Friday, January 22, 2010

The Usefulness of a Diverse Work Experience

It is said that the average person will have 5 different careers by the time they retire. This was my experience too only it was probably more than 5. In my life between age 10 and 60 it was first paper boy(newspaper delivery route on a bicycle) at age 10. Electrician's Helper working for my father in L.A.County California from 1960 to 1965. Camera delivery person (age 16) when I delivered cameras, film and miscellaneous camera type stuff and picked up camera stuff all over L.A. County after School.

Then when I went to college in 1966 at Glendale College in Southern California, I realized that people in my sociology Class all believed in Evolution. This was enough to rock my world because although I had been raised a scientist in thought I also had been raised a Creationist. This conflict caused me to drop out of college and work for a year. So I worked in Hollywood for a travel Publications company in the mail room first for a semester but then my mother needed an operation so I worked another semester full time there just to help pay for my mother's operation. When I returned to College the following year this time I majored in Business Computer Data Processing. From just taking these classes I got a job working for the Glendale Board of Education processing IQ tests and other computerized testing for all children in the Glendale public School System as well as computerized testing done at Glendale College. At that time there were so few people trained in computers in any way(this is 12 years before the Radio Shack TRS-80 computer and around 14 years before the first Apple Computer and I don't think the IBM XT which was the first computer to get cloned and to start the PC's of today, whereas Apple turned mostly into Imacs and Macbooks and Ipods and Iphones of today.

My part time job at the Glendale Board of Education while going to college got me a job automating a warehouse in North Hollywood with computers(mainframes) and peripherals)(everything was punch cards and done in batches then). There was no random access memory then because memory was still very expensive and consisted of magnetic cores with two or more wires going through them. Millions of dollars of mainframes like the IBM 360 mod 20,30 and beyond and Univacs and others were accompanied by IBM Sorters, Keypunch machines, reproducing machines and even Accounting Machines. We were doing automated accounting using millions of dollars of computers and peripherals in North Hollywood doing automatic accounting for most successful car dealerships in the state of California then in 1968. However, I was only 20 years old and single and working 7 days a week midnight to noon and another guy my age said, "Why are you working 7 days a week on a graveyard plus shift "midnight until noon"? You aren't married. Go out and have some fun." I said, "I'm just trying to get my Business Data PRocessing career going." However, soon I realized I was burning out doing this shift and finally quit and realized this was not what I wanted to do the rest of my life.

So, I was pretty upset and went back Michigan to visit my girlfriend who was in College there. However, even though she grew up there I had grown up mostly in California with nice temperatures, sun and beaches and mountains and deserts nearby. But the Detroit area was covered with snow when I arrived and the temperature never got above 27 degrees Fahrenheit all the time I was there. I realized this was not where I wanted to spend my life, girlfriend or no girlfriend. I preferred California where if you wanted to go skiing you just drove up into the mountains and skied. You didn't have to live in the cold in a city and stay indoors all the time. So, I came back to California after two weeks fairly despondent about the whole thing because I knew my girlfriend likely wasn't going to live in California with me because she was a midwestern Michigan girl and I just didn't want to live there.

So, I went to work with my Dad as an electrician's helper in Los angeles County and my girlfriend came out to Los Angeles on her summer break from College but we broke up around the time the U.S. put a man on the moon. Though I had had several girlfriends that I had gone steady with since I was 16, when I broke up with this one I became sort of suicidal because I had planned my life around her. And to make matters worse my ex-girlfriend got married and I still had deep unprocessed feelings for her as well.

So, my early twenties turned into a kind of "The Agony and the Ecstasy". Ecstasy when I had a girlfriend with the constant agony of losing the two girls I was deeply in love with but wasn't ready to settle down yet because I was just too young still to make it work right. I finally got married at age 26 to my live in girlfriend because she got pregnant. I had gone back to college again from age 23 to 25 and got another 2 years of college credits in. At that time I was studying to become a psychologist which I would have done except my girlfriend got pregnant and my son and staying married was more important to me than any career. When my wife and I broke up I was 29. She had been 21 when we had had my son and was really too young yet to be successful as either a wife or mother. So, I raised my son alone by myself after this until I was 32 and remarried a lady with a boy and a girl from her first marriage. We were the same age 32 when we got together.

So, if I list starting with newspaper boy, Electrician's helper, camera equipment delivery person (age 16) computer Programmer and computer operator age 20, Electrician's helper age 21, full time College student 23 to 25, Married with child 26 and by 29 single father. In the process of trying to become a psychologist I got beyond worrying about being a creationist and was able to integrate creationism and evolution. I came to see these two points of view like different languages that one can speak without being emotionally attached to either outcome. This gave me peace just becoming a seeker after wisdom and knowledge and realizing that most people are just really confused or lost and most people are afraid to admit it. So, rather than commit suicide by age 25 which is sort of what I was headed towards I became a husband and father instead and stayed alive for my son and then for the rest of my children as I had them instead.

Starting in 1978 I became a Landscaping Contractor installing sprinklers systems, trees plants usually using skip loaders and backhoes and grading land and installing boulders.
This led to me owning several other types of businesses over the years. I found I really loved the independence that owning a business gave me. I could choose my own hours, take the jobs I wanted and work for only who I chose to. This I have always loved.

Having enough freedom and independence to remain adaptable and innovative is one of the reasons I'm still alive today at 61. So even though the average age a building contractor dies is 57, by keeping doing what I loved and stopping building things for money at age 45 while I was still young enough to do other things has kept me alive and healthy and happy and now, wealthy.

There is a true story I heard about regarding a remote power generating Station in Canada. They wouldn't hire an A student engineer because most of them are scholarship students or student loan students who don't work their way through school. No. They only hire C students because they tend to be more diverse and handle any situation that can come up. They found that when engineers are too specialized without enough diverse life experience that they can't usually deal with the real unexpected problems that come up there.

Many employers are like this. Overspecialization unless you are a doctor, lawyer, or nurse or shrink can be a disadvantage. Having a diverse background you are actually more valuable to yourself and everyone you meet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's great to know