While winding down a career that I’ve pursued for the past few decades, I’ve had occasion to reflect on my journey. My thoughts have found their way into a set of blog posts that I’ve authored this Fall. I’ll be adding to that collection today.
As noted previously, I’ve had an unconventional career path… at least relative to the trajectories that my parents’ generation pursued. (My uncle worked for the same company for 43½ years before retiring at 65!) While some of my decision points were foist upon me by corporate upheavals and geographic moves, I can look back and see a few patterns that guided my choices.
ONE: I had a very good handle on our household finances and made sure that our income was sufficient to fund our lifestyle. I never wanted money to be the overarching factor in my job choices. To my way of thinking, all of the money in the world wouldn’t be helpful if my day-to-day experience proved miserable. Fortunately, my husband and I were on the same page. We adjusted our spending as needed to ensure that our respective work lives were fulfilling and reasonably pleasant.
TWO: I made sure that I worked with good people. Working relationships played a major role in my professional happiness as well as the quality of my work. I’ve had several occasions where I’ve gutted it out and worked with difficult folks. But such stints were short-lived. I generally maneuvered my way into circumstances where I both respected and liked the people with whom I worked.
THREE: I worked within or with organizations that operated in integrity. Not all of them managed to live into their stated goals consistently. But I needed to feel that they made the effort to attain high standards of conduct with their partners, suppliers, customers, employees, and regulatory agencies. When I sensed a fundamental disconnect between stated policies and behaviors, I opted to move to a different environment.
FOUR: I thrived in learning environments where I felt challenged to stretch my capabilities. I’ve often said that I could have been a professional student if someone paid me to attend classes. I find lots of things fascinating. There are few things that are better than taking classes from passionate professors who love their subject matter and open new avenues of knowledge for me. I suppose that’s why consulting has always suited me well. Each assignment brings new challenges, and the range of industries that I’ve covered made me feel as though I’d taken a series of “field trips.”
FIVE: I chose positions that were aligned with my personal preferences. Chief among those preferences was my desire to do the work rather than manage people who do it. When push comes to shove, I can serve as an able manager and delegator, but I don’t enjoy those roles as much as being in the trenches. That’s another reason why consulting proved to be a good fit for me.
SIX: I was attentive to building and perfecting marketable skills that would enable me to secure employment readily. I’ve stayed current on the technologies pertinent to my industry as well as those that fuel marketing, collaboration, and customer support. And I’ve also worked on the fundamentals – leadership, communications, project management, change management, writing, etc. It’s a pragmatic approach to career management… and an outgrowth of being the daughter of Depression Era parents.
SEVEN: I opted for flexibility on work hours as much as possible. To be sure, I’ve needed to accommodate other people’s schedules, commitments, and deadlines. But I’ve also had a great deal of freedom to attend to personal responsibilities – e.g., “The plumber will arrive at your home sometime between 9 and 4 on Tuesday.” I’ve been able to pick the times of day when I’m most productive or inspired. My home office was a BIG help… although a bit lonely for this highly extroverted person!
EIGHT: I made adjustments to balance my personal and professional interests. My home life takes precedence over all professional aspirations. I’m far prouder of my blissful 36-years-and-counting marriage than I am of anything that I’ve achieved in my career. But I also have artistic sensibilities for which I’ve needed breathing room to express.