I recall taking a tour on a submarine a few years back on the Seattle waterfront. Now privately owned, this vessel had once been home to a Russian crew until its time of de-commission. Squeezing my way through the cramped corridors, I read just about every piece of historical info that was organized next to each display; one piece struck me most of all and still stays in my mind today. In the ‘officers mess’, there was a brief on the wall, describing rank of Russian seamen, during the time of the Soviet Union. Officers were not worked up through the ranks, but were often accredited the role through social status – meaning that even if you were a great leader or technician but were born into the ‘wrong’ family, you would never make a higher rank than the job you enlisted for and once you took a particular position, that’s where you stayed.
I often relate to this story when thinking about my own career choices and the lack of continuum in rising up the ranks throughout the years. An old work colleague said it best once – ‘Your trouble is, you have a brain.’ What he was responding to, was my dissatisfaction with my employment at the time and my comments that I get bored too easy, or when the challenge is lacking. He is right to an extent but one can only lay blame at ones own feet, for the path we choose for ourselves.
My ‘problem’ started many years ago, when I decided to just take whatever job I could find that payed reasonable money, and was something ‘different’, or didn’t require a strong commitment of responsibility. Every single job I’ve taken that has offered me the chance to move up, I’ve always done so (and fairly rapidly) but when tempted with a true career from these positions, I’ve moved on to something new, in fear of being trapped in a corner. Fear can be a great motivator when there’s no other option – when there are options, it’s a great debilitator and something I still haven’t quite got to grips with, within myself.
One of my greatest strengths comes from these experiences at jumping through different jobs. I’ve retained an aptitude and a ‘can-do’ mentality for something new, that enables me to take any vocation and make it mine – until I get that career complex. The new difficulty now comes from being so thinly spread across a spectrum of capability and the majority of employers, wanting people with defined skill-sets. No longer is it so common to see ‘skills not as important as the willingness or aptitude to learn, which means I’m either in the wrong industry, or, like the Soviet employee classifications, you accept your lot in life in whatever position you enlisted for in the first place. The problem is, I’ve enlisted for so many vocations in life, I have no idea which one is mine.
One thing is for certain, time and experience have now finally let me accept that I need to take a career path which lasts longer than a few years and so I find myself again standing at that junction, scratching my head on which path to take that leads to more usefulness of my life and fully engages my talents and mind.