Sunday, June 19, 2011

Today's fortune: June 19, 2011

Today's fortune: You will make many changes before settling satisfactorily.

Although the commonly-repeated statistic that people change careers an average of seven times in a lifetime is largely exaggerated, it's no doubt that American workers shift careers much more frequently than our fathers and grandfathers.

Since my working life began at age 16, I have had 3 distinct careers and 12 different jobs. I was fired from two of those jobs (I'm not ashamed to say it), laid off from two, transfered to other jobs twice, and I quit or resigned from all the rest (except my current job). Let's take a quick snapshot of The Working Life of Matt Kelsey. And be prepared; here's another example of laying my soul bare for this project:

Career 1: Amusement Park (I know, it's a stretch to call this a career, but it was my first job, so I'm counting it)

Job 1: Photo salesman at amusement park rides at Worlds of Fun
How it ended: Fired, for stealing a basketball. I didn't actually steal a basketball, but that's why I was fired.

Career 2: Journalist

Job 1: Freelance writer, various publications
How it ended: These were temporary assignments and I eventually gave them up for more permanent work.

Job 2: News clerk, weekly newspaper
How it ended: I left the newspaper to take an unpaid internship in Washington, DC

Job 3: Assistant editor, weekly newspaper
How it ended: I left for a paid internship

Job 4: Paid internship, daily newspaper
How it ended: Temporary assignment

Job 5: Copy editor, daily newspaper
How it ended: This was part-time work and I left to take a full-time job with another organization.

Job 6: Reporter, weekly newspaper
How it ended: I was promoted to editor at another newspaper in the chain.

Job 7: Editor, weekly newspaper
How it ended: Fired, for writing a column that angered an advertiser. Unlike the basketball, I really did it this time.

(I was unemployed for over eight months at this point.)

Job 8: Editor, weekly newspaper
How it ended: After numerous disagreements with the publisher, I left to take another job

Job 9: Editor, daily newspaper
How it ended: I was transferred to another newspaper with the same company closer to home

Job 10: Editor, daily newspaper
How it ended: The newspaper folded and I was laid off.

(At this point, I was unemployed again for nearly a year.)

Temporary career: Office Operations Supervisor, U.S. Census Bureau (I don't consider this a full-fledged career because I knew going in it would be temporary)
How it ended: We counted everybody and the assignment came to an end.

(Another shorter stretch of unemployment here)

Career 3: Widgets

Job 1: Widget Maker, Acme Co.
How it ended: TBD

I don't mind saying I hope I can work at Acme Co. for at least a decade, and longer if they'll have me. Maybe that's presumptuous to say after working there a little over six months, but I don't care. I'm really happy with my newest career. I wouldn't be surprised at all if I changed jobs within Acme Co. (actually, I'd be surprised if I didn't), but this truly feels like a career I can be very happy with - for the long run.

I could end my post right there, but I'd rather write about someone else for a while, someone who stayed with the same company for over 30 years but who changed jobs with that company near the end of his career and found contentment.

It's Father's Day, and I'm of course talking about my dad.

Now retired, my father worked as an accountant for a chain of local community colleges for over two decades. He made good enough money to support my mother, my brother and I. I never thought we were rich, but in all my life I can't remember wanting for anything he couldn't provide. One of millions of examples: when my brother and I became deeply involved in baseball, dad built a batting cage in our backyard. A batting cage, for cryin' out loud. That's the kind of man he is.

In the last decade of his career, my dad took a job with the college doing something completely different: he became the superintendent of facilities. His job was to oversee the sizable maintenance and grounds staff at the college. Talk about a total 180 from managing the business office.

What my dad discovered was that he liked being able to hop in a golf cart, drive around campus and solve problems. He liked to work on things with his hands as well as his mind. He liked to be on call at 3 a.m. in the winter to push snow out of the parking lot. He liked to bullshit with the guys on the crew.

By changing jobs within a career, my dad finally settled satisfactorily. He found himself happier when he wasn't even unhappy to begin with. He proved to me that it just gets better.

If I can be half the man my father is, I'll consider my life a success.

Happy Father's Day, pop.

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