Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series on career mapping, a system of evaluating your strengths, weaknesses and desires as you seek a new career. This installment examines the new norm for today’s job seekers. [Update: Links now provided to Part 2 and Part 3.]
Not too long ago, it used to be that finding and securing a job meant that was what you would do for the rest of your life. Our parents and grandparents worked 20-plus years at one company where they eventually retired. They endured long years at the job to move up in the company and job security was a key factor. Companies were good about taking care of their employees and the loyalty demonstrated was mutual.
In fact, my father, like so many, worked at the same company for 40 years before finally retiring.
As I watched my dad work tirelessly to support his family, I picked up his work ethic. So when I was 14, I got my first job at a friend’s tanning salon. It was convenient because it was close to my neighborhood and I could work before and after school. It was a great job and introduced me to the value of hard work and earning my own money. It would be my first step on a zig-zagging path to where I am now.
See, after graduating from college with a degree in family and child development from Auburn University, I decided I wanted to be a family counselor. I understood the importance of working with families and ensuring they had the support they needed to thrive. However, instead of immediately going into graduate school at the University of Alabama, where I became employed right after graduation, I opted to move away from Birmingham in search of a better life on the Gulf Coast.
I didn’t know what I would do to support myself, but without children and other roots holding me to one place, I decided that I would simply figure it out once I moved here. I used this time to get really creative and apply my organizational skills and need for cleanliness and order to start my own cleaning business. The Gulf Coast area tourism industry helped my business work out.
After having children, I needed to make a change in how I earned a living and opted for more stability. After working as a pharmaceutical technician for a very brief time, my career zagged as I learned about a job opening in Student Services at CSU around 2007. I interviewed and immediately took the offer. I figured it was far better than where I was and it was similar to counseling. At the very least, I would be helping others which is the bottom line of what I wanted to do with my life.
In addition, CSU was still growing at that time and opportunities were in abundance in the company. I was happy to begin this new journey.
However, instead of going straight up in the company career hierarchy, I soon found myself zig-zagging again as I transferred to the Success Center as a writing specialist. This was a new team with exciting possibilities and I would be working with the students on a more in-depth level by helping them achieve success in their courses. From there, I was promoted to manager and then zigged again with the development of Career Services. This was a career boost and one that really excited me because, I would again be providing assitance to students and graduates in a very meaningful way, through the practice of sharing resources to ensure the achievement of their career-related goals.
This led to another zag in my career as I transferred from that department to my current position, manager of SAE.
While there have been lots of changes in my career path, this is the norm for today’s job seekers. Unlike our parents, we may move from job to job and not remain at one company for the rest of our lives. We do, however, push to make sure the zig-zag path keeps moving upward with a better job/opportunity and wages. Hopefully, with any zig-zags, we are picking up new skills and challenging ourselves in ways that will allow us to transfer these skills to new opportunities.
This mapping of our careers is sometimes reactionary, sometimes planned, but always vital to staying employed and getting ahead. If you are feeling stagnant, this could be a sign that it’s time for you to zig-zag and try something new.
Consider education as one way to help you move forward in your career or zig-zag to a new one. CSU academic advisors will gladly help you determine the best course of action with our degree programs. Whether it’s a second degree or your first, CSU staff and faculty will support and advise you in reaching for your goals.
Sonya Lavett is the Student and Alumni Engagement Manager for CSU.