286: The Alaskan Shapeshifter Who Created a Career She Loves (despite her doubts and disbeliefs)


Allison was good at everything. The problem was…she couldn’t find something she enjoyed doing.

As a self-proclaimed Upholder (defined in Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies), Allison had a knack, or rather a compulsion, for meeting expectations.

This habit led to a “see and conquer” mentality in the career world. She’d see a job posting, and whether or not she genuinely wanted to do the work, she’d take on the challenge. In other words, she’d shift into whatever shape necessary to accomplish the goals of that role.

While pursuing her degree, Allison worked as an office manager in a typical 8-hour office environment. Not too long into her role, she realized the clock-in-clock-out-pushing-papers desk job wasn’t for her. Recognizing a need for hands-on work, Allison routed her college studies for a career in oil and gas.

Upon graduation, she was hired as a High-pressure Pump Operator in Anchorage, Alaska. Looking back, Allison says she was drawn to the job’s hands-on nature and the opportunity to work in big picture operations. She felt a special love for the procedures and problem-solving ability required for her two week on/two week off schedule. She was good at her job, but the love didn’t last.


She transferred to the company’s headquarters, back to a desk job. This time, her stint at the front desk was short, as the Procurement team picked up on her skills and assigned her the task of building a centralized buying program from scratch.

As a lover of challenges and, like we mentioned above, a compulsive expectation upholder, Allison dove headfirst into this new project. She was successful on the outside, but internally, Allison struggled. She couldn’t find her dream job, and when she looked at her resume, it seemed like an indomitable connect-the-dots puzzle.



When she was laid off from her procurement job, Allison decided to take some local classes on resumes and job placement. She quickly found these tools to be a bad recipe for her own career happiness. The one-dimensional nature of the assessments told Allison she was conventional, so she should pursue a role like chef or plumber. When neither of those felt like a fit, her recruiters directed her to the job board to search for something that would hit home.

Allison was beginning to believe her dream career belonged in a file with the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Abominable Snowman. With each new job that left her unfulfilled, Allison beat herself up a little more.

One day, Allison stumbled upon the Happen To Your Career podcast. When she heard other high achievers sighting similar struggles and then telling the stories of their successes, Allison felt something growing inside. Something that felt like hope.


A few episodes into the podcast, Allison began to gain confidence that her career search wasn’t in vain. Career happiness was possible, and her varied interests and hesitation to pigeon hole or specialize in her fields weren’t a sign of delinquency.


As Allison listened to our interview with Emily Wapnick, the woman who popularized the word “multipotentialite,” she felt relief and excitement. The podcast episode gave Allison an epiphany: It was possible to work in line with her many talents and varied interests instead of forcing herself to be a linear, hyper-focused specialist.

To listen to our interview with Emily Wapnick on Multipotentialites, click the play button below.

One of the approaches Emily shared for helping multipotentialites find their dream careers is the Group Hug approach. This involves finding a job that combines all of your seemingly disconnected interests into one role.


While the episode with Emily sparked hope, Allison knew she needed a plan for continued movement toward career happiness. She needed a mind shift.



The first step in overcoming Allison’s mental barriers was to realize other multipotentialites like her had figured it out. She needed to realize there was nothing wrong with her, and that a career she loved that paid well was actually possible.

To keep moving the right direction, Allison decided to join Career Change Bootcamp. Throughout the course, she was challenged with activities like completing the Ideal Career Profile. This task required listing everything Allison wanted, from salary, to work relationships, to office environment, to location, and lifestyle.


Allison was so used to meeting expectations that the job board usually left her saying, “I could do that” instead of “I would love that.” But with the help of Career Change Bootcamp, she became self-aware and began to filter out others’ expectations to hear her own voice on what she wanted.


As she completed the Clifton’s Strengthsfinder assessment during her CCB course, Allison discovered the formula for her own career happiness. She says confidence + strengths + motion = dream career.

dream career

She began to imagine a career she could be passionate about. When asked the question, “What are some of the things you can’t stop doing?” Allison found herself responding, “I can’t stop asking people if they like their job.”

This answer helped her see that she was obsessed with career fulfillment. For five or six years, she had been showing interest in others’ career success. Even when she was shifting gears with her job title, she kept asking people whether or not they loved their work.


Allison realized she was good at simplifying processes for people and creating new programs. She had fun communicating to people in a language they understood. When she thought about career paths, she realized she could use all of these skills in helping others find fulfillment.

Today, Allison is a professional career coach. She’s an entrepreneur living out her multipotentiality, and she can honestly say she’s discovered her dream career.

