Here’s a pattern I recently noticed about my life:
Four years of high school. Fun. Social. Involved in everything. Interested in leadership and performance of all kinds (choral music, student body president). Not so much academic discipline.
Four years of college. Fun-ish. Social. Involved in too much. Interested in leadership and performance of all kinds (choral music, fraternity president). Burnout. Not so much academic discipline.
Four years in first job. (I did hold another job immediately after college but it was only a 1-year gig and to spend anytime describing it would mess up my pattern, right?) I was a fundraiser for my alma mater. I really liked being on campus. I really didn’t know anything about fundraising.
Four years of career “wandering.” This is the point at which I left the University environment in favor of…nothing. Just left. Sort of a “find my calling” exercise that resulted in a string of additional fundraising jobs – the arts, human service, education – only to finally realize that I wasn’t any good, nor did I wish to be, at asking people for money. This is also the period in which I joined a start-up in an account development role (a.k.a sales) which is, shockingly, an awful lot like fundraising. YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO ASK THE CUSTOMER TO DO SOMETHING like, say, BUY YOUR PRODUCT. I didn’t like that very much.
Four years at next job. Now this is where it gets fun. I was laid off from the start-up. Not much of a surprise since I didn’t much care for the sales part. However, within a week I had an interview with a leadership development consulting firm doing, you guessed it, account development (a.k.a. sales). [Quick tangent: I am fascinated at how certain types of professional organizations use “account development” as a euphemism for “sales,” like sales is dirty and we’re too good for that. Curious.] Now, I know you’re thinking I should have learned my lesson but, alas, I was finally in a field, if not a role, in which I was actually REALLY interested – hooray! And, I was successful at morphing the job into one that allowed me to present, teach, facilitate and coach, the stuff I really wanted to do, or so I had recently discovered. (Not a complete surprise when one reviews the high school/college interest in performance/leadership development but that was too obvious for me to latch onto at the time.)
(Almost) Four years in current job. OK, so I take all of that great facilitation and coaching experience and I land a great role with responsibility to formalize leadership development, primarily through professional coaching, in an industry leading organization. Pretty sweet deal. And it’s been the best learning experience of my life. And, as of August 1, I’ll be in the job four years.
Like I said, I recently noticed this pattern.