The way each of us walks, hops, skips, or runs along our chosen career path is very unique. Just like any journey in life, our career path is ours to navigate and we are the captain of our ship. Just like any ship, we will come up against smooth waters and intense storms, and we might need to abandon ship. The interesting thing is that society has been heavily focused on promoting a linear career path as the best option for success. What does this mean? A linear career path = if the boat you are on is sinking, you don’t jump ship. You hang on and hope for the best. As society changes, so does work culture. In these shifts, we see the encouraging advantages of breaking from a linear career path to a nonlinear one. A nonlinear career path starts you out on one boat and through insights, discoveries, and happy accidents, you will likely leave that ship and move to another. This gives you the opportunity to grow, try new things, and find what boat feels right to you. You might find yourself deciding on your next career move depending upon what is happening at that time in your life and not based on what society expects of you.
I’ve had so many jobs over my lifetime. In retrospect of a few of them, I still wonder how and why they ever happened. Whether the experience was good or bad, strange or unusual, something was always gained from them.
When I think about it, I learned so many skills from these jobs which in no way are related to what I actually do today. However, the skills are transferable and irreplaceable. They often are in life and should be once we position our perspective.
Take, for example, working in a flower shop. Now, imagine it’s Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is the super bowl of the floral industry. Ask any florist you know and you’ll see it in their eyes past the combined glimpse of trauma and occupational passion. The intensity and hectic nature of the job during this holiday do not allow for anything but learning to work under pressure and deal with testy customers. This exemplifies how a complex work environment can open our eyes to professional strategy and coping skills.
There was also when I was a construction flagger in the bitter cold of winter. I learned that people driving on the roads aren’t always the nicest, to put it gently. I also learned that trusting your colleagues under these conditions meant trusting them with your life. Another example of learning something I had never considered and seeing how relevant and crucial it was for the job.
Also, safety gear is vital.
Helps build on an individual’s unique strengths
Creates the opportunity to learn multiple skill sets
Creates experience in diversity and change
Develop a wider scope of workplace perspective
Ability to transition and adapt within the company
Once upon a time, I recall another job I had as a pizza delivery person. I loved delivering pizzas. It was actually quite interesting and fun. This job required me to learn logical and critical thinking, such as “should I eat the pizza or should I deliver the pizza?” I can neither confirm nor deny which one often won out. However, this job did enable me to tap into a few soft skills, such as a keen sense of direction as well as great customer service. No matter what your job, no matter how many years pass, the latter is invaluable.
In college, I found myself working at QVC as a customer service rep. I was unbelievably fortunate and learned more than I expected about what the job entailed. I definitely learned how to handle a multitude of issues. Part of that learning process was how to respond kindly when people were fired up about their delivery. A difficult yet empowering skill to place in my toolbox. Unexpectedly, I also learned how to deal with super creepy people in a really polite way. This would constitute as one of those very unique abilities (I was a rock star at QVC, but I got fired, that’ll be another blog).
I could also not forget the time that I was a babysitter for a family of young children. This may have been my least favorite job because, at the time, I really did not like children (despite now having three of my own). Yet once again, even children can prove to offer an addition to that very unique acquired skill set. I learned the sacred art of how to negotiate with 3-year-olds. I cannot divulge very many of those sacred arts at the moment, but trust me when I say that to get a 3-year-old to believe they are going to bed of their own accord is a major win!
My point in saying all of this is that if I wrote a resume today, NO ONE would hire me based solely on these experiences as a florist, a pizza delivery person, a construction flagger, or even a babysitter. The truth is that it has been the collected experiences of everything I learned through every single job that has gotten me where I am today: Chief Boss Lady of Workplace Harmony, making over six figures.
The reason I say this is not to brag or boast of personal history or accomplishments. Many years of learning, failing, re-learning, and connecting with many helpful people have been a great part of this story. The core reason to share all this is to say, “stop overlooking people who might not mirror the fit that you want when you see a resume or an applicant.” Start thinking about the transferable skills they may have picked up along the way. Those skills may take your company to the next level. Had someone not taken a chance on me, they may have blown me off because I worked at a waste-hauling company early in my career. They would not have known the assets acquired from working there that I could bring to their company. Let me just say, this by far was one of the greatest learning experiences I ever had. I had a great boss and from my time spent with them, I learned what it means to become a great boss. I learned a lot about the truck driving industry as well and therefore gained knowledge and experienced something that would have never crossed my mind or my potential without this opportunity. Most of all, I learned even more about the importance and impact of having a solid work ethic and maintaining personal and communal integrity and commitment. Success doesn’t always come from a linear career path.
Your job is to build the best team for your business. I believe it is innately within us to want that so we can nurture growth and foster long-lasting relationships internally and externally in business. Oftentimes, hiring is something done last minute or haphazardly. There could be a plethora of reasons for that sense of urgency and need. I urge you to stop and think about your hiring practices. If you know what you want, and have an idea for the future, then you are ready to help your business and employees together in that goal. (HIAB CAN HELP!).
Someone’s path may not always be linear; perhaps it’s the curvy ones we should evaluate more.
Lauren Williams, Founder & Principle Consultant
Lauren Williams utilizes her 20 years of expertise in the HR field to support companies by improving and enhancing their people skills/operations, which maximizes a company’s full potential. With care and passion, she focuses intently on the employee experience and how to leverage a solid community-based company culture that encourages organic employee engagement, retention, and empowerment.
Hi, I'm Lauren
I'm the founder and chief boss lady at Workplace Harmony. Welcome to New School HR!
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