My career journey was by no means simple and straightforward. I went from training to be a high school teacher to working with computers, to entrepreneurship, to working as a business consultant …and now a leadership coach. Career transition goes hand-in-hand with growth.
All those jobs I held, all those roles I played, each one taught me something different and contributed to my ability to be more purposeful, more strategic, more calm, and sometimes more wary. My career grew me to be a better leader in my community, a better parent, a better communicator.
Career experiences change lives.
That’s the thing about work. It’s more than just a means to an end. Yes, it’s a paycheck… money for rent and bills… but it’s so much more than just than a number in your bank account.
A Dismal Student
Back when I was in high school, I practically failed math and geometry. My chemistry teacher thought I was such a dismal student in his class. And he was on the committee that approved the local scholarship I had applied for to become a high-school teacher.
At the conclusion of my interview with the committee the chemistry teacher said, “I will consider awarding you this scholarship on one condition: You must promise never to teach chemistry.”
I readily agreed.
So I never considered myself to be someone who could excel in science and math. But somehow, I still ended up in several jobs that were focused on these subjects…
Macinteach, my first company, was born to help non-techie people understand how to use their technology to accomplish what they wanted it to do.
From my previous job in computer sales, I had seen that many people bought computers to do all this cool and important stuff, but then they didn’t know how to make it happen.
That’s where I came in.
With my new company, I configured systems, coached people through organizing their files, and assisted them in learning how the system functioned. Some of my clients were business people, some were senior citizens, some were teens. I helped them get done what they bought the computer for. And learned a lot in the process.
One of my most memorable clients was the first woman entrepreneur that I’d ever met. She needed help running a network of computers for her interior design firm, and I was referred to her as someone who could make her computers “behave.”
Working together on her computer systems over many years, this woman taught me so much. I admired and learned from her, and so I also put my heart and soul into the job I was there to do because I wanted it to be great for her. She was a client and a mentor. And running her own hard-won success.
Over time, I programmed a custom database to automate her manual systems, and I figured out how to make her network and applications behave. I stayed up half the night for months figuring out how to do it, but hey, we do what we need to do. I tried not to do tech consulting again, but I still find myself working crazy hours to take care of clients sometimes, because it still matters.
All this knowledge I gained was so much more valuable than I even knew at the time.
Taking the Lessons with Me
Each job I held, no matter how different they were from each other, all taught me important lessons that I would go on to use later in life.
In consulting, I figured out what people needed to accomplish their goals. I provided instruction, technical support, and did whatever I could to move things forward in a positive direction.
In every profession I’ve ever had, I tested, tweaked, trained… and then learned some more. If I didn’t know how to do it, I read about it, or found help from someone else who knew more.
That’s the beauty of work: there is always room to learn, and room to grow.
As I read this, it sounds like I was the type of person who believed in herself. It may have been true, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. I was never certain, or even close to certain that I could do any of it. They say “hope” is not a strategy. It was mine. I just hoped that whatever turned out to be me if I let myself work on what really mattered was going to be OK, because I didn’t know where it all was leading.
But I kept learning and moving forward. There’s no pause button at work, or in life, so you just keep moving. As you do, you’ll start to see that work can teach you so many valuable lessons along the way.
And everything you are learning will support your journey to be the leader your purpose needs..
Grow your skills and knowledge in effective communication by reading How to Make Your Ideas Heard.
Jessica Hartung is a partner, coach, and guide for those leveling-up their personal professional leadership, their teams, and their communities to a better future.
Jessica has a passion for inspiring and preparing people to grow from their work to improve their lives. In 1998, she founded Integrated Work, a consulting firm that brings top-notch professional development to mission-driven leaders, while being a learning laboratory for innovative work practices.
Jessica provides self-directed professional development tools to leaders at all levels striving to create positive impact.