Very few people will find career happiness in this life, whether it’s because they don’t believe it’s available to them or because they can’t identify what would even bring fulfillment, but Allison is living proof that you can do work you love and be paid well for it.

Allison created her dream career, and you can, too! Follow in her footsteps to find your own career happiness today.

Read more success stories from Career Change Bootcamp!

Allison Curbow 00:03
I jumped around so much that one job sometimes didn't look anything like the next job. That's why looking back at my resume, it's like a dot to dot picture where you just go back and forth between all the little dots. And it's kind of a mess at first.

Introduction 00:22
This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:46
Hey, welcome to the Happen To Your Career podcast. I am really excited. I know I always say I'm excited to be here. But I am especially ecstatic, and probably even enamored today because of our guest. And she's somebody who has walked the walk, in addition to talking the talk in a variety of different ways with her career. And she has done a variety of hard things, especially over recent year. And I'm so excited to bring her on to be able to share her story and how she's made some pretty massive career changes and what that even means to her because I think that you're going to be able to take a lot away from it for yourself. So I want to welcome to the Happen To Your Career podcast, Allison Curbow. How are you?

Allison Curbow 01:38
Great, Scott. I'm glad you're doing good too.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:41
I am doing great and I meant when I said I'm really excited about this because, give people a little bit of backstory here, you and I got the opportunity to meet about one year ago. Is that right?

Allison Curbow 01:54

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:55
Roughly a year ago.

Allison Curbow 01:57
Yeah. About a year and three months.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:59
Yeah. That seems crazy to me. And the reason why it seems crazy is because I've seen you, I've gotten a front row seat in a lot of different ways to see just how much you and your life has changed over the last year. And I think that, that is so cool. So, we're going to talk about that and specifically what you've done, and what that road look like for you. Can you share with people what you do now?

Allison Curbow 02:28
Well, I just started jumping into the entrepreneur career coaching field. And it is nothing like I started out. I want to paint for you the roadmap of where I came, but it's been really exciting to see where I've come from my first conversation with you a year ago.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:48
Yeah, I want to talk about all that. I also... I am really curious, because I don't even know the full story. And I think it's important here to acknowledge, like where your career started out to. Do you mind if we jump back for probably more than a few years here? Actually, where did your career start out professionally? What did that look like for you?

Allison Curbow 03:10
Ah, so I started out in an office manager position. And just in college, side job, you know, like eight hours a week. And I decided that I wanted a hands-on technical trade. And so I went into oil and gas operations on the North Slope of Alaska. So, I got my degree in Process Technology to go on and be a high pressure pump operator on the North Slope of Alaska.

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:41
So what does that even mean? I think I might know what that means, but if people have never heard of a high pressure pump operator, and what does that even mean?

Allison Curbow 03:51
It's a... working with drilling fluid. So they push the drilling fluid in the ground, it comes back up, and then the appropriate materials you can pump back into the ground, we pumped back into the ground. So super technical, not being an entrepreneur.

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:09
Not even remotely close necessarily. I'm curious, what caused you to think, "Hey, you know, I'm in this office manager role. I want to do something more technical." What transpired where you had that set of thoughts for that original decision?

Allison Curbow 04:24
My thoughts were that I liked hands on work out in the field and doing things. And I was also trying to combine like big picture operations to where you have all these really big situations going on at one time. And if you mess up on procedure communications, you got a really big problem. So that was actually kind of exciting. And so I went that route.

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:54
Very cool. So then what happened from there? You're now in this technical role that you decided you wanted to move into. And clearly you didn't stay there forever. So what happened at that point? What transpired?

Allison Curbow 05:09
Right. Well, turns out I wanted to do more local work. So North Slope is really, really cold. And it was a rotational schedule, two weeks on, two weeks off, and I shifted in the same company to their office, to their front desk. And then I got picked up by procurement. And I worked to get this centralized buying programs started for them, which those two things was another really big jump. And that's why looking back at my resume, it's like a dot to dot picture, where you just go back and forth between all the little dots. And it's kind of a mess at first. What I struggled with for a long time was I had so many different skills and interests. And I jumped around so much that one job, sometimes it didn't look anything like the next job. And that was me grasping at straws to try to fit all these aspects of my life into one but I didn't know that was possible. So I just jumped from job to job.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:15
It's easy to, you know, sit here and see how some of those things work out after the fact. But I'm curious, you know, when you were there, when you were in the moment, what did that feel like for you as you're going, "Hey, look. I know that I want to be doing something different than this. But I need to make the move. What was that feeling like back then?

