“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing” – W. Edwards Demming
I love this quote. It speaks so much to me about my path. I have always been a creative person and never thought much of it, never really knew how that part of me really defined me. And it was not until I looked at answering the question, “So what do you do?” for what felt like the thousandth time, did I wake up and finally make changes to my life.
My beginning. I was very fortunate to have two grandfathers that were engineers. Each lived about a mile from the other on Keuka Lake (Upstate New York) and they had wonderful wood shops to ‘play’ in. As children my sisters and I learned to make things like wooden flip flops when we could not afford Dr. Scholl’s original sandals.
We learned how to use all the shop equipment and had free range to use any material or tools we wanted, so long as we put them away. We made houses, we made kites, we built boxes and furniture for our dolls. When we didn’t feel like building, we had a large creek and a glen to hike. Our grandfather had a friend with a vineyard across the road and up a hill from his house, we played there. We spent summers at the lake rotating between grandparent’s houses. We learned to water ski early (maybe age 5?) and sail and fish. The lake was our playground. This was a time when people who lived on the lake knew each other, and we were free to roam as far as we were able in the row boat.
Looking back it seems our lives really did revolve around doing things that took us to the lake. We lived in Canandaigua, about 40 minutes drive away and several times rode our bikes to the lake. We also swam across the lake. I don’t remember spending much time indoors.
I think my sisters and I are all highly creative because we had free range to explore, to learn about and respect the nature around us. We had parents and grandparents that were not afraid to let us make mistakes. Grandparents who took our curiosity seriously and engaged our dreams and fantasies regarding things we could build or the wonderful child imaginings we saw. They encouraged and questioned and rallied in our exploration. They read our stories and encouraged our art.
As an adult, this exploration has followed me in pursuit of knowledge, learning about things that interest me. I have never really left school and I am hanging out on the fringe of the baby boomer generation.
Why did I share all this with you? Because I forgot about how my curiosity and my quest to solve problems and make things better through hobbies (sewing, writing, starting businesses, research and writing, website design, marketing, and talking to people about their interests and concerns) kept me entrepreneurial and evolving.
I was stuck, I knew why, but I was complacent. I have been working for others for so many years and no matter how much knowledge and experience I acquired, I kept getting blocked from moving beyond limiting roles in administrative, secretarial, clerical type roles. I was always helping new managers and new supervisors learn and grow but it was from a role that was hidden. No organization looked at me and saw the creative, smart, entrepreneurial person that was helping grow their business. They didn’t know that I existed. I was held back and shut down and I knew it, yet I did nothing.
I was afraid to move beyond the safety of a secure job. Until something snapped. I moved from the Central Coast, CA to Renton, WA, another internal transfer with one of the largest dialysis companies in the world and I was placed in a role for beginners. I was told I could grow in the department if I put in 18 months and proved myself. I begrudgingly accepted with a $4/hour cut in pay. It took me 3 months of driving from Renton to Tacoma (if you live here you know that is a hell of a drive) five days a week to realize I had enough. I put up with being treated like I was fresh out of high school and just starting out in the corporate world even though I had worked for the company for 4 years and in 5 different states. I had opened dialysis clinics and helped train staff at a newly acquired clinic with an exiting manager that was damaging and bitter.
I wrote policy, I audited, I trained, I mentored. I recruited. I knew everything anyone could know about running a dialysis clinic. I even knew how to work through obtaining certificate of occupancy in the midst of a politically volatile land owner and local politics issue. I worked with code enforcement, troubleshooted misunderstandings with an extremely touchy joint venture partner. I took on tasks when there was literally no one else available to do them. I learned the water room, inventory with iProc, Medication ordering and audit, payroll, the Workday Intranet site, onboarding new vendors and new employees, resolved issues onboarding travelers, admitted patients, worked with nephrologists, hospital staff, the Department of Health, you name it. I knew all this 6 months in to the job because that is how I work. My upbringing helped grow an entrepreneurial mindset to do it.
But what was the break, the big smack in the face that finally got me to react? It was a punitive annual review from a former manager one month in to my new position. The kicker is a young supervisor had to deliver the news to me as we sat in a small office near the footpath to community coffee. I lost it. I had an emotional, full-on heaving cry right there. The former manager wrote that people didn’t like me and that I struggled to adapt. Seriously. The former manager was a rascal. A rule breaker who instilled ingroups and outgroups, fear mongering and blatant favoritism. He did what he wanted, was rarely seen, and the company just kept promoting him. *Note to self, write about why companies allow this to happen and discuss how this damages the brand and corporate culture that so much time, money and effort are spent trying to grow and improve.
My reaction was a flood of disgust and damaged pride. I was still helping teammates from this former clinic remotely, offering guidance and solutions on problems they could not solve on their own. I decided I could no longer ignore or hide from what was happening to me. I took a long hard look at my career choices and wrote it all down to reflect on what my options were. Ultimately, I decided that I am a proverbial problem solver. I like making things better and I like helping people and if I did not like what I was doing nor the way I was being treated, then I needed to do something else.
Rather than jump in to applying for new jobs, I decided that I wanted to do something that I enjoyed that would help people. I really enjoyed conversations with people about their work and things they could do to improve not only the way they presented themselves online but also on paper and in conversation. I already had a taste of recruiting people to work in dialysis so I naturally looked in to recruiting.
I was part of the inaugural class of the Recruiter.com recruiter training program and while I learned, I was busy setting up a formal business called The Sound Staffing. Today I am happy. I talk to people every day who are looking for a new job, a new opportunity. But my focus is not to help them get just any job. My focus is to really flesh out if the job they have applied for is really the right one for them. I don’t want to help people move from the same situation that they are trying to leave. I want to know what it is that they want.
What will make this job ‘The’ job? For some reason as we age, we stop asking ourselves this question, we treat it like a luxury that we do not deserve.
We all have to come to this understanding about ourselves. We must continuously ask ourselves what is it about us that makes us unique and how can we use it to pursue the career that will fulfill us? We must be able to define what we are doing as a process, what are we doing now, what would we like to be doing instead, what do we have to do to make that happen. This is the key to taking the first steps, so we can figure out how we can change our path.