Updated: Feb 14, 2020
I’ve been thinking about writing for some time and was encouraged recently to actually do it, so here goes. Some people know from an early age what they want to be “when they grow up.” Certainly, for years it was common to find a job and do the same type of work for one’s entire career, at least in the same industry, with the occasional “midlife crisis” career change. That has lessened over time, especially for Gen X and Gen Y, but most people likely stay within an industry or type of job. We even use the term, “career path,” to describe this part of life, suggesting a linear direction.
In reflecting on my own career to this point, my path has not been straight. From a two-year stint with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship working with college students, I moved to graduate school in Illinois and then Minnesota. In Minnesota, I was an early adopter of the gig-economy with adjunct faculty work as my way to balance work and family life. It was great because I found a good fit teaching adult learner programs that met in the evening. When the kids got older, it gave me an in with one of the institutions I taught for, and I got a shot at academic administration. I quickly advanced from part-time, temporary to full-time, permanent status. And I blossomed.
Moving from the Mommy-track to interacting regularly with colleagues, helping ensure adult learners had a quality educational experience, building relationships with faculty and other administrators was all exciting! Building skills and tackling new challenges was fun, and I loved it. I was told I had a knack for what I was doing, and I felt appreciated for my contributions, my ideas, and my skills. After having that position for 4 years, the fourth boss in as many years eliminated the position, and I searched for some time for “my next great opportunity.”
This led to a dean position and a move to another state. The timing fit well with where my kids were in school at the time. The new job included learning more executive leadership skills I’d never done before. Again, it was a great fit. I loved the people I was working with, and I had a great boss who “got me.” Fast forward three years, and that position was eliminated in an administrative restructuring. I’d hoped to stay in higher education, but we didn’t want to move because our daughter still had high school to finish, and we enjoyed our community. Experiencing a prolonged time of unemployment, I took a position outside of higher education. I thought it had potential for being a good fit with some advancement opportunities, and I liked the idea of getting some “real world” experience. After a year, I had to admit it wasn’t a good fit, so I quit.
It’s been awkward for me to look for new positions with my meandering job history. I learned some time ago to use a resume format that groups types of jobs rather than a time-based format. I always dread that someone will look at my resume and think, “She has really jumped around a lot.” Interestingly, I don’t think anyone has ever said that to me. People more often comment, “Wow! You’ve really done a lot of interesting things!” The other dreaded question is, “What kind of job are you looking for?” Given that I have many interests, a wide range of skills, and I’ve worked in different capacities (most of which I enjoyed), that’s hard for me to answer. Keeping my options open seems important, because the types of jobs I would like most seem few and far between. I enjoy the community so much I don't want to relocate. Higher education is seeing some contraction as an industry now, and there is only so much turn over in nonprofit administrators. So I’ve come to answer that question with, “I want a job where I’m overseeing people, thinking big/strategically, where my work helps people reach their full potential, and where I'm making a big impact on the community. And where I’m making $______ a year.”
Someone recently shared the image of a career “tapestry” with me. This seems to fit my experience, as well as a term I recently discovered, “multipotentialite.” The term used to be a Renaissance person, and I’ll write more about that later. For now, I’m becoming more comfortable with how I am designed, and I'm seeing my varied interests and experiences as strengths that help me be a systemic thinker. Here’s to a tapestried life!