Allison Curbow 06:38
I felt like a flip flopper, I actually didn't feel very good. Because when I would want to move on to the next thing, I felt like I had to subdue or discredit the parts of myself that were in the other position.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:53

Allison Curbow 06:54
Yeah. And so it was actually really, really hard. For example, when I was in the field, and I wanted to move into some kind of procurement or office space, it was almost, like, I had to subdue that part to say that was my past, moving on, this is what I want to do. Because I didn't know it was possible to pull connections together, to really fit together a dream job that has every aspect. So it was really, really hard, feeling like I couldn't get it right. Or maybe I just changed interest too much, maybe I don't have a dream job, just because everything looked so opposite at the time.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:37
What took place to cause you to start to look at it differently then? Because I know now, I've had multiple conversations with you about this exact thing. And I know now the way that you look at it is far, far different from that, in terms of, you're not beating yourself up anymore for having different interests and at least your lens has shifted quite a bit. So I'm really curious, you know, what started to take place. And what were the set of events that caused you to begin to look at this differently?

Allison Curbow 08:08
To be honest, it started with another five years of trying to decide back and forth which thing I wanted, because I felt like I had to choose either or. And they were opposite. So my work history is a big finger painting from a preschooler. Once I found your podcast, and really wanted to dig into I have to find my fit. I am tired at not liking what I do. And I'm tired of not being fantastic at it. And I'm tired of not incorporating all of me. And then you have that episode, that multipotentialite episode of Emilie Wapnick. And I literally just cried because it takes a lot to subdue what you think has no value. And so then learning that there's multipotentialite people like me, first of all, there's a word for it. And other people exist. But it's a thing to be able to incorporate all aspects of your life and interests into a career.

Scott Anthony Barlow 09:14
And if you haven't listened to that episode, go back to happentoyourcareer.com/103. And you can listen to my friend Emily, she has popularized that word multipotentialite, which another way to think about that is somebody who has many talents and many interests as opposed to somebody who is a specialist and really has this one interest in, you know, one very narrow focus. So for context, if you are not familiar with that word, definitely check that out. We've had a lot of great feedback about that episode, and I'm so glad that that was so helpful to you too, you know, as you started to think about that, like, hey, it's okay to have many interests. It's okay to... and even better, you can work with this rather than against it. What were some of the realizations that you had or what had took place from there?

Allison Curbow 10:03
Once I got over to the fact that it wasn't a bad thing to have a resume, that was like a finger painting, it's okay. And she teaches that there's different ways for multipotentialite to handle it. One way is having a job, and then having hobbies on the side or a side hustle. But I really wanted the challenge of trying to see if I could fit it all into one career, which took a while. And I did it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:34
Emily, that we were talking about calls this the group hug method, which I love. It's just, kind of, fun to say in the first place. But I think that even though that's not right for everybody, I think something that I have learned about you is that has been really important to you, from almost the beginning, as I started to get to know you. And I think that that's something you're after, so and you have done it. So one, congratulations, because most people in the world will not do the work to be able to make that happen or don't even know it's possible in a lot of different ways. So I think that's amazing that you've done that. And I really want to talk about how that happened. And some of both of the great pieces about it, as well as some of the hardware pieces too.

Allison Curbow 11:24
Well, that's where a lot of mindset works had to happen. Because I came from a world of specialists where I was a generalist. And I always tried to fit myself in that specialist box to find that career that I'm great at, that pays well, that I'll stay with for 30 years, looking at my background that wasn't happening, either a combination of I would get bored, and want to move on. Or I would just change my mind or get tired of subduing other parts. And I'm really driven by curiosity. And so I would find another aspect of me that I was curious about and follow that thing. So that turned into what's wrong with me. And nothing in my world indicated how to figure that out. At one point, I was laid off from my procurement position. And so I went and I took some vocal classes on resumes and jobs, which have really good intentions. But for people like me, who are multi passionate, or really don't know what they want is a really bad recipe. So..

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:38
In what way? I agree with that, but for people who might not be familiar with that aspect, what do you mean when you say that?

Allison Curbow 12:44
Yeah, so there's a lot of assessments online. And I went and took the assessment, and it marked me as conventional. So if you're conventional, you're either gonna be a chef or a plumber. I was like, "Okay, well...

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:02
Okay, you're not chef-ing your plumbing right now.

