Thursday, September 29, 2016

My 40th Job

In a little over a week from now, I start my 40th job.  That's right, I've worked in 40 different positions in almost as many different companies (some companies I went back to for one reason or another).  When I look at the list wholistically, I can see my evolution as a professional and how I personally grew as an individual, how my confidence increased a little here and there, how I took risks, and how I recognized (in some cases instantly) what would be good for me and what would not.

My whole life has been guided by my gut instinct of "yes, this will be good for me vs. no, this will be bad for me".  And the jobs I have held are no exception.  Sure, I stayed at some too long and at others not long enough.  But my gut told me it was time to move on and I always listened.  It wasn't always easy but I'm proud of my perseverance.

Granted, this list contains many summer jobs that were only intended to last a few days or weeks or months (Jobs #3, #6, #20-23, and #29).  But I include them because I learned something, no matter how small, at each job - whether it was how to treat coworkers or talk to a supervisor or address a client.  Sometimes, I was a great success (Job #34) and sometimes a pathetic failure (Job #28).  But if I learned anything, it's that I am resilient when it comes to accepting the situation, learning from mistakes, and moving on.

Sometimes the jobs I had were only the result of some glamorized idea of doing something.  For example, I wanted to try waiting tables.  My first foray into that (working at now-defunct The American Cafe in Tyson's Corner in 1988; Job #11) began and ended all in the same day.  I wasn't in a good "head place" in my life back then and I just couldn't concentrate or remember the 15 million things one has to remember when one is waiting tables. But deep down, I knew I could do it and 4 years later I tried it again at Chi-Chi's (Job #17) and would be successful.  And I was proud that I was able to tackle this thing I wanted to try, especially when I had failed at it once before.

Working in retail heavily punctuated my early work history.  And I can see the growth in responsibility over time. My first retail job was working in sales at Camelot Music (Job #2), the largest music retailer in its day.  Then there would be a few more sales staff jobs before I graduated to assistant management at a Finish Line (Job #24) and Gap (Jobs #25 and #26), then ultimately being a manager at Platypus (Job #30), Rock Creek (Job #31), then eventually back to Gap (Job #33), which was where my retail career also ended.

Retail management gets a bad rap in the business world.  Other professionals think retail management is too easy or that it's not a "real" job.  But retail management is hard work and long hours.  It's sacrificing evenings, weekends, and in some cases holidays.  It's essentially running a business:  Product Knowledge, Sales, Customer Service, Diversity & Inclusion, Personnel Management, Inventory Management, Shrinkage Management, OSHA, Operations, Merchandising.  It's gathering and analyzing information; analyzing and solving problems; making decisions and judgments; organizing and planning; using social skills; adaptability; working in teams; leading others; building consensus; self and career development; workplace health, safety and security; meeting client needs and expectations; initiating product and service improvements; sales procedures and techniques; and equipment and tools.  Basically, retail management is a crash course in business management; people with MBA's might know business jargon, but managers in retail understand how to make and increase the numbers.

And it was during my retail career that I learned where my passion really lay:  developing people.  Had I know human resources existed as a thing when I went to college, I would have majored in it.  But I fell into my career quite by accident, which is how most HR professionals start out.  HR was never my job, it was a part of my job.  But it typically was the part I enjoyed the most.  Once I started to focus on just HR as a career, I took a job as an HR Generalist (Job #35), then an HR Manager (Job #36), then an HR Director (Job #38).  And now my new job will be Global Director of Human Resources (Job #40).

Admittedly, it took me a long time to find out what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Problem was, I had been in the workforce for 25 years by the time I got it all figured out.  Better late than never, perhaps.  The good news is that now I know.  And I know that I made the right decision because I keep excelling and progressing in my roles and responsibility.  I've come a long way from selling burgers and fries at McDonald's (Job #1).  But all roads led to this new job.

And I deserve it.