Life lessons

“I don’t know what I want to do with my life” is a common statement among my peers who are trying to find their calling. There are all sorts of terrible ways to address this issue, but here’s an approach that might be helpful:

Instead of trying to discover (in a vacuum) what gets you fired up, look back at the jobs you’ve taken and the projects you’ve completed. What are the common themes? And how did you feel?

Working backwards (and skipping over my last job, for reasons that will be clearer in a moment):

  1. I used to work in the computer store at FSU. and it was one of the most enjoyable (and only…) jobs I’ve ever had. I enjoyed it because I was interacting with and helping people all the time, discussing technology (which isn’t “work” for me), and there was no rigid structure being forced upon me. My input was valued and proactively solicited. It was great.
  2. Before that job, I worked as a server at a restaurant called Hops. Again: people interaction, camaraderie, and being myself.
  3. In high school, I worked at a place called Me and Mom’s Produce. No, I’m not typing this with a straight face and yes, that was the actual name of the business. The pay was terrible, but I loved the owners and felt like family.
  4. And my first job (back in middle school I think) was as a Jr. Counselor at a summer camp.

So if I wanted to draw some lessons from my own life and I needed to know what I should look for in a vocation that gave me joy, I’d find something that:

  1. is people-facing
  2. involves people I enjoy working with
  3. allows me to leverage my personality to do my job better

All of these jobs helped me hone my soft skills, my ability to connect with strangers, my ability to work under pressure (Saturday nights in a busy restaurant? Man.), and other things that benefit me to this day.

And if I were to ignore these lessons and get a cushy desk job where I interact primarily with spreadsheets and corporate drones, it might not work out so well.

Ignore the lessons staring you in the face at your own peril.

Willie Jackson is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Consultant & Facilitator with ReadySet, a boutique consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent writer and speaker on the topics of workplace equity, global diversity, and inclusive leadership. Connect on LinkedIn or get in touch.

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