Thursday Thoughts: The Bread Crumbs We Leave Behind Us

Thursday Thoughts: The Bread Crumbs We Leave Behind Us

Recently, I was watching an episode of a new talk show that launched this fall The Mel Robbins Show. I discovered this wonderful speaker, author and life coach via a TEDX talk from several years ago (this one actually!) I did my homework afterward and was happily surprised to learn she had a new talk show in syndication. I found it and have been watching ever since. Check it out. It’s good.This week’s Thursday thoughts blog isn’t a promo for the Mel Robbins show even though I would highly encourage you to give it a shot.


This blog is, however, about a topic that came up in conversation during one of her shows. The segment wasn’t so much about this topic but the question was posed to one of her guests who was struggling with the decision of what they wanted to be when they grow up even though they had reached their forties. And it got me to thinking about two things. One, I can’t imagine what it’s like to not know what you want to do with your skills and your time. I think deep-down I’ve known all my life that no matter what I did for a living, I would need to find ways to be both creative and resourceful. After all, “Ingenuity” is my middle name. (Well, technically, it is Mary.) So for me, it hasn’t been as much about the setting or what my widget was that I was building, hawking or branding — it was that I was behind the creativity and execution to make that widget happen in some way or another. Today, I work a few part-time jobs that are completely unrelated to writing, but I chose this different  path deliberately to free up my creativity and allow it to stay in reserves for my own writing and the freelance assignments that I take on for others. So while my paychecks may hail from gigs that would technically NOT fall into the category of my core talents, I wholeheartedly guided this ship to land in that port for a reason and invest my time and my effort deliberately.

When I heard this woman on the television talk about still finding her way to her passions and path in life, it puzzled me and I felt sorry for the woman but I know she’s not alone and that I’m one of the lucky ones for knowing what I do best. I do wonder how many people reading this blog right now feel as I do or can more closely relate to the woman who still hasn’t figured out what she wants to be when she grows up.

The second point that I wanted to mention was the question that was posed to her and the other guests to think about: how many different jobs have you had in a lifetime? And that’s not to say workplaces but actual jobs themselves. So even if I may have held the same or similar title of marketing coordinator/marketing manager/marketing communications manager, etc. each of the different jobs where I held that role count as a separate job. And if I held three different positions at the same place (that’s happened twice to me), those are all different jobs because the job descriptions have changed.

After I saw this episode, I knew exactly what had to be done next. I had to see this through and figure out my own number of jobs in a lifetime. I was curious how many I had experienced going all the way back to my first job (being a babysitter) as well as my first traditional job (theater concessions and usher at a mall movie theater — yep, think Mark Ratner (Brian Backer) of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982).  So I jotted down all of it, my whole list (and it took a while!) I had to push away the cobwebs and go all the way back…back-back-back-back-back…and there it was. My absolutely complete job history. And if you include being a freelance writer and editor for the 5 years I did that full-time working for myself, my list holds…26 jobs since I was a 14 year old babysitting! And that includes the time I delivered flowers over Valentine’s Day while at college. (That was so much fun seeing the joy on people’s faces!)

Does that sound like a lot of jobs to you? I really don’t know if it is or not compared to other people nearing 50 years old. How about you? How long is your list?

I do think the length of our histories may also depend upon the trade or industry in which we landed. For example, for a good 10+ years I worked in the healthcare IT field which was constantly evolving — a polite way of saying companies came and went, and some of mine definitely went! The advantage of a quickly growing marketplace is there were lots of opportunities for growth and income, and I found that I advanced quickly both in title and in salary — the complete opposite of what happened to me when I transitioned into the world of print media and I took a nearly 40% pay cut to finally work for a metropolitan newspaper, my ultimate dream job (Aah, the things we do to fulfill a dream, huh?)

Having a lot of jobs on your list can also reflect the instability of the workplaces on that list, too. I ran into that a lot working for several private, family-owned businesses.  I was the casualty of a closed down business, I barely escaped another business that did end up closing within a year of my exit, and similarly there are a lot of big fish eating up little fish in technology and once my little fish company was eaten by the bigger fish and my job was going to change into something quite different, I saw that as my invitation to swim away (that too actually happened twice in my career, by the way).

I had my husband do the exercise, and as most of you know, he and I are from two different generations (he’s 20 years older than me). He comes from a generation which tends to stay at jobs for longer periods of time, and that is the case with him. His number of jobs was significantly lower than mine.

So I’m wondering, if you were to do that and write a list of all of the jobs you’ve had, how many different jobs have you held during your lifetime? Try out the exercise and see if you’re surprised by the results and maybe stop and ask yourself why the results are the way they are.

I always say that no step that I’ve ever taken has been a mistake, whether it was a bad first marriage and subsequent divorce, a job I accepted that I knew was wrong from the start and left me in tears every night driving home or decisions to go (or not go) to an important event or meeting. Whatever it is or was, each step or choice is not a mistake because it led you to where you are right now. I always tell myself that I can’t question what happened in the past because there’s not a damn thing I can do about it but I can learn from it and if I do feel like I made mistakes, I can look back to learn from them but not dwell on them.

I found this exercise really fascinating to think about all of the places where I’ve been and it made me wonder how many people or places that I worked at that I might have touched, left a bit of myself there in some way — whether embedded in a process or maybe just some good memories with a co-worker or through the support or hard work to make a product or service a success that may still be offered today. When we work, we leave a piece of us behind, like little bread crumbs as we head along the next segment of our career path, but we’re never completely gone from that place and it’s never completely gone from us.

Take a few moments to reflect on where you’ve dropped some of your own bread crumbs during your career travels, and when you think back about some of those places that in the past you might have felt anger, frustration, or disappointment, try to see the good in that experience. Figure out a way to mine some better feelings for every work experience even the ones that left you crying on the drive home each night, because ultimately you still did take away something from that job even if it taught you what you do NOT want from a position.

I hope you’ll share your thoughts about this blog topic and your own results.  I’d love to hear from you. And as always, thanks for reading. ~ Chris K.

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