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Mow Your Way to Success

April 30, 2009

I am a lucky person… I love my job and I love coming to work every day. It’s a pretty great situation. Occasionally I think back to how I got here. For the record – I did not grow up thinking I wanted to work in Career Services or even in education for that matter. It was a series of steps, twists, turns and the application of transferable skills developed along the way that landed me in this amazing career opportunity.

Let’s start at the beginning:

My best friend and I were fresh out of high school and preparing to leave for college in the fall. To keep busy before the start of college we successfully landed jobs working in the lawn mowing department for the municipal utilities operation in our hometown. The “Lawn Mowing Department” wasn’t actually a department at all – we were just a two person operation and task was to keep the city lawns looking great. Throughout the summer all we thought we were doing was driving our John Deere mowers in circles and working on our tans. In reality, this summer job turned out to be much more valuable.

Our summer was over in a flash and before we knew it we were off to college in separate cities. Upon arrival we got down to business trying to launch our careers. She was interested in health care and I had my sights set on journalism. As I aspired to be the next Barbara Walters, I pondered ways to gain some experience while still in school. I understood the value of building my resume early and needed a strategy to make it happen. My college offered an excellent opportunity for journalism majors to work within the athletic department’s video production arena. As soon as I learned of this opportunity I set my sights on landing one of these coveted positions. The application and screening process was tough. Hundreds of students applied for a handful of positions. Naturally I was thrilled to get an interview. Although I had zero experience, I was sure I wowed them in my interview with my stand out answers, my perfected resume, and my positive attitude.

Now let’s fast forward a year:

Well, I landed the job. In a casual conversation with the director of the department, a discussion resulted regarding the intimidating interview process and how fortunate I was to have the job. Candidly my boss revealed his first impression of me. He counted me out of the running immediately because he thought I wasn’t tough enough mentally or physically to make it in the industry. He was sure that I wouldn’t be able to cut it as the responsibilities included getting tough camera shots on the athletic fields and lugging around the heavy gear. What he said next is what shocked me – lawn mowing landed me this job! The reason he changed his mind was because I told him I worked as a lawn mower the summer before. That one bit of information changed his impression of me immediately. With that he decided that I could hold my own and offered me the position.

Okay let’s jump forward to present day:

As you already guessed, I am not Barbara Walters nor am I working in journalism. This wasn’t the right field for me but it was a valuable life experience. My college job eventually progressed into a full-time position working directly with the student workers. This opportunity revealed my true strengths and got me where I am today. The skills I learned back in my lawn mowing days are still with me today.

While I may be speculating, I’m also going to step out on a limb and guess that our summer in the Lawn Mowing Department helped my friend break into her career in healthcare. She applied to her professional program and got in as a sophomore which was quite a feat. Her work ethic shined through during the application and interview process. She too has jumped into a career she loves with a little help from those transferrable skills gained in her younger years.

The path of my career has many twists and turns. Why am I telling you this? Because a roundabout path towards a career I love in education all started mowing lawns in Watertown, South Dakota.

The moral of the story: Don’t discount any of your experiences. A part-time job from your past that didn’t seem matter much could be exactly what pushes you a bit further on the career ladder and into a perfect job. Every step along the way allows you to develop skills and discover your career path.

Feel free to email me at keilers@onl.herzing.edu and check out Herzing University Online at http://www.herzingonline.edu/.

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