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.