Those who have read my blogs or have taken my classes know that I love to relate popular culture to organizational behavior, leadership and management concepts. For example, recently I facilitated a discussion for Saint Vincent’s Benedictine Leadership Studies program in which we explored transformational and servant leadership in the film Wonder Woman (Jenkins, 2017). I love watching movies and TV shows to see illustrations of concepts that I study and discuss in class. Music is also a big passion of mine, and I am often inspired by that as well (in a previous blog, I wrote about musicians Glenn Miller and Kenny Rogers in relation to leadership).
Recently, I was reflecting on my career and how it has shifted over time. My career path has certainly been unique and unexpected. I started my career (straight out of Saint Vincent as an undergrad student majoring in accounting) as an auditor. I had my entire life figured out…but, it wasn’t until I was in my first job for a few years that I realized I really wasn’t happy doing what I was doing. There wasn’t a good fit.
So, I left my job to go back to school for my master’s and I ended up getting hired at the school I was attending to help run its training and development consulting center. While there, I realized I loved academia so I moved five hours away to pursue a career as a professor. Eventually, I was drawn back to Saint Vincent when a position in my academic field opened up.
While I was reflecting, I was listening to the album Thick As A Brick 2 by Ian Anderson (2012), leader, singer and flautist of Jethro Tull (my favorite band!). In this work, Anderson explores the life of the fictional character Gerald Bostock and how it could have been different had he explored different careers. The lyrics spoke to me:
We all must wonder, now and then,
If things had turned out just plain different.
Chance path taken, page unturned or brief encounter, blossomed, splintered.
Might I have been the man of courage, brave upon life's battlefield,
Captain Commerce, high-flown banker, hedonistic, down-at-heel?
A Puritan of moral fiber, voice raised in praise magnificent?
Or rested in assured repose, knowing my lot in quiet content.
In the quote above and throughout the album, Anderson considers the careers of a soldier, financier, clergy member and small business owner for Gerald Bostock. To be clear, I am extremely happy in my job at Saint Vincent, but the undergraduate version of me would never have been able to predict I would end up back here as a professor. Prior to undergrad, my career path looked very different – I wanted to be everything from a lawyer, to a veterinarian, to a police officer, to a creative writer (a set of careers as diverse as those of Anderson’s character).
The point is this (especially to the college students reading this) – it’s difficult to know what you want to do when you enter college. There are so many opportunities to explore. What is important, though, is to choose a career that you feel fits you. In a previous blog, I talked about finding a vocation. The idea of person-role fit is part of finding a vocation. Fit could encompass having a career that matches your strengths, your skills and what you get enjoyment out of. It is, therefore, also important to learn about yourself and to try new things so you can truly identify the type of career that might fit you best.
Interviewees in Studs Terkel’s classic book Working (2004 reprint from 1972) share the same perspective of Anderson’s fictional character and ask what life could have been like if they had chosen different career paths. However, those interviewees who seemed more satisfied in their career had “something to point to,” as one interviewee noted. In other words, these individuals believed that they leveraged their “fit” with their job to make a contribution in some manner.
Personally, I think I found a good fit with my job. I like to write and I like to defend ideas – probably why the careers of author and lawyer had previously been of interest to me. I do both of these activities as a professor.
While it takes some exploring and trial-and-error, I hope that you have a career or find a role that is a perfect fit for you, too. I’m always interested to hear your thoughts! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with me on social media (search for me on Facebook or LinkedIn).
Anderson, I. (2012). Thick As A Brick 2. Chrysalis/EMI Recorda.
Jenkins, P. (2017). Wonder Woman. Warner Bros. Pictures.
Terkel, S. (2004). Working. Reprint from 1972. MJF Books: New York, NY.