Navigating Your Career Path

January 24, 2022

Each year I update my professional bio and pause at the part where it says, “Rachel Robertson has worked in the field for over X years”. Not because I can’t believe it or can’t remember, but because I feel so fortunate to have such a long career doing work I love.

Even though my entire career has involved working with children, it wasn’t a straight line from A to B. I started out, like many, as a babysitter at 13 years old. Disposable diapers weren’t quite the norm yet and I remember sticking my finger quite a bit with diaper pins. I overcame, and at 15, I got a job as an afterschool aide at Hug-a-Bear Daycare, a home-based program. That led to a few years working for the YMCA in St. Paul, Minnesota. I did a little bit of everything and loved it all. I took a gap year after high school to work at a Montessori program located on an urban farm. Feeding the animals and llama rides were a weekly activity. I took a slow pace through college, earning a degree in family studies (racking up a lot of child psychology credits along the way as I changed majors). Eventually this led to my first job out of college: day camp coordinator for the YMCA. Dream job! Two years later, I had my first daughter and determined the nights and weekends weren’t the right fit for me. So, I looked at the job postings in the newspaper and started searching for child care program roles. Lucky me, I was hired as a director in training. I was immediately welcomed and quickly recognized how this position was also a critical aspect of my education. I realized how important every day was in the lives of the children I served and the professionals I supported. The work was gratifying and joyful, and I soon realized this was where I would spend the rest of my career, and I have! As a trainer, quality consultant, curriculum writer, instructional designer, accreditation validator, and more. 10 years ago, I came to Bright Horizons, where I am now, leading the education and development department.

When I reflect on all of this, I realize there are a few factors that guided my path.

Passion:  This is the most essential ingredient to a mission-driven career. I love what I do. I think it is so important. Scratch that – I know it is so important. My passion fuels me to not only do the work, but to keep learning about the work.

Intentionality:  I am very clear on the impact I want to have on the world, my work, and my career. I don’t ask, “what job do I want?” I ask, “what difference do I want to make?” This helps me make decisions so everything I do is in service to the vision I have for myself.

Relationships:  I have a genuine respect for and interest in others work, perspective, and expertise and I care for these connections. Each of my new career opportunities was brought to me via a professional relationship and I value my ability to do this for others.

Learning:  I use wonder as a catalyst. I seek out new ideas, use critical thinking to evaluate research, and continue my own learning as I help others in their learning. There isn’t an end goal to learning, it is an ongoing process.

Risk & Grit:  I say yes as much as I can to new opportunities, and I try to embrace being a beginner. If I was an expert, I wouldn’t be starting out, right? I often think, will this open or close a door for me? And make as many door-opening decisions as I can.

Resilience:  I have hit the ground hard in my life. But I am determined to learn from each moment and problem-solve using all my resources. I cultivate my own growth mindset so I am never hindered by negative thinking, but instead motivated by optimism. I accept that I won’t always get it right and value the process of learning through mistakes.

Take a moment to think about how these characteristics resonate with you. Consider how you can build these skills and create habits that will help your professional journey. A career is very rarely a straight line from here to there, but instead, a twisty, turning path full of “what if?” and “why not?” moments leading to opportunities and experiences we never imagined.

So, how long have I been in the field? The answer is 30+ years, and I am looking forward to a few more decades!


About Bright Horizons Family Solutions Inc.

Bright Horizons® is a leading global provider of high-quality early education and child care, back-up care, and workforce education services. For more than 30 years, we have partnered with employers to support workforces by providing services that help working families and employees thrive personally and professionally. Bright Horizons operates approximately 1,000 early education and child care centers in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and India, and serves more than 1,300 of the world’s leading employers. Bright Horizons’ early education and child care centers, back-up child and elder care, and workforce education programs help employees succeed at each life and career stage. Click here to learn how you can build a brighter future with Bright Horizons or visit


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