January 29, 2009
By Susan Pogorzelski When I was in school, I was taught that trial and error didn't exist in the professional world. Life, it seemed, was supposed to be sequential: after high school, you went to college or directly into the workforce, found your area of study, graduated from college, got a job in your field, and spent the next twenty-plus years in the same position. Sometimes I wish that finding the right career path and pursuing a passion was that easy, but I've been finding that, more often than not, it might be just that difficult, as maybe the same rule of thought can't be applied to everyone. Growing up, I watched firsthand as my mom moved from job to job: she worked in catering, independent sales, and as a personal secretary and corporate business manager until she finally found her passion and started her own business. To my younger self, it seemed that she had done it all; now, I'm able to see just how valuable these many jobs have been for her as she applies this knowledge to her business. Similarly, I'm beginning to see how my experience in my own various roles might be culminating into something greater. Graduating College My first "real" job was through a temporary employment agency during the summer break of my sophomore year in college. I was a wire processor in the International department of my local bank; it was one of my first experiences in an office environment, and when I was asked back as a full-time, seasonal employee, I was thrilled. I loved the people, the work was new and exciting, and I found that it was providing valuable experience that I would be able to use once I graduated. However, finding a job in my field after gradation was harder than I expected. I think that I naively believed that once I had the degree in hand, doors would be opened and all it would take was the gentle nudge of ambition (and a resume) and I would be on my way to the career of my dreams. Only, not exactly. While I began my job search, I settled back into my old position at the bank. Encouraged by the stability it offered, the familiar atmosphere, and the hands-on experience in customer service and data-entry, I soon became a regular employee. However, I quickly found myself yearning to get back to writing, and finding projects such as creating employee training manuals and presentations for a financial-oriented workplace didn't seem like the challenge I was seeking. Corporate America Leaving that job was bittersweet for me, but I was eager to pursue my next role in the Corporate Communication department of a local company. Here, it seemed, I was back where I belonged, using everything I learned from my previous employment in this new position. I was able to use my administrative skills by assisting in departmental coordination, and, most importantly, I was writing again as I contributed to internal and external communications. I was challenged, I was learning, and I was loving it. I coordinated press releases, managed intranet databases, and was the contact for employee relations events. My previous customer service experience helped me to communicate with customers and employees alike. It wasn't the career I had dreamed of, but I loved my job. Which is why I was so disheartened when I resigned six months later due to personal reasons. When I look back, I see how much of a growth experience that was for me, both personally and professionally. Now, I'm able to take away from that experience more skills and lessons and continue to apply them elsewhere on a daily basis. Temporary Employment After I left Corporate Communications, I knew that the job search wouldn't be as easy as I had innocently believed so long ago. Instead, I immediately interviewed with another temp agency with the intention of having the security of a steady paycheck as well as something to keep me occupied. I've since found, however, that I'm grateful for this experience, as I've taken away a better understanding of each company and industry I've worked for, I've been able to connect with those in my community whom I may not have otherwise had the chance to meet, and I've had the flexibility to pursue opportunities that may not have otherwise been possible. So what does all of this sum up to? Experience. And I don't just mean resume experience, but real, hands-on, expanding your skill set while constantly learning experience. I'm still in pursuit of my passion, and I still hope to settle in with the right career, but now I have those experiences to fall back on and propel me forward.
Susan Pogorzelski is continuing her work as a temporary employee as she pursues a career in publishing while freelancing as a writer and editor. Her blog, twentyorsomething, is a compilation of career and personal development and creative writing. You can follow her on Twitter @20orsomething.