Careering (Part 1)

We definitely need to update our thinking about retirement – I personally hate what the term has come to represent – but we also need to hit the refresh button about the word career. Career, I like to remind people, is not a noun; it’s a verb. It requires our continual attention and management over a lifetime.

I say this over and over because it’s true, and because most people actually do think their career is a noun, a thing they picked off a shelf of careers one day – and for that reason, it should work for them for the rest of their lives. And then they feel bad, as if they did something wrong, when it doesn’t work anymore. Should this really come as a surprise? Don’t we know that times change, we change, the marketplace changes, and – woops – the plot thickens?

Years ago, in preparation for a talk I was giving, curiosity led me, once again, to the dictionary for definitions of the word career. As I waded through the dense lines of small print, I was thrilled to discover there actually was a verb form of the word, albeit antiquated. To career, in the antiquated nautical sense, meant swift movement of a vessel through water. The example given was, The ship is careering (not careening, by the way) through the ocean with ease and speed; also, The ship was in full career.

Full career is the direction in which we should all be heading, and beyond that, to full life. Should we really be pained or shocked or depressed because we hit rough waters? Challenging weather conditions? There are always actions to be taken, moves to be made, and navigators to help.

I have more to say about all this, and will do so in the next several posts to my blog. Stay tuned. Maybe down the line you’ll see your own situation in print.

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2 Responses to Careering (Part 1)

  1. avatar Ray Perman says:

    Dear Bonnie:
         Nice article.  Important.  Glad you mentioned the antiquated meaning of “career”.  Great metaphor. 
         I have had a rather unusual range of careers and many have asked if I didn’t regret “throwing out” so much to start over again in another field.  My response is that I didn’t really throw out anything.  All knowledge and experienced accrued to make me the well-rounded person I am today. 
         At Berkeley I studied Geography (emphasis in Economics).  Great multidisciplinary major.
         My first position after graduation was at an international flight school where I worked my way up from teaching English to foreign airline pilots, to teaching ground school courses in flight engineering (structure, aerodynamics, and aircraft systems: electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic, etc.), meteorology, and more.  I then flew as a flight instructor,  and finally as an airline pilot for a few regional carriers; and was occasionally invited into the front office to help with trip-generation and planning studies (Economic Geography!). 
         When the last airline I flew for ceased operations (many did!) I made a radical change in course and became the director of operations for a gourmet ice cream company (later purchased by Baskin and Robbins).  My aviator’s knowledge of engineering and electrical systems was key.  During the construction of a new plant I was able to catch several significant errors made by the project consultant.  There I learned even more about production,  food science, thermodynamics, business, retailing, etc.  I wrote the company’s first operations and employee manual (based upon flight training and aircraft manual formats).
         I left the ice cream business to accept a position with Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. in their management consulting practice (specializing in airport planning).  The firm’s training in business methods, accounting,  computers was phenomenal.  In this work I joined a team that forecasted regional growth in order to project increases in flight operations.  Finally I was trained to perform computer modeling on large main-frame computers for assessing aircraft noise impacts; current and future.  The work also entailed training in acoustics, and noise measuring and monitoring techniques. 
         As I have always been an entrepreneur, I departed “Uncle Peat” to found my own firm consulting and designing high performance window and door, and curtain-wall and panel systems (All imported from Europe).  The remarkable thing is that from my “colorful” career experience I am often the most broadly knowledgeable in the room, be it jobsite meteorology, engineering (as long as a real structural engineer isn’t there!), thermodynamics, electrical systems design, insulation, noise reduction assemblies, etc.
         I am also regularly engaged as an expert in litigation regarding windows and doors and noise reduction (Thank you, Uncle Peat!).
    So, on the whole, although I’ve experienced plenty of rough spots, I’ve enjoyed a great sail.   And when someone asks me my opinion if they should make a career change I usually respond in the affirmative.
         Looking forward to parts 2 and 3. 

         All the best,
         Ray

    Ray G. Perman, General Manager
    Kenner-USA, Inc.

     

    • avatar Bonnie Bell says:

      Dear Ray,

      Thank you for your precocious response. You are the perfect example of someone who knows, from personal experience, what “careering” is all about. You actually could have gotten stuck way back there when you graduated from college with a major in Geography and a minor in Economics. Your perception that you had received a great multidisciplinary education, rather than a specific tool set that somehow limited you to a certain role or industry, got you off on the right foot. Later, you could have have gotten stuck as an unemployed teacher or flight instructor or airline pilot, or much later than that, an unemployed management consultant. You could have gotten stuck any number of times, but you didn’t. You were always able to see that you were greater than the sum of your various parts. You could see beyond the roles you held to bigger and better roles you hadn’t held but knew you could. You kept learning and you didn’t have to throw anything out. A full career is exceedingly ecological, and, as you said, “A great sail.” Well done, Ray!

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