Saturday, May 3, 2014

Staying Marketable No Matter What the Circumstances

                I am very lucky in that both my parents redefined themselves occupationally many times throughout their lives and had multiple successful careers.  Both of them had fulfilling employment well into their eighties. They were each off work for about a week with an illness before they died.  This is an excellent way to spend one's life, and if my own health permits, something I would like to emulate.  Each of them could have retired, and I think they both tried it in their sixties, and then realized they were free to pursue other interests and other careers. I am fortunate in that I saw at least this possibility modeled for me.

They say that employers don't look at resumes longer than about thirty seconds before deciding whether to cast one aside or perhaps interview that candidate.

               Even if you can afford to retire, and fewer and fewer of us can, there are some health benefits to continuing to work, at least part time.  Human beings stay healthiest when we have a modicum of a routine.  We sleep regularly, eat regularly, and are mentally challenged by work, even if just threading the needle by way of the commute !  Through work we maintain attachments with people and continue to have intellectual stimulation.  I am not suggesting that ninety year old Aunt Ida stock furniture using a forklift at the Wal-Mart warehouse.  I am suggesting that perhaps, if she wishes, she could work customer service somewhere, where her politeness, attention to detail and persnickety-ness will be truly appreciated by a company who profits from that type of attention for its customers.   An awful lot of people can't stand their phone calls answered by a machine. They won't buy things without some personal attention, and many of these people who know how things were done the old way, are very valuable in such a capacity. Perhaps by creating more flexible part time jobs, some of our older citizens who actually can converse with prospective customers, can join the workforce.

             When you think about it, I was asked what I thought I wanted to do for a living at about twelve.   In British school, in the 1970s,  the state tells you what they are going to be willing to train you for, based on the recommendations of your teachers. (Who is my case, had known me only six weeks at that time.)   At twelve, we can't possibly know enough about ourselves at that point, let alone enough about the potential professions which exist in the world.  I am still learning about interesting jobs and professions NOW.  My daughter has a job I didn't even know existed !    Interestingly, my teachers in British school certified me at 12 to become either a nurse or a teacher.  (This is no great miracle, as women even in the seventies, in the US and in the United Kingdom were still shuttled to these two female occupational roles.)
           After time in Harrow at my British school, I returned to the US and completed my education in the US.  They didn't inquire as to what I wanted to do for a living until high school.  The recommendations of my guidance counselor based on testing and the Ohio Vocational Interest Survey (which we all took, remember ?) was that I should be a writer or an editor.  So what did I do ?   I graduated from high school early and went to college as a Biology Major on a Pre-Med track with intent to become a physician.  I did well in biology but I had concerns that I didn't want to do a medical residency, which in those years was 70-90 hours a week. It seemed to me that being a physician would squash any wish I had to have a family in my twenties.   I made the switch to nursing not long after.    In deference to all the people in my youth who had a hand in my future occupation, they were all right.    Through college I worked as an activities therapist in a nursing home, the only female employee in an upscale men's suit shop (very useful as an eventual mother of four sons and a daughter), a recording artist,  a mathematics tutor,  and as a babysitter.   Most of my occupational life after college has been spent in one specialty or subspecialty of nursing.  I worked in occupational health nursing for an aerospace company. When we were transferred to another state, my job there ended.  Then I made a living for awhile doing short term private duty in psychiatric hospitals. Eventually, I settled in critical care nursing and remained in related positions for the longest periods in my career.  This was both adult critical care and pediatric. I also spent time in cardiac ICUs, medical ICUs, and surgical ICUs.  I started writing as an offshoot of one of my nursing jobs when I was asked to revise certain aspects of the hospital procedure manual.  Magazine articles and other writing tasks followed.

Yes, every hospital school of nursing, college or university which graduated nurses had a different cap, and we all wore one.  It seems like a long time ago now.

            I am relating all of this because I don't think I am that unusual.  I think most of us come to adulthood with a particular skillset, and that this skillset, whatever it is translates well from one career to another.  For example, I know nurses who are very detail oriented and observant. Some of them translated those skills and trained to become police officers.  One is now a detective.  She has joked with me that the two jobs aren't that different, but that she doesn't have to keep putting a venous access in the people she investigates, and so over all, she prefers being a detective to being a clinical nurse.  So perhaps rather than throwing everything we have behind one career, we should be developing broader skills that translate.   Another nurse friend of mine has always excelled with computers. When I was asked to help to rewrite parts of the hospital procedure manual, she was asked to consult with programmers to help to create software that would benefit the hospital for use by nurses on hospital units.  She works in computers now.

         What I am saying is that we should nurture all of our interests because we cannot be sure that they will not evolve into an occupation at some point.  I think we should always have an updated resume, and that we should not just advertise ourselves as an engineer, a teacher, etc.a nurse.  We have many potentials, and in a changing world may need to exploit more of our interests.

       Interestingly,  the Brits and the Americans were right.   The British would have trained me to be a nurse or a teacher.  The two careers I eventually chose to remain in the longest were as a critical care registered nurse and as an adjunct college instructor.   My American high school guidance counselor wasn't too off the mark because I have written hundred of published articles and two books.

        I think the best any of us can do is cultivate our interests with the thought that any of them could evolve into some type of career, as we cannot fully anticipate the ways in which the world is changing.  It's funny that I spent years in college, when I think that what I do more than anything else is drive a car.  Perhaps I should have spent less time in college and more time honing professional driving skills as I have driven a million plus miles thus far.     I also think that every person should update their resume as often as possible for immediate use.

       In any event, I wish to encourage you, whether you wish to be an employee, or an entrepreneur.  The world is changing and the internet brings far more possibilities for all of us than were appreciated when we first made career decisions.  Like my parents, many of us will enjoy (yes, I mean enjoy) the ups and downs of multiple careers.  You know, I really do enjoy rural real estate Maybe one of my next careers will be as a rural large acreage real estate agent !