Throwing your cap in the air and popping bottles is totally warranted when it comes time to celebrate finishing your undergrad; all that hard work calls for a legit graduation celebration! But what happens after the confetti settles? Whether you’ve already landed a great role or are amped to start applying for your first adult job, it’s helpful to stay open-minded about what your post-college future may hold. To get some different perspectives, we talked with a handful of women who have found joy and success outside of a carefully calculated career path. Read on to learn why they love their non-traditional work.

1. Combine your experience with your passion. “I worked in the beauty industry for many years, with roles at P&G, Fred Segal, and Dermstore.com, but my passion for the environment led me to make big changes in my personal life and my career,” Nicole Robertson explains. “When I left cosmetics to be VP of Marketing for a bioplastics company, my friends and colleagues were shocked. A beauty editor friend actually took me out to lunch, perhaps to do a crazy check because she couldn’t believe it.” Robertson says it was around the same time that she started focusing on how to be a more mindful consumer, swapping her clothes instead of buying new stuff. “After a few years working and learning in bioplastics, I began consulting while figuring out what I wanted to do next; after seven years of not buying new clothes, I decided to launch a startup company that makes swapping more accessible.” Today, Robertson is a full-time entrepreneur who owns and runs her own company, Swap Society, which allows her to blend her experience, love of fashion, and passion for the environment.

2. No two days are the same.Bridget Arsenault tells us that deciding to strike out on her own has been one of the most rewarding decisions in her career. “After working in media for more than 10 years (including over eight years at Vanity Fair), I decided to freelance.” Today, Arsenault writes for a number of high-profile publications — such as Forbes and Architectural Digest — and produces film events for companies like Grey Goose and Google. Combining her talents is something that works well for her. “I recently produced and edited a lifestyle magazine for a property company called EcoWorld Ballymore, and I produced their 2018 advertising campaign and a promotional video series for them,” she shares. “I always wanted to be a straight, traditional journalist and never expected my career to grow in this way. Every day is different!” To top it off, Arsenault gets to see the world, traveling often to consult for the brands and hotels she writes about.

3. Climb your own ladder. Does it seem like “climbing the corporate ladder” is the only way up? Evelyn Frison, the founder of Pivotte, shares how her career path taught her to climb her own ladder. “I thought I knew what I wanted to do when I left college; work in advertising and work my way up,” she admits. “I thought I was a very ‘corporate’ person. It turns out that I’m not.” Frison says she changed jobs more than the average person, working in different marketing positions: “I started in advertising, went to a tech startup, did healthcare marketing, freelanced doing marketing strategy and creative management, then moved into media marketing. During my media job, I started my business and did both as best I could for a while — now I work on my company full-time.” Frison acknowledges that she never imagined she’d be running her own business with her best friend. “I’m so grateful.”

4. Open different doors. Branching out to uncover new growth opportunities can be rewarding both personally and professionally. Tiffany Yu tells us that her transition from more traditional finance roles to turning her side project into her livelihood has opened doors she might not have even dreamed of. “I spent the first six years after graduating working in different finance roles like investment banking at Goldman Sachs and corporate finance at P. Diddy’s REVOLT. My role at REVOLT was actually everything I thought I wanted from work; I had a great title, a seat in the boardroom, and my own office.” Still, Yu was called to do more. “While I was at REVOLT, I started Diversability as a side project. I hosted events around disability empowerment and building community. My work at Diversability got me interested in web accessibility, so I ended up winning a scholarship to learn how to code — in Amsterdam. I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work and stay at REVOLT, so I left.” Soon after, Yu started working on Diversability full time. “This has definitely been a nontraditional journey compared with some of my peers who started with me in investment banking, but it’s connected me with the incredible disability community, taken me to global stages like Davos, and [brought me to] participate in a televised series of philosophical debates with Harvard Professor Michael Sandel.” Amazing!

5. Make an impact. Mitra Raman had a secure job as an engineer at Amazon but couldn’t ignore her idea for a food tech delivery service, inspired by how much she was missing her mom’s homemade Indian food. “I wondered if there was a way to get my mother’s food, quickly,” she shares. Turns out, there was. Today, Raman’s The Buttermilk Company sources Indian recipes from local communities and brings them to food lovers with packets that require only water to make a meal; each packet is also vegan, GMO-free, and takes less than five minutes to make. Equally awesome, 10 percent of all sales go back to the person who developed the recipe, helping the community prosper.

6. Take a chance. “I veered off the traditional path and bought a one-way plane ticket to Uganda without a plan (or much money in the bank) because I believed there was a bigger story I could be a part of,” explains Liz Forkin Bohannon, the co-founder and CEO of Sseko Designs. “Frankly, I was right. Because of that decision to leave my ‘stable’ career, I now lead my own company where I am surrounded but the most incredible women and get to be a small part of helping to launch the future leaders of Uganda while also building a community of female impact entrepreneurs here in the US who are styling their friends and building businesses that are creating a brighter future for themselves and their sisters across the globe.” Bohannon believes taking a chance and trusting your gut is worth it. “Unless you accidentally end up in jail or dead, you can almost always make your way back to the safer, straighter path,” she assures. “But few of us do. Not because we can’t, but because once you choose the unknown path, you realize that the life and adventure and freedom that comes from building a life of purpose and passion and impact is almost always worth the costs.”

What are your career aspirations? Tweet us about your professional dreams @BritandCo!

(Featured photo via Getty)