Allison Curbow 13:05
Because I haven't found a way to combine them, obviously. And then you follow that, and then there's a list of the salaries and job outlook and availability. And my answer was still, I don't really know. And so they said, "Okay, we'll go online to the job boards, and look up positions that are out there, and see which one you want to do." And I'm like, "Okay, I'll try that for five minutes." And it was a mess. Because as a high performer, there's a lot that I can do. And I'm easily challenged by something. And so I would see a job that's like, okay, that might be fun. And that could have my interest. And then I do it. And then I lose more time. Or I just get really overwhelmed because I see no pattern. And pretty soon I'm down the rabbit hole of I don't even like what I'm doing. Because I get surrounded by these shoulds of the type of job I should have. And then I'm just, like the phrase just shitting all over the place. This pile of chips.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:16
Yeah. And I think that's something that's really common human experience in a lot of different ways. And I'm curious what were some of those shoulds for you? I heard you say, the type of job that I should have, what were some of those that you saw pop up from time to time for yourself?

Allison Curbow 14:30
I should be a specialist. I should pick something to follow forever. And it should be something that I can retire with, that affords the life I want, which are all really really important and really good advice. But it was wrong for me because I had such a passion to find my fit. And at that point, I followed these shoulds for two more years, which looking back seems like a lot of time to really not like your work, because I so desperately wanted to like my work. I remember even back in middle school being upset that I haven't found what I'm good at. And so for some reason, there was just a part of me that really wanted to fit, which I know every kid wants to fit in. But I had a drive to be so fantastic at what I do, that it drove me crazy to not find something I was fantastic at or recognized for.

Scott Anthony Barlow 15:43
You know, that's really interesting, because I do think you're right, I think every kid experiences that in different ways. And I know you've got a little boy, too. So you're probably seeing this all over again, and everything here too. But it's such an irony or a juxtaposition, because what I heard you just say is that, I want to be recognized for the things that I'm good at, and I want to fit in. And those often don't go together. So I believe personally, that that's one of the big reasons why it feels so challenging, because those a lot of times are at odds. And if you're looking at just those two options, a lot of times most people never find that in one way or another. And until you start introducing additional options, well, what if you can fit in where you are great at something? Or what if you can fit in with the other type of people that you want to surround yourself around? And it's like taking those two options, which are somewhat impossible, and then tweaking them. And I think you've done a really, really good job of introducing other options into your life. So what are some of those things that you found along the way? You know, as you're going through this exploration, you're beginning to identify all of these different areas that you want to bring together into a cohesive career, what were some of the most important pieces for you as you were working through this and having realizations along the way that you learned that, "hey, in my next role, next opportunity, whatever the next stage looks like, I need to start having more of this or these things"? What were some of those for you?

Allison Curbow 17:23
Once I got past that roadblock of there's nothing wrong with me, because of this background that's jumping around, I'm not flaky. One thing I had to overcome was, in your podcast, you speak to high performers. And because I want it to be so flat out fantastic at what I do, I've wanted to be a high performer so bad, but what I thought was a high performer, I didn't fit into. So what I thought a high performer look like was somebody that's been in the same linear path, who's worked up in a company, who has the salary they want, and has a respectable title they're proud of. And so I'm thinking, Okay, that's what a high performer means. And you've had other guests where they've worked up the ladder, and all of a sudden, they realize that they're unhappy with it, or that they want something different, or it doesn't fit your life. But I was even desperate to feel that much of a high performer. And so it took some work to even identify as that, because I didn't feel like I looked like someone who was a normal high achiever, in a sense that my background and resume did not look impressive for what I knew I was capable of.

Scott Anthony Barlow 18:48
You know, it's so interesting. And this is something that a lot of people don't see behind the scenes. And I worry sometimes that we miss represent some of these things that go on behind the scenes on the podcast. And one of the things that we have happened over and over and over again, is we get to meet, like, I feel so fortunate that we've created this business where we get to meet all kinds of talented people like you, and people from all over the world, for all intents and purposes. So we get we get to meet tons of high performers, high achievers, and everything along those lines. And just really, really cool, unique, fun, talented people from all over the place. And I am eternally grateful for that. Also, one of the things that people don't see and all the calls we have and meeting of all these people is that, you know, we get people that have a, like, you called it a finger painting type background, like, the scattered background of lots of different resume, or lots of different pieces on the resume and stuff that don't go together. And they're like, "I don't know if I fit into the traditional method of high performance." And then we also, on the other side, you know, we'll talk to a person an hour later where maybe they worked at, I don't know, NASA, or Facebook, or just think of a big company and insert the name here or something that's really well known. And they've run up this trajectory and have had those promotions. And they're dealing with the exact same thing. They're like, I don't know if I fit the method of traditional high performer or even maybe the opposite way where they're like, "Hey, I've done this thing. But this isn't actually what I want. And now I'm here. And I realized I did it for some of the wrong reasons, or it was good before, but it's no longer good now, and not what I want in my life." Or now or later, we'll have another conversation with somebody else who doesn't fit into either of those categories, and is completely different. So what is fascinating to me, that everyone experiences variations of this, absolutely everyone experiences variations of what you're talking about that feeling like they're not fitting in with one area or another. And the good news is, that means you're human. So that's a bonus, but also that I think that's one of the best examples of what Seth Godin calls the imposter syndrome. He really popularized that phrase over the last 10 years or so. So I'm curious, you know, now that you've started to reconcile with that a bit, what advice would you have to other people that are feeling a bit of that, in one way or another?

