Dr. Patrick O’Connor
This feature includes reflections and a summary of sorts from the eight Roads that have appeared in aroundKent Magazine. It is my hope the reader can get an overview of the entire series and learn from it as I have. Many readers in the last three years have commented that they see much of themselves in each Road feature. I guess that makes sense, since I believe we all have a Road Less Traveled (RLT).
As the features were being written, I noticed themes emerging from the Road subjects. It became obvious that all these people had common experiences in their paths to success. These themes are life themes. I also began to hear from readers, students, teachers, colleagues and others that they were learning about career planning as they read the various Roads. Most people were fascinated with the winding paths each subject had taken. Since the whole career planning world has changed so much in recent years, it seems the Road has value for anyone exploring, starting, changing or returning to a career.
It was an honor and privilege to write the Roads of our eight subjects and share them with the aroundKent readers.
This issue of the RLT presents a summary of Roads of our previous eight subjects. In addition, this issue connects their roads to the career planning process. It begins with an overview of how the career planning world has changed in recent years. Many of these changes are evident in the common themes and lessons learned among the eight subjects featured. A few quotes associated with each Road are also included. In many respects, these represent the wisdom gained by the RLT alums. The alums are Al Flogge, Julie Messing, Marty Mordarski, Ann Kent, Linda Ferguson, Nelson Burns, Kara Stewart and Gwen Rosenberg. Each person is fascinating and has led an interesting Road Less Traveled to his or her success. They are all excellent role models for us.
Changing Career Preparation
Like many things in modern life, career planning/preparation has changed. Globalization, technology, work practices, and change in general have impacted how people navigate the world of work and career planning. Career planning is becoming a basic skill people will use over and over throughout their working lives. Many young people today can expect to work full time for some 60 years or longer. Also, many people can expect to change jobs 10 to 12 times.
Most likely, people will be reinventing themselves numerous times in their work lives. This is quite different than a previous time when many people went to work in one job at one company, often for their entire lives.
Perhaps you know someone graduating from high school or college that is starting their first full time position. Or, maybe you know someone who started college and left before graduating and is trying to decide what to do next. You may even know a few people who have lost their jobs for any number of reasons and are once again in the job search mode. It is also very possible that you or someone you know has retired and decided to return to work at least part time. This can be pretty scary stuff these days.
The “Road Less Traveled” as a Career Planning Resource
The Road Less Traveled video, the eight subjects featured and this issue can be used as career planning resources. They represent a RLT mindset to navigating the career planning world today and into the future. All resources are available on the AroundKent website.
Themes from the Road Less Traveled
The following eight themes emerged from the eight subjects featured. A career planning implication from each theme and a specific example from a subject are also included. It was a task selecting examples to line up with specific themes since each subject represents each theme.
1 The personal interests and experiences
during youth have very strong (perhaps the strongest) life and career influence. Examples of youthful experiences of the RTL alums are:
Al (Vol 3) retail business executive at 10 years old; doubled circulation on his paper route
Julie (Vol 4) entrepreneurship consortium director; grew up in a small business family
Marty (Vol 5) organizational development/trainer; kept statistics for 8th grade football team to improve player and team performance
Ann (Vol 6) economic/community/non-profit development director; mother was a civil rights activist.
Linda (Vol 7) community foundation director; grew up in a family of singers and performers
Nelson (Vol 8) CEO of Mental Health provider; spent five consecutive summers (age 10—15) at eight-week summer camp. The last few summers were spent as a camp counselor.
Kara (Vol 9) Born to dance. Got there … lost it … found it … got there all over again.
Gwen (Vol 10) small business owner; active experimenting and exploring as a teenager.
Career Planning Lesson look at what you loved to do as a teenager. This could be your source for a satisfying career. Al and Julie, for example, both grew up in entrepreneurship families where their business interests were formed and encouraged.
2 Happiness comes from turning what you love into what you do.
All subjects have taken their interests (passion) and developed them into their livelihood. Each subject took what they love (usually surfaced as a young adult) and turned it into their livelihood. In some respects, their work is an extension of who they are and is part of their lifestyle.
Career Planning Lesson look to your interests for career possibilities. For example, Gwen Rosenberg captured this notion in her statement; “Work should fit into our lives, rather than the other way around.”
