2013 Conference

Turn That Job Into a Profession

George Sackett
District Coordinator Web Communications, St. Louis Community College

John Wagner
Systems Programmer, Princeton University

I think someone is really gunning for “Best of Track” – starting out with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”? Alright, I’ll take it. John took the propeller off his hat for this presentation and looked to the audience to figure out exactly what direction it should go.

The Questions:
How old are you? We broke it down. Roughly 1/3 of us are under 30.
Do you have a manager? That’s a tough question to answer – because really, we all do, but to what degree?
How many jobs have you had? First job – that’s less than 10 audience members. About half are in their 2nd – 5th job, and just about 12 are over 6 jobs in!

Image courstesy of Flickr user Terry Whisenant via a CC license.

So why this topic? John explained that he found George on Facebook (no, not like on Catfish…) because of George’s vocal opinions and conversation about working in academia. John found himself agreeing more and more to George’s passion for discovery of career creation within Higher Education, and they teamed up to create a great presentation!

“We are experts in this field…just because we’re old” said John. This presentation molded itself into a large discussion, starting with the question; “what is a career?”

The answers – something you love, a continuous investment, a job with benefits… But John explained that a career isn’t really…anything! It’s just something that we’ve put meaning to. There was a point where your career was the guild you belonged to, or the place where you earned your paycheck. Your career completely encompasses your job, life, family, and everything else that is important to you in your life.

“Who are the people you admire in your field? What skills do they have? Are they doing something that would reward you past the financial reward?” These are questions that George reminds us to ask ourselves as we consider what our career is, or what it should be. It’s also important to ask the same question about people in your field that aren’t doing the “best” job, so that you can learn from them and develop new skills from those lessons.

You can also take small skills away from those in your field, even if you don’t necessarily want to move in that direction. George cited an example in his own life where he took away unteachable skills such as enthusiasm and passion and put them into his current work.

Mentors – they’re very important. “You guys that don’t have mentors need to talk to the people that have mentors and ask them why.” John said.

An audience member answered the question saying that you don’t necessarily know your needs and interests five or ten years down the road. “We need to be happy, we need to be social, we need to learn” answered another audience member. One audience member also offered the consideration that people we don’t even know can be our mentors. They allow us to grow, even though we don’t talk to them directly.

What should managers do? John says it’s set priorities, remove hurdles, and get resources. For some of us, we want to move into that position because these things sound fun, exciting, and worth a career. For others, it’s not. Many audience members struggled with the frustration caused by the concept of “advancing” vs. “moving up.” Many stated that they do not want to move into a “manager” position, but advance themselves within a career, which (for many of us) is not possible due to funding.

The presentation continued to be a free-flowing discussion, then focusing on the physical and emotional line. The basic question that was asked was, “do I try to earn more money, or do what I love?” “How do I gain emotional satisfaction at work?” Unfortunately, this question is challenging to answer, especially in one session!

What is the difference between a manager and a leader? Fortunately there was quite a discussion happening on the #MPD10 backchannel! “Leaders work with people, Managers work with things” was the general conclusion. These skill sets are not mutually exclusive, and you don’t need to be a manager to be a leader, while the same goes for the reverse.

Seriously. Check the backchannel for some amazing conversation, and join in!

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By Jackie Vetrano

Jackie Vetrano is the assistant director of MBA prospect management & marketing at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She manages and implements the lead-nurture strategy using email as well as other important touchpoints to encourage prospective students to apply to the top-ranked MBA program. Outside of work, you’ll find Jackie participating in hot yoga, out on a run, or watching reality television. She also enjoys traveling, petting her cat, and spending time with her partner trying new foods and experiences.