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What: “Twisted Career Paths”

When: 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. today

Where: ATLAS Black Box

Activist, author and broadcaster David Bender said that when mapping a strictly defined career path, John Lennon’s famous quote comes to mind: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Bender, who co-hosts the nationally syndicated radio program “Ring of Fire,” will serve as a panelist at today’s Conference on World Affair event, “Twisted Career Paths.”

Bender said his career followed a nontraditional path, including working as an author and editor, time in the television and music industries and liaison to the entertainment industry for the Democratic National Committee.

He said he advises following a passion, and the opportunities will present themselves.

“You will find opportunities — and not just the ones that exist in the want ads,” said Bender. “It’s all about what gets you up in the morning and gets you out of bed. It’s less about the paycheck. It’s less about wanting to find a job. It’s about spending half of your life in a work environment that will make you happy.”

Fellow panelist Sarah Rich, senior editor at San-Francisco-based Dwell magazine, said she followed a “pretty twisted career path.”

“I’ve done a lot of things that weren’t planned and didn’t follow in the steps of my planned college degree,” said Rich, who is a leading voice in sustainability and new media. “I definitely didn’t start on my path right out of college. It took a couple of years, and things started picking up when I discovered the magical things that happened when I started writing on the Internet.”

Rich’s previous jobs included a production assistant for the Food Network and a chef at the Berkeley Art Museum café.

She said networking, online writing and creativity in searching is what put her name out there, as opposed to graduate school.

“It’s a hard economy to go into any field whether you have a conventional or unconventional path,” Rich said. “It was a process for me to step out of my comfort zone, and it took some learning.

“Following an unorthodox route means you really have to be vulnerable, ready to be on your feet and get out there and search.”