Career In Progress: For Me, Every Job REALLY Is Temporary

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By Susan Pogorzelski

When I was in school, I was taught that trial and error didn’t exist in the professional world. Life, it seemed, was supposed to be sequential: after high school, you went to college or directly into the workforce, found your area of study, graduated from college, got a job in your field, and spent the next twenty-plus years in the same position.

Sometimes I wish that finding the right career path and pursuing a passion was that easy, but I’ve been finding that, more often than not, it might be just that difficult, as maybe the same rule of thought can’t be applied to everyone.

Growing up, I watched firsthand as my mom moved from job to job: she worked in catering, independent sales, and as a personal secretary and corporate business manager until she finally found her passion and started her own business. To my younger self, it seemed that she had done it all; now, I’m able to see just how valuable these many jobs have been for her as she applies this knowledge to her business. Similarly, I’m beginning to see how my experience in my own various roles might be culminating into something greater.

Graduating College

My first “real” job was through a temporary employment agency during the summer break of my sophomore year in college. I was a wire processor in the International department of my local bank; it was one of my first experiences in an office environment, and when I was asked back as a full-time, seasonal employee, I was thrilled. I loved the people, the work was new and exciting, and I found that it was providing valuable experience that I would be able to use once I graduated.

However, finding a job in my field after gradation was harder than I expected. I think that I naively believed that once I had the degree in hand, doors would be opened and all it would take was the gentle nudge of ambition (and a resume) and I would be on my way to the career of my dreams.

Only, not exactly.

While I began my job search, I settled back into my old position at the bank. Encouraged by the stability it offered, the familiar atmosphere, and the hands-on experience in customer service and data-entry, I soon became a regular employee. However, I quickly found myself yearning to get back to writing, and finding projects such as creating employee training manuals and presentations for a financial-oriented workplace didn’t seem like the challenge I was seeking.

Corporate America

Leaving that job was bittersweet for me, but I was eager to pursue my next role in the Corporate Communication department of a local company. Here, it seemed, I was back where I belonged, using everything I learned from my previous employment in this new position. I was able to use my administrative skills by assisting in departmental coordination, and, most importantly, I was writing again as I contributed to internal and external communications. I was challenged, I was learning, and I was loving it. I coordinated press releases, managed intranet databases, and was the contact for employee relations events. My previous customer service experience helped me to communicate with customers and employees alike. It wasn’t the career I had dreamed of, but I loved my job.

Which is why I was so disheartened when I resigned six months later due to personal reasons. When I look back, I see how much of a growth experience that was for me, both personally and professionally. Now, I’m able to take away from that experience more skills and lessons and continue to apply them elsewhere on a daily basis.

 

Temporary Employment

After I left Corporate Communications, I knew that the job search wouldn’t be as easy as I had innocently believed so long ago. Instead, I immediately interviewed with another temp agency with the intention of having the security of a steady paycheck as well as something to keep me occupied. I’ve since found, however, that I’m grateful for this experience, as I’ve taken away a better understanding of each company and industry I’ve worked for, I’ve been able to connect with those in my community whom I may not have otherwise had the chance to meet, and I’ve had the flexibility to pursue opportunities that may not have otherwise been possible.

So what does all of this sum up to? Experience. And I don’t just mean resume experience, but real, hands-on, expanding your skill set while constantly learning experience. I’m still in pursuit of my passion, and I still hope to settle in with the right career, but now I have those experiences to fall back on and propel me forward.

Susan Pogorzelski is continuing her work as a temporary employee as she pursues a career in publishing while freelancing as a writer and editor. Her blog, twentyorsomething, is a compilation of career and personal development and creative writing. You can follow her on Twitter @20orsomething.
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11 comments

  1. Brett, thanks for the recommendation! I really think that so many of us grew up believing that it would be an easy transition, not really prepared for what it meant. However, a transition it really is. It's absolutely true that we spent so many years cocooned in school, so that when we emerged into the working world 12, 16 years later, we almost weren't completely ready. I was so incredibly lucky to have the experience that I did during my college breaks — I was able to get a firsthand look at what it was like to be a professional while still having that safety net of college behind me. I absolutely credit that towards my professionalism now.

    I think that so many people experience this, or have experienced this at one point, but are too often hesitant to speak out because it seems more the exception than the norm, however untrue that might actually be.

    Thanks so much for your input and for the book recommendations. I'm excited to check it out and see what other insight I can gain. Wishing you luck in your own career pursuits.

