Okay, so let’s say you are just starting out on your brand new shiny career. Perhaps you are still in high school, wondering and worrying about making life-long career decisions, feeling pressure to choose a University or College, then a program of study because with no direction, you feel you’re doomed.
Maybe you’re already in post secondary education and looking forward to the end of school and looking around for your first full-time permanent job to apply to. Feeling a lot of pressure to choose wisely because you’re going to be there a long time and want to make sure it’s a good fit?
Relax. My experience in talking with people across a number of different employment sectors is that more and more people are changing jobs and careers often. Now that might sound odd because in an economy where jobs are at a premium, you might suspect that once someone gets a job, they decide to sit tight and stabilize their situation by staying in the job for years and years.
Here’s some advice I think is very wise. Rather than looking for a job that has significant earnings, look for employment that provides you with significant learning. When you take a job, look at it as a chance to learn new skills, form working relationships and gain perspective. Ask the people you end up working with what it is that they find rewarding and challenging in their work. As you go about your work, be aware of what you both like and dislike about what you’re doing.
For example, at 54 years old, and I still vividly remember spending a single day in a plastics factory, filling in for an ill friend of mine at the time – something employers would never allow today. I hated that exceedingly oppressive and hot plastics factory. I knew after that single day that I wasn’t cut out for a career in factory work. I also worked in Eaton’s toy department and the tie around my neck and top buttoned shirt drove me insane. I learned that I had a strong preference for a job that would not require a shirt and tie on a daily basis. To this day, they drive me nuts.
However, working at Eaton’s as a Salesman, and Direct Film as a Photography and Print Salesperson, I got exposure to providing customer service excellence. Throughout my career, I’ve built on that, and know now that selling film and photography gear, or toys requires a similar skill set to sell myself to an employer. It’s like this: you have to identify your skills, and research the skills needed by the employer, then compare how you match up. This is like listen to the customer, identifying their needs, and determining how you can serve them best based on your inventory.
In my own situation, which I grant isn’t right for everyone, I had this general philosophy starting out in my career: year one of a job was entirely a learning phase, year two was the year I’d add creativity to improve performance, year three I’d evaluate whether to stay or move on. What I didn’t know is that my working life would be blocks of three-year in length jobs. The work as it turns out was in Retail, Recreation, Social Services, and I worked for our Provincial government, Municipal government, the non-profit and for profit sectors, ran my own business, and worked for others.
This diversified experience is now my key selling point, my unique benefit I offer employers. I come at issues wearing many different hats and bring all those collective experiences to bear in my daily work. In my own time, I’ve volunteered on Boards, acted in community theatre and musicals and I’ve coached youth sports teams. All of these experiences brought me in contact with people I’d otherwise not know. Why even the blog you are reading is bringing me into contact with others around the globe who comment and dialogue with me.
All these people, these experiences…they all add up to an enriched and valued life. Now that’s me personally. What about you? You can’t know where life will take you, what opportunities will present themselves, and what choices you will make. If you did, life would be incredibly predictable and boring. It’s the uncertainty and the windows of change that present themselves throughout life that will make the sum total amazing. You will make errors in judgement and some of those will be hard to stomach at the time but hopefully you will find things to learn and grow from in the experiences. May them not be too catastrophic.
By working in many different jobs, you will find what you like and dislike. Examine the people not the tasks of the job. What kind of people does the work attract? Connect with the people involved and both contribute and take away whatever you can.
It’s a long life…don’t be impatient for it all to be revealed to you. Savour all the experiences you can!