Career Advice: Your Story, Your Career

Published: Mar 31, 2009

Topics: Job Search       

* Know that you can do more than you think you can do - if you pursue something you really love. Before this career [as a history professor], I never knew I could work full time forever doing something I love. But you have to be willing to change your routine - and sometimes your life.

* Capitalize on the bad things that happen to you. Don't dwell on negative experiences and think 'why did this happen to me?' Instead, think, 'I've already been through some scary things, I can do this too.'

* Learn from your mentors - and your antagonists. I had two fabulous female professors who were wonderful mentors [in history]. I was also pretty lucky - I had a couple of breaks. I had mentors from my [years in] business, but I was betrayed by them. [I learned that] it's risky to put your faith in corporate relationships.

* Learn from the sum total of your experiences. By the time I got to grad school, I had so much experience in business and human resources that I saw my professors were not super-powerful beings, capable of anything. I related to them on a human level, knowing that they have limitations like everyone else.

* Understand connections within your own life. I don't perceive myself as having had a disparate career track. I was involved in different professions, but the continuous thread through all of them was teaching. I'd say my high school teaching experience has been the most valuable asset of my career. You bring that continuity with you - and the skills you develop serve you through your whole lifetime in different ways.

* Don't ever think you're too old [to follow your aspirations]. Going back to grad school in my 30s and 40s simply meant that I had different strengths-I liked having younger classmates. It was easier for me to be friends with my professors. I never thought I was 'too old' to do anything. ~* Maintain financial stability. I've been financially independent since the age of 17. I even took a year of accounting courses so that I could be an accountant. Don't rely on anyone for money except yourself.

* Know your limitations. Determine early on what your limitations are and what it takes to make you happy. When those limits are violated, you must help yourself. I've always hedged my bets. I think about the worst case scenario [before I go through with a plan]. Doing this has enabled me to be more of a risk-taker.

* Write your own story. If you make decisions that are honorable and sound - decisions that involve hard work and are also considerate of other people - I absolutely believe that things will work out. I don't regret a single thing that I've done. Sometimes the story of your life feels like fate, but we build our own lives. We write our own stories. When we are victims of bad luck or a bad environment, it is up to us - and only us - to help ourselves. This world is so temporary; it's fleeting. Keep in mind that things will be different, because life is always changing - it has and it always will.