Not too very long ago a gentleman I was working alongside and I were talking of all the various jobs and careers we’ve had.
When I got around to the position I hold now as an Employment Counsellor, he very kindly told me how well-suited I was to the position, and then said, “If only you’d found this career sooner.” I wasn’t really certain what he was referring to since that kind of statement implies some kind of regret on my part – at least from my perspective.
He then said that the jobs and careers I’d previously had were fine but since I’m good at what I do (for which I thanked him), I could have done so much more for a lot of people earlier in my life when I was doing other things. There I had to disagree, or if not entirely disagree, at least open up the possibility that he may be wrong in assuming that a younger me would have been equally as effective.
I believe people are a sum total of all their experiences to date. We are shaped by good and bad jobs we’ve had, people we’ve come into contact with as customers, clients and co-workers, our bosses etc. Every position we have held down and then quit, been terminated, been laid off etc. shapes us. Even now I am shaped and defined by all the people in my working life with whom I come into contact with.
I know I’m influenced by what I read, what I observe, what others say, how I’m treated, and most certainly by those who I help. My clients; all the people I listen to and all the stories they share with me shape me most certainly.
So then, the question to really consider is: “Would I be just as impactful and effective as he believes me to be today if I’d come to the profession earlier in life?” I think the answer is no. In my own case, I’ve worked in retail profit, provincial and municipal governments, recreation, youth organizations, been self-employed, social services; a wide variety of sectors. I’ve held positions at the top of organizations and been on the front-line. I’ve been terminated, quit, promoted, rewarded and had some poor leaders to answer to and some outstanding people to guide me. I am who I am as a sum total.
Take a favourite book of yours as, “The Lord of The Rings” is mine. Would Frodo be the same person at the end if he’d just had a pleasant walk through middle-earth to Mt. Doom where he’d casually drop the One Ring into the volcano? How boring a book would that to have read. He needed – and we with him – to experience all the rich and vivid characters he encountered and the trials he suffered that in the end made him stronger and the person he became.
And so he and I were back discussing his initial assertion. If perhaps like some of my peers, I’d have graduated from University and immediately become an Employment Counsellor, what would that ‘me’ really look like? It’s entire speculation of course because no one can say. I am confident in saying however that I’d be very different. And in being different, I’d have a different impact on the people I serve.
Maybe – and just maybe – I’d be more black and white, right and wrong, “get a job if you want one like I did.” Maybe job searching would appear easier, maybe I’d be quicker to judge others, more naïve, convinced I could, “save them all”. I really can’t say. So why speculate? Well there is some value in the thinking process not because I could change anything in the past but because it serves to remind, clarify and give value to where I am in the present.
It is no less the same for you. Maybe right now you’re dealing with problems and long-standing issues of pain, guilt, sadness, fears, isolation etc. You’re wondering perhaps if there will ever come a time when you’ll emerge free of all the stuff that’s stressing you now be they poverty, abuse, addictions, unemployment, lack of education, housing, family dysfunction, relationship woes or any number of other issues. Whatever the issue or combination of issues, they are all shaping you at present.
Think of some iron a blacksmith wants to shape into a sword or a shoe for a horse. In order for it to be softened up and shaped into that useful tool, it has to first go through the hottest part of the fire – not just for a minute, but repeatedly until the contents can be forged into something stronger and only then does it get shaped and have value. Maybe you and I are the raw iron.
The big difference I suppose is that the Blacksmith has a plan when he puts that iron in the forge. He knows what he’s making. We on the other hand quite often don’t know what it is we would best ‘come out’ as after being tested. We start off thinking we’ll be a Recreation Supervisor as I did, and we later become an Employment Counsellor – a job I innocently didn’t even know existed in my early life.
Every so often, evaluate where your skills and experience plus your personal preferences might change your direction. May you have a wonderful – and not too safe – journey.