  2. Brett, thanks for the recommendation! I really think that so many of us grew up believing that it would be an easy transition, not really prepared for what it meant. However, a transition it really is. It's absolutely true that we spent so many years cocooned in school, so that when we emerged into the working world 12, 16 years later, we almost weren't completely ready. I was so incredibly lucky to have the experience that I did during my college breaks — I was able to get a firsthand look at what it was like to be a professional while still having that safety net of college behind me. I absolutely credit that towards my professionalism now.

    I think that so many people experience this, or have experienced this at one point, but are too often hesitant to speak out because it seems more the exception than the norm, however untrue that might actually be.

    Thanks so much for your input and for the book recommendations. I'm excited to check it out and see what other insight I can gain. Wishing you luck in your own career pursuits.

  3. There is a great book that you might want to check out called Quarterlife Crisis. It was written to describe some of the feelings and problems that our generation faces as it enters the workplace, especially dealing with the idea that we have to choose the right career right off the bat. The whole point of the book and its sequel, Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis, is to shed some light on this topic, and show how many young professionals face this problem because too often it seems to be swept under the rug. In fact one of the author's conclusions was that even though older adults assume that young people are happy and have nothing to worry about, in reality twentysomethings were actually the most depressed and anxious age group because it is not acceptable to speak out about our 'minor' problems. I really like what you're trying to do, keep it up.

    • Brett, thanks for the recommendation! I really think that so many of us grew up believing that it would be an easy transition, not really prepared for what it meant. However, a transition it really is. It's absolutely true that we spent so many years cocooned in school, so that when we emerged into the working world 12, 16 years later, we almost weren't completely ready. I was so incredibly lucky to have the experience that I did during my college breaks — I was able to get a firsthand look at what it was like to be a professional while still having that safety net of college behind me. I absolutely credit that towards my professionalism now.

      I think that so many people experience this, or have experienced this at one point, but are too often hesitant to speak out because it seems more the exception than the norm, however untrue that might actually be.

      Thanks so much for your input and for the book recommendations. I'm excited to check it out and see what other insight I can gain. Wishing you luck in your own career pursuits.

  4. Anna – Thanks for your story! I think that so many people at this age can relate, and, truthfully, it's nice to see that we're not alone. On the one hand, it's almost such a shame: many of us were brought up with the mentality that we should get it right on the first try, that there was no room for experimentation, that everything would come easy. As you said, it seemed that a college degree would and should equal a career. It was quite the reality check to realize that it was a lot more difficult than expected. So difficult, in fact, that going back to our old seasonal or temporary job seemed almost like a failure. Who knew that it would lead to a job for you…and who knows where that will lead you next.

    That's the other hand, the positive in the experience. It is about trial and error, figuring out what fits best for you and your life, building upon the lessons we learn and the skills we acquire to bring to the next job, so that we can do our very best there, wherever that might be, even if it's not where we originally expected. Thanks for all of your insights, and wishing you the best!

    • I couldn't agree more Jeff. I started following Susan on Twitter a while back and have really enjoyed her perspective. That's why we started the 'Careers In Progress' weekly column. A lot of talented people who are still in the process of developing their careers have insightful stories and advice that need to be heard. If you have suggestions of other professionals who might make for great reading, please let me know at info@careerealism.com so I can reach out to them.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Jeff and JT – Thank you so much for your words; I can't begin to express how much I appreciate them and the opportunity to share my experiences. I'm looking forward to hearing from others who can share their own insights.

  5. Susan,
    You and I are so similar in our college aspirations and post-college experiences. I majored in English with the intention of breaking into publishing. I foolishly thought that my professors' connections were all I would need to get into the industry after I graduated. They did give me a nudge; I had an interview with the UGA Press in my senior year. But I didn't exactly find the open doors I expected to see after graduation.
    I went back to my seasonal, “the door is always open” job at Barnes & Noble, but the hours and the pay weren't exactly ideal.
    A temporary stint for the corporate office of a company turned into a full-time position created for me. This means that I fill a large amount of roles. Ironically, accounting is a large portion of my job. But I do get to write a bit, and I'm glad that I have a job that gives me valuable experience in addition to using my skills and degree.
    The point is that a college degree doesn't equal a career, or at least it may not for a long time. But that doesn't mean that you can't put yourself into a different field or a different position and actually enjoy it. In fact, it is SO important to try out other opportunities. It will only reinforce what you truly want to do.

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