Allison Curbow 21:18
I think that it's really, really common for people to feel, especially when people are stuck. And especially when they've been stuck for a length of time, because I got really down on myself when I was in my jobs that didn't fit, because I wasn't measuring up to their metric of success. And I felt like I was a bad employee, or incapable, or maybe not as fantastic as I thought I was. But then I really broke down that the reason for that is, because I'm not a good fit for that. Because everybody has their own unique strengths, that when they recognize and cultivate them are so strong, that when you put them in the wrong spot, they're going to look like a fish out of water. And so they're going to tell them themselves, I am a fish out of water, and I am incapable and they're not with their own view of success, then they seem not successful. And so that's where I got so held up is because I didn't feel like I was successful as a person, because I wasn't measuring my workplaces success. And so I think the people that feel stuck, fall into this trap of feeling not good enough. And then they get down on themselves, when really, it's just a matter of, you're not using your strengths, or your values don't match your workplace values. And so you feel undervalued and overlooked. And the remedy is really, really simple. Figure out who you are, figure out your strengths, and then get yourself in motion.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:08
I was trying to think and Google at the same time. Do you remember the quote that I think it gets attributed to Benjamin Franklin a lot of the time, and I don't know if it actually came from Benjamin Franklin. But it's still a good quote, nonetheless, where it's "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree..." (you were saying fish out of water, so it made me think of it) then, "If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live it's whole life believing that as a stupid."

Allison Curbow 23:36
Yeah, it's that thing, because I didn't have a filter to really empower myself to know that I can have my own definition of success. And to really say, these are my workplace values. And this is how I want to be treated and viewed at the workplace. And I was so down on myself for not fitting in my job, that I totally took the power out of my own hands. And I was not in the driver's seat of my career. And it took a lot of realizing and mindset work and being open to let me become me, that career change really started to happen.

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:24
I want to say thank you, first of all, for spending the time and coming and sharing your story here and sharing some of the things that worked very, very well for you. And then also just congratulations again, because I don't know if I have told you that. And I just really want you to know that I'm thankful to have been any kind of part of it and getting to witness some of this and your growth as you've gone along. So, great job.

Allison Curbow 24:51
No, thanks, Scott. it's been really fun. And I just want our HTYC listeners to know that your fit is that out there. And your dream job exists, whether you just haven't heard of it, or if you have to create it, but it's there. And when you find it, it's like realizing the person you knew back in middle school is your true love. And it was there all along, and it existed and you just didn't know how to find it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:24
Allison, where can... if people are interested in more of your story, or want to connect with you, how can people do that? How can they get more Allison?

Allison Curbow 25:34
My website is worklifealignment.org and imallison@worklifealignment.org because as I may have painted, I really believe in tying your life to your work. So, I'm at.

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:51
Very cool. Thank you again for taking the time and making the time. I really appreciate it.

Allison Curbow 25:55
Thanks, Scott. It's been fun.

Joshua Rivers 25:58
Hey, thanks for listening to the Happen To Your Career podcast. I'm Joshua rivers. I work with Scott here at HTYC. I'm usually behind the scenes. But today, I want to let you know that we've been privileged to work with thousands of people over the years, helping them to find career happiness. Many times, this involves making a career change of some sort. Many of these changes, like with Allison, make huge impacts on their lives. And we'd love to be able to help you figure out what fits you and what steps that you need to take. If you've been listening to this podcast for a while, we love to chat with you on the phone, go to happentoyourcareer.com/schedule-htyc. And you can schedule a time to talk. Now, I mentioned that many people that we work with make huge changes that not only impacts your career, but it also impacts your entire life. Now you're able to hear some of that from Allison. But next week, Scott's going to talk with Allison again, to delve even deeper about this.

Allison Curbow 27:05
For me, passion is what I can't stop doing no matter how hard I try. The magic of your dream job is realizing what you can't stop doing anyways.

Joshua Rivers 27:19
Come back next week to listen to this conversation with Scott and Allison. But don't forget to go to happentoyourcareer.com/schedule-htyc. and schedule a conversation to see how you can get started with your own transformation. What Scott says, I'm out.

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