Walking Into Your Future

I was asked to participate in a new mentor program for freshmen in Social Science Majors at my Alma Mater. I decided quickly to fill out the questionnaire and even though I missed the deadline, they asked me to join. I am learning to try new things without a complete outline of what to expect and this was a last minute thought.

I was a bit nervous driving back to college because it had been a while and the campus has grown quite a bit. Luckily, they set up a free parking area which as everyone knows is a huge gift that eases stress to start the day. I only made one wrong turn but recovered enough to walk into the building on time. I figured being a mentor meant being prompt was a big deal. I was met with this emblem which caused me to stop and pause —

Walking Back In Time

I went back to college late in life. I was losing myself in adult choices and responsibilities and a very wise counselor helped me find a goal — one goal, something I could work toward that overruled my emotions. It gave me a chance to test my tenacity and work toward something difficult to achieve. My success or failure depended on no one but me.

College Life

I found my way to the building that housed my classes for 3 years. It’s funny the nostalgia that happens in an instant. I appreciated everything about my quest for a degree because it was such a dark choice in my past to not finish what I had started at 18. I veered off my path but second chances are the best part of life.

A Goal Fulfilled

I was met by the nicest people who welcomed me with enthusiasm. This was the start of a test program and I have always known that to be on the ground floor of anything at the beginning is always the best place to be. They matched me with my student. Funny how things work out. His mentor did not show up nor did my student. We were meant to meet. He was equipped with an audio recorder and off we went to figure out who might be helping who.

He was well organized with questions. I was happy to answer. . . .

  • Who did I admire growing up? (my maternal grandmother)
  • What was my childhood like?(outside all day)
  • Did my parents talk to me about college? (no, nor did guidance counselors)
  • What made me decide to attend this college? (location because I had a family at home)
  • Why Psychology? (my experience in family law exposed me to many broken people, I wanted to understand how to help)
  • How had the campus changed since I was there? (more buildings, parking and dorms)
  • What was the same about the campus . . . .

I had to think about what was the same. I watched the students walking the same way with backpacks and direction. I thought for a minute and realized they were Walking Into Their Future. They were showing up. They were making choices. They kept going even when it got difficult. No one kept track of them, they were independent and free. The tree in the quad was a constant and a symbol of growth.

Tree of Growth

And last but the most important questions of the day. . . What have you learned since you first started your career? What did graduation lead you to?

I had to think about that. When I was younger I would have answered quickly without a lot of thought. I wanted to help him understand what life experience can teach as you look back and have some clarity.

I learned that listening and allowing people to be who they are was not who I was when I started. I thought that my way was the best way to a successful life. I talked a lot. I was nervous and filled the silence with words that meant very little. I wanted everyone to be happy with me. I spent little time in thought about being centered and most of all, I was a shell of a person who had limited risk taking experience.

I am not completely whole yet, there is still more to do. But there was a moment when I realized that observing was an achievement that helped me feel peace. The word advice is gone from my mind and replaced with “what do you think?” People deserve to be heard, to have new ideas and be on their own journey to joy. I can watch from afar without stepping in unless asked to.

I laughed when I saw two signs of things I missed out on by going back to college late in life. I have traveled and been an enthusiastic member of the audience but I could never go back and do these things. . . .

What Fun This Would Have Been
The Actress in Me Untested

My last thoughts to the amazing student I had the pleasure of getting to know and who is just beginning to think about his career. . . Try everything, don’t say you can’t do something — you never know where it will lead. Be you! Keep going even when you think life is too hard.

Oh and don’t get into debt so that you are forced to stay in a job you don’t love!

My question to him before we ended “if you could wake up tomorrow and be in any career what would it be?” He smiled and thought. I could tell he had not thought about it that way — being practical could be off the table for a moment. He had a spark in his eye when he said maybe a fashion designer. I told him that one day he could design something for me.

I’m not sure who got more out of our hour together. I know this for sure that being around young people keeps me energized. If he walked away with a few ideas, it was a huge success. I walked away feeling grateful that I had a second chance at college. I had fulfilled my goal and watching him Walk Into His Future was a moment I will treasure.

