It’s that time of year when college seniors find themselves getting close to graduation and (hopefully) either gainful employment or grad school. It also reminds me of the many times I shared my experience in career development programs hosted by my alma mater and other schools because I was a liberal arts major “who made good in business.”
After my first ten years in the job market (mid-1970’s to mid-1980’s), I had sufficient experience to help other young women about to graduate and join corporate America. Since I began my marketing career shortly after the Mad Men era, my advice centered on networking and professional development to build skills and credibility while making in-roads in a still-male dominated workforce. Students found it hard to believe that one of my duties as a bank corporate planning assistant was to make coffee for the Tuesday morning executive committee meeting.
My career advice from the mid-1980’s to the late 1990’s shifted to achieving career success while maintaining work-life balance. I was in the midst of an exciting and hectic time — raising a child, transitioning from employee to self-employed, and serving as a volunteer leader in my professional association. It was quite the balancing act for me and my husband, who was equally busy with his career and community involvement.
Sadly, I haven’t been asked to do much career development speaking in the past several years. Perhaps it’s because my Boomer experience is vastly different from those of Gen Y building their post-college careers – especially considering technology’s impact on how we now live and work. Reflecting on my long (but nowhere near finished) career, here’s what I learned:
While the term “career path” implies a straight line from graduation to some destination dream job, the reality is stuff happens that makes the path curve in unexpected directions. Accept these twists and turns as opportunities to “recalculate” your course through self-discovery and the support of your personal and professional network. There’s no definitive GPS for this – it’s a lifelong adventure.
- I graduated during an economic recession [stuff happens] and was so desperate to find work, I searched for jobs using the phone book. (Remember those?) I struck gold in the “banking” section of the yellow pages and found a job as a mortgage clerk. After a few months I switched banks and worked in bookkeeping until a position opened up in corporate planning, an area that transitioned into the marketing department. I learned about marketing on-the-job and discovered I loved the work.
- I survived one bank merger [stuff happens] with limited opportunity to grow in that bank’s marketing department. I changed banks and found myself in another merger situation [stuff happens again].
- With a great deal of trepidation and the encouragement of my husband, friends, and professional network, I left banking to start my own business. I’m now in my 25th year as a solopreneur, having weathered several economic downturns [all because stuff happens].
I have no idea what the next 10-15 years will be like for my business … I just know we all need to be prepared for that reality that stuff happens.