3 The arts, especially music, are a solid foundation from which to build.
All RLT subjects have a dedication to the arts and most play musical instruments and some are performers (Al, Ann, Marty, Kara and Linda). The structure and discipline of the arts gives you the determination and stamina to succeed in a career. It is ironic that many people see the arts as having no connection to careers. In reality, the arts provide people with the optimum skill set to explore, adapt and bounce back from disappointment. Many students studying arts are often asked, “What are you going to do with that?” In some respects, the answer is, “Anything I want.”
Career Planning Lesson There is more to living than earning a living. A good example is the servant leadership belief practiced by Nelson Burns. His personal and professional lives complement each other.
4 Failure is seen as opportunity to learn and grow.
Each subject took on the challenges that life brought them and turned them into advantages. Each subject made numerous career and life changes based on failure and disappointment. The subjects view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Rather than think of failure as the enemy, Gwen Rosenberg describes it this way; “Failure only has power over you if you let it”.
Career Planning Lesson accept that failure and disappointment are part of life and when correctly used, they can work to your advantage. Ann Kent, for example, has taken her experiences with MS and turned them into a way to connect with the clients she serves at Business Volunteers Unlimited (BVU).
5 Everything is connected
A common theme among all subjects is all their life and work experiences are connected, even though they may appear disconnected. Though their paths were winding and wavy, all experiences along the way were part of an overall approach to life.
Career Planning Lesson View everything and all experiences as part of your RLT. Marty’s RLT may at first appear to be a series of disconnected experiences. However, a closer look reveals how he has blended his music, sports, and job experiences into a common RLT.
6 “Hard” soft skills
The career and work worlds are enamored with the term “soft skills” referring to the ability to get along with people, problem solve, and communicate. These are indeed, important skills. However, the Roads in this series reveal another layer beneath soft skills casually referred to as “hard” soft skills.
This relates to a grit and tenacity that enables someone to keep getting up when life knocks them down. This is what carries them through tough times and disappointment. Also, this toughness is what you can rely on when you need to bounce back from career disappointments and changes. The process will be repeated, over and over again.
Career Planning Lesson “Hard” soft skills will be especially useful in the future as job and career changing become almost a basic skill. Kara’s fall from dance and subsequent rise are inspirational. Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.
7 It’s Okay not to Know
“I don’t know what I want to do” is a common lament among many people when it comes to careers. This is okay as long as you realize that you must find out what you want to do. For the most part, the Road subjects really had no idea what they wanted to do, either. And most started out in a completely different place than they are now. They did, however, continue to grow and learn from all experiences. This enabled them to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
Even in cases where subjects knew what they wanted to do, there were no guarantees. Two subjects, Julie and Kara, knew exactly what they wanted to do early in life. They both followed a very specific path to get where they wanted to go and they got there! However, as we see in their Roads, they wound up changing after they got where they wanted to be. The remaining subjects really had no idea what they would do as adults. They relied on a solid work ethic, hard soft skills and an eagerness to learn (especially from failure) as the foundation to guide their Roads.
Career Planning Lesson There are no guarantees. Linda’s Road informs us that you should “define yourself rather than being defined by others”.
8 Love of Learning
An excitement and affection for learning is evident as all subjects demonstrate the value of life-long learning. Learning is essential to their outlook on life and their vitality. They learned from all their experiences. They learned from mentors, supervisors, teachers, parents and even their children.
Career Planning Lesson You learn from everyone, everything and every experience. This is probably the most important personal asset when navigating careers. Marty is a good example of this lesson. He has taken a wide range of experiences from sports, music, family, mentors, and various jobs to lead organizations.
One of the most interesting aspects of writing the RLT series has been the unique perspective of each subject. In some respects, as we learned about their RLT, they were sharing their wisdom with us. I have selected the following quotes that appeared in their Roads to reflect their wisdom.
Al Flogge “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time” — Fr. Thomas Merton
Julie Messing A mentor is someone who imparts wisdom and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.
Marty Mordarski The thing you least want to hear may be the most important thing to hear.
Ann Kent “Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.” — Maria Von Tropp
Linda Ferguson Adding harmony to someone else’s melody is fun.
Nelson Burns To not try is to fail.
Kara Stewart “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” — Martha Graham
Gwen Rosenberg No one is keeping score, so who cares if I stumble?
It is very likely, navigating the career world will continue to be more complex. This will require a new way of thinking and approaching the entire career planning process. Wherever you are on your career path, the end goal is to develop a RLT mindset. Explore, be curious, experiment, try new things, learn from everything and everyone and face all challenges head on.
The Road Less Traveled