My Favorite Four Words

I substitute teach in my local school district. I created a bucket list of professions I wanted to try (teacher was one of them). They are mostly a culmination of undoing regrets or dreams that passed me by. I never give up hope:

  • Broadway Dancer (I go to Broadway shows)
  • Flight Attendant (I applied — was rejected)
  • NFL Sideline Reporter (I play fantasy football)
  • Beach Volleyball Player (I watch Kerri Walsh Jennings)
  • CBS This Morning Co-Host (this might be my long shot)

From my last blog post you know that I am none of those people above BUT — I always believe that if the opportunity came along, I would be ready.

“Luck is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”

Roman Philosopher Seneca

So, my more realistic list is exactly what I am doing now:

  • Law Office Administrator ( I love learning law)
  • Substitute Teacher (the kids are amazing)
  • Organizer (my passion)
  • Realtor (my experience in family law is a good base for what NOT to do when deciding to buy or sell a home)

From as early as second grade I was fascinated by my teachers. I decided to substitute teach to get a sense of what I had missed out on. The students think that they will have a free day when I walk in but I have spent a few sleepless nights planning how I will tackle the day. They are met with the following on the board:

Brave, Curious, Kind and Organized

These are my four favorite words. I have found they encompass everything one needs to create a career as well as becoming a good citizen. The Carver Rule is simple—Respect When Someone is Talking. Starting this discussion in the first five minutes of the school day works for me and sets the tone for the day — I also set criteria for a “Kind Award” for the student nominated by the other students after recess for an act of kindness.

KIND

BRAVE — Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is hard to be a student. No question is too silly and never be embarrassed if you don’t understand something. I tell them that I spent my entire high school life not understanding math. I never asked for help. That was just sad. I give extra points for those that ask questions. I make them the hero by keeping embarrassment out of the picture.

CURIOUS — Never stop learning. Be excited every day about what you get to uncover. Why be miserable and dreading the classroom. Look at it as a special place that gives you knowledge. Share what you know. Bring up subjects that are fascinating to learn about. My two “go to” questions at the end of the day are “if you could wake up tomorrow and be in any career what would it be?” and “if you could travel anywhere where would you go?” I crack up because the most common answer is Las Vegas. Las Vegas is marketing to a group they didn’t even know about! The most common career for boys is a professional athlete and to my delight the girls common ground is becoming some type of doctor. Saying “I don’t know” doesn’t fly — Everyone deserves to have a dream. To those wanna be professional athletes I urge them to know their financial picture every day and plan for the future with a second career.

Kind — To me kindness makes life happier. I watch the students interact with each other and out on the playground. I want them to notice when someone is going out of their way to be kind. It can be as simple as letting someone borrow their eraser to my ultimate goal of including someone who is alone every day at recess. The Giving Keys Organization focuses on ending homelessness through employment. It’s funny how quickly kids adapt to an atmosphere of positive feedback. I tell them that names on the board are a good thing. It is my responsibility to model kind behavior.

Organized — No one does well in chaos. I realize that everyone is not going to be at the same level of organization. I find that it needs to be taught and repetitive every day. It is a learned habit and most of the time not on top of mind for kids. As a substitute teacher I cannot effect much change but I look at it as planting seeds for ideas that could grow eventually. Clutter is a common theme in most desks. There just isn’t time to address the neatness of a desk by the end of the day. One way that I introduce this concept is taking 15 minutes for desk check and encouraging help from each other. I love watching a group effort and they have fun doing it. Oh and it’s a great way to find lost homework —

Now don’t you wish I had been your substitute teacher? Ha – not a free day!

Teaching has helped me in my life beyond what I could have imagined. I have to be ready after about 20 minutes of preparation and keep a group of students interested when it is not exactly where they want to be. Not easy skills to learn but so rewarding for me.

It has taken me a lifetime to be comfortable in my chosen professions — BUT I never lose the dreams of my first list.

