Is Your Off-Ramp Really an On-Ramp?

Posted June 11, 2014 by Guest Writer in Career Moves
cartoon decision

I love road trips. Control freak that my husband is, he always drives, which is probably why I love road trips. I used to navigate but with the GPS in charge, I look out the window, nibble on sunflower seeds, and think about off-ramps and on-ramps.

Speaking of off-ramps, George W. Bush is painting.  Yep, you heard me. He’s taken up painting. He’s received withering criticism from the media who use it as a launching pad to re-hash his presidency. On the other hand, Jerry Saltzthe art critic for New York Magazine had the best quote ever: “OMG! Pigs fly!  I like something about George W. Bush.”  Jerry Saltz thinks George Bush is a good painter. There you go. One reporter’s garbage is an art connoisseur’s find.

I’m fascinated with this moment in art history. It isn’t the quality of his painting or linkages to his policies that’s newsworthy. What’s newsworthy is that he did this at all.  A person who spent his life on one path found inspiration in an utterly and indescribably unexpected pursuit. I want to know what went through his mind.  How did he take his first steps? Did he ever doubt himself? What did it feel like to dip the brush in the paint for the first time?  Of course we might have expected this from Winston Churchill (a fine painter in his own right) whose life-long love affair with the art of the English language hinted at creative talent. But George Dubya? 

This is a lesson for Career Girls everywhere.  You know the clichés – one door closes, another opens. Life is what we make it.  But dog-gone it, it’s true.  We tend to stay in our own valley and walk the same paths.  But what happens if we decide to take an exit ramp?Maybe, just maybe, it’s an on-ramp to something better or at least something “next”.  I doubt that in the final days of his presidency George thought, “I gotta get me some canvas!”  No, I suspect it came to him over time. For me, I had a tickle that turned into an itch which blossomed into an idea which morphed into a blog.  When I started I had no idea it would be as utterly gratifying satisfying as it is.  I may be no better a writer than George is a painter, but it doesn’t matter.  Whatever the new path, what matters, is that you love it,as I’m sure George does his painting.  Who cares what the critics think?


I have two friends – one who after retiring from a stressful career as insurance claims adjuster got involved with Habitat for Humanity. If you’d known him in college, you wouldn’t have expected this. Yet now he’s a board member helping not only with builds, but fund-raising too. Jimmy Carter would be proud – speaking of people who’ve exit-ramped to new passions.  My other friend leaves a successful career, heading into uncharted waters. Where will his exit ramp take him?  He can engage even the coldest person in warm, lively dialogue; a rare gift for winning people over. I can’t wait to see where his long and winding road takes him.
I don’t care if you’re a Career Girl who is retiring, needs a job change, lost your job, or is looking for a new career.  When you’ve been on your highway a long time it’s hard to see the exit ramp as an entrance ramp. But it is. There’s always another road at the end of the ramp. Maybe it’s another freeway. Maybe it’s a country path. 

What’s for sure is it’s never a dead end unless you let it be. 

Then again, maybe you’re just fine cruising along. The scenery’s nice and the construction’s not too bad. But whatever you do, don’t let the GPS decide where you’re going. Take a long look down the road. Maybe there’s a Sheryl Sandberg, J.K. Rowling, or Angela Merkel inside of you itching to take the wheel.  Who knows?  You’ll have to take your own exit-ramp-to-on-ramp to find out.


About the Author: Lisa Zakrajsek’s career has been unlikely, eccentric, yet highly successful.  An accomplished singer and public school music teacher, Lisa took an unconventional turn in 1982, acquiring an MBA in Marketing and beginning a 30-year career moving up the corporate ladder.  She held executive marketing positions at Fortune 500 companies including Pillsbury, Campbell’s Soup and, most recently, served as Executive Vice President of Marketing and E-Business for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the nation’s #1 mortgage lender.  In 2013, Lisa retired to blog as the Canary in a Corporate Coalmine where she uses personal, witty and engaging stories to coach young career-minded women on “thriving and surviving as a corporate free spirit.”  Connect with Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.



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