What do you do Elaine?
For years when asked that question, I would say, “I’m a generalist. My skills translate quickly into other environments. I know something about almost everything.”
I began hating to explain myself that way, because 20 years ago, people didn’t value my skill set. They wanted loyal, long term employees. It was my way of explaining my tendency to not stay in one career very long and my unquenchable curiosity about everything. Learning new systems, processes, an organizations culture and language, finding ways to improve things, being creative, that excites me.
One of the many benefits of this skill set is that I have discovered I always land on my feet. What does that mean? It means within hours or a few days of starting a new role, I become a productive contributing member of the team. In a short time, I am able to see their systems and processes – dysfunctional or otherwise – and learn the politics of the office. I am a fast learner.
When I was young, I changed jobs every few years because of life circumstances – moving and new babies. Then, for ten years, I settled into inside sales and office management for electrical engineers. The last 3-5 years were the hardest for me. From that experience, I decided I didn’t want to ever work that long in one place, again. (They were wonderful people. I liked them a lot, but it had become very boring for me.) I learned a lot in those ten years – systems, processes, engineering-speak, organizational skills, and how to work with difficult people (ahh, I have a few stories). For me, the most important thing I discovered was I am a learner.
What have I done since then? Accounting, investments, insurance, law (pension), utilities – both gas and electric (engineering – see that utility pole on the corner? I may have sold them the pole, the cable, the transformer, street light, and hardware), education, counseling, training in soft and hard skills, facilitating, customer service, market research, project management, managing a bookstore, life skills, convening, hosting, event management, designing workshops, coaching, arts and crafts, social media, online community manager, build WordPress websites, database management, puzzle solver, risk taker, creating order out of chaos, speaker, and …
There was a time in my life when I wished I could just settle into a career. Sometimes, I envy friends who are “retiring” with a nice retirement plan after 30+ years with a single employer. Then , I remember my reality and I know it would have made me crazy.
Does any of this sound like you? You change roles and/or careers – a lot? Do you always have to be learning new things, creating, bringing order out of chaos?
Recently, I’ve been bumping into the term Renaissance. When a friend recommended I read, The Renaissance Soul, I decide the universe was speaking to me. I’ve just begun reading the book, but it is resonating for me. You might want to check out the author, Margaret Lobensteine’s website.
Margaret reminds me that Leonardo De Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Feynman, Jane Goodall, and many others were Renaissance people. They did not limit themselves to just one career path. There was a time when a liberal arts degree was highly valued because it created a well rounded individual. Now, everyone must specialize. Is that really a good idea with today’s changing economy and technology?
What’s next for me? Taking all the skills and processes I’ve learned from Peter Block’s six conversations for building relationships and community, Brene’ Brown’s shame resiliency work, Maureen McCarthy & Zelle Nelson’s interpersonal relationship work – State of Grace Documents, Christina Merkley’s life/career coaching materials, and my life experiences to create a unique workshop for your journey. Stay tuned.
I’ll let you know when it’s ready.