Choosing a Career — Find Your Passion!

The linchpin faces a fork in the road:

You can try to make your job have more. More impact, more responsibility, more leverage.

Or you can be industrial about it and try to have your job involve less. Less risk, less effort, less to fear.

Is your ideal job one where you get paid but no one even knows you work there . . . Or is it to bring your hopes and dreams and talents to a position where you can change things for the better?

Seth Godin

I have had many jobs in my search for myself and my passion. I started working when I was 16 and am forever grateful to my parents for making this a condition for participating in extracurricular activities in high school. They required me to pay for gas when I drove their car and my song leader camp and outfits. It was a turning point in my growth and feeling of independence. I started as a school secretary for the night school at my high school and then landed a retail position as the “Youth Council” representative for my high school. I attended monthly meetings and my input was taken into account for the store buyers of the teen clothing department. I was also able to pick up shifts at the store on weeknights and weekends. I was busy. I learned to show up on time. I loved getting a paycheck. I knew that if I didn’t show up that I was letting them down. My parent’s rule gave me a great start.

After high school graduation I got a job at a bank. I learned about checking and savings accounts and as an employee I was given a credit account with a $300 limit. I never realized it until the other day that I learned every job that bank had to offer. I watched everyone and decided that I wanted to be the utility person. I could fill in for anyone who was sick or on vacation. It took about a year to learn what I needed to. I honestly do not know how I came up with that thought but it planted a seed that has stayed with me in every job I have taken. Be the one to raise your hand to help.

Okay, it sounds like my work life has been seamless — not so fast! There would always come a point in any job when I felt I could do more, be more — make more money. I started a family and went back to college. I was always searching for what my perfect fit was. It led to a lot of starting and stopping. I’ve had a lot of “I wish I knew then what I know now.” Be curious and never stop learning but focus on a goal.

Every career journey is personal. No one can help or get too involved in your choices. It is about asking questions, learning from mistakes and finding people who do the job that you would like to do. It’s about finding companies that motivate your best ideas and concepts. It’s about realizing that starting at the bottom is always the best step.

Thoughts on Goals

My husband and I owned a restaurant for about 4 years. It required me to quit my law office job and become the manager. I was terrible at the day to day operations. I lived for getting out in the community and marketing what we could make happen for group activities. We were stressed every day. We drove far to get there. We had 4 kids who were not getting the best from us. The day we sold was the happiest day of my life. I re-enrolled in college and spent more time at home. It became my LINCHPIN — my fork in the road. I started to set priorities.

College gave me courage. Part time work gave me flexibility. I took part time jobs that taught me something I didn’t know and then I would move on. I began to think like an entrepreneur— I liked making decisions that felt like me. I was able to keep this going for quite a while. I graduated from college. I focused on law offices. My kids went out on their own. I traveled to seminars in other states. I learned how others made their way. I loved my journey but had one problem — I wasn’t making much money. That became a problem when my husband (the best breadwinner I could ask for) retired. It was time to put all my talk and education into action. Once the pressure of income came into my head, I lost my confidence. I had grown comfortable with the flexibility of part time, of going to seminars and thinking that was doing something, of learning how to set up my website and of listening to podcasts. Time for less talk, less strategy and more action.

I had one more challenge — getting my real estate license. My idea was to work with families/individuals to avoid the pitfalls I saw of home buying and the stress it caused. I had a plan — it revolved around what I had finally found as my passion — Organizing — I have found my center. I have variety. I have flexibility. Organization helps everyone I work with feel settled. My dream career mix (finally) —

  • Law Office Administrator
  • Substitute Teacher
  • Realtor
  • Organizer of Homes, Home Offices and Small Business Books

These tools have served me well —

  • My parent’s rule — get a job to pay for high school activities;
  • Be the one to raise your hand to help others;
  • Be curious and never stop learning but focus on a goal;
  • Starting at the bottom is always the best step;
  • Set priorities once you have some experience;
  • Know when thinking about strategy needs to end — less talk and more action —
  • Know your passion — find jobs that need it!