high grades in Math and Sciences, so going into engineering seemed like a logical choice. My OAC English teacher thought I was going into English because I was also a good writer, but I thought engineering seemed like the more practical choice. A combination of a heavy workload, being away from home for the first time, not getting along with my roommate and difficulty making friends was what caused the stress and depression my first semester. Instead of taking a year off to reset and figure out what I wanted to do, I transferred into science, realized I didn't like that, but just went ahead and finished my degree, which I'm not really using."
After graduating, Karen found herself traveling and bouncing in between jobs trying to understand what she wanted. She considered pursuing a job with the government, a similar path both her parents took and holding it for 25-30 years. But at some point, Karen began to suffer from panic attacks caused by her full-time job in pharmaceuticals. She didn't want to quit because she didn't have a back up plan but instead, she enrolled to become a certified fitness instructor - to take on another challenge.
Karen eventually landed the ideal government position that she was taught would be like winning the golden ticket. It didn't turn out to be what she expected. She lacked recognition and was craving more innovation. She often took out her frustrations on her personal relationships in her life. As a creative outlet, she started a blog which opened up a whole new world for her. She began to gain income from the blog and landed a position at a tech startup which inspired her to begin her own consulting business. This was another important stepping stone as she was then asked to teach a course at Sheridan College.
"I was faced with the challenge of the cultural expectation of Filipino parents. They immigrated to Canada (separately) in search of better jobs, better life, etc. I wanted to make my parents proud but felt like after university, it was one failure after another. In hindsight, I realize I was not meant for a traditional 9 to 5, but for something with more flexibility. And everything I've experienced thus far helped shape me into who I am today and is an important part of my story. "
"I've always been someone who was multi-passionate but I never expected I would be able to use my passions and teach people about them. "
Through trial and error, Karen has figured her way through different paths and side roads to finding different streams of income. She didn't feel that the typical 9am-5pm job was suited for her and she took her career into her own hands and kept on persisting.
Any advice to others who may be on the edge of jumping into something that doesn't follow the traditional 9-5 outline?
"To just do it. Any action is better than no action. There are a ton of resources out there. Don't be afraid to ask questions. It's okay to learn as you go."
Karen co-wrote a best selling novel "Fitness to Freedom" which is available on Amazon.
Fitness to Freedom is a collection of health, wellness, and fitness stories written for women by women to educate, inspire, and encourage readers to live their best and find their balance.