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If Arrested Development taught me anything, it’s that there is always money in the banana stand.
Everyone hated working at the banana stand. Unfortunately for Michael, he burned it down in protest rather than recognize it as an opportunity to better days. So do you view your jobs as banana stands or stepping stones?
What is a stepping stone job? It’s the kind of job that you have that isn’t what you want to do forever. That job you hate or it’s not in your field or you’re overworked and underpaid, and you call your mom complaining and she says, “it’s just a stepping stone.” Or maybe it is fine, but not what you want long-term. Most of us aren’t going to land our dream jobs fresh out of college. Even without it being your dream job, it is creating value for you. Paying the bills, gaining skills, networking, being in the city you want to be in, etc.–all of these things are important steps to getting you where you want to be.
As I have looked back on my career so far, I can see how different positions (both paid and unpaid) have brought me to where I am. So here’s a quick recap of jobs I’ve had:
- Babysitter: from age 12 to 18 for a lot of families at my church and neighbors
- Cafeteria Worker: 9th grade in the cafeteria prepping for lunch before school started
- Gym Front Desk:11th grade through beginning of freshman year of college
- Gym Customer Service: summer before freshman year of college
- Music School Receptionist: first semester freshman year
- Restaurant Hostess & Server: freshman and sophomore year
- Scrapbook retail store: freshman and sophomore year
- Church camp counselor: summers after sophomore and junior year
- Cafeteria worker: first semester junior year
- Student Assistant: second semester of junior year through end of first semester senior year
- Missionary: took a break from school to volunteer for 18 months
- MTC Teacher: 3 semesters after I returned from mission, teaching missionaries preparing to leave
- Utah State Mental Hospital volunteer: Fall semester 2010
- Court-ordered Visitation Supervisor: summer internship 2011
- Scrapbook warehouse worker: first job outta college (yup), 4 weeks
- MTC Training Coordinator: just under two years 2012-2013
- Hobby Lobby: 2nd job, lasted 3 weeks during 2013
- University of Phoenix Academic Counselor: two years, 2013-2015
- Ghost writing contract job: 2014, took two weeks
- High school attendance office: 7 months, 2016
- Gonzaga University Academic Advisor: 17 months, 2016-2017
- BYU Advising Office Supervisor: 2017-current
Looking at these different opportunities I’ve had, I can think of things I’ve learned from each one of them that have helped me in the subsequent positions. Most of them could provide countless learning experiences, and as I wrote them down I was smiling, rolling my eyes and laughing while I thought of how they shaped me.
The awful warehouse job helped us newlyweds pay rent for a few weeks until I was finally offered a job that paid well. I learned about myself that I’ll work wherever I need to provide for my family. It also jump-started my motivation to get some real business-y skills so I wouldn’t be unmarketable in the future.
As a Training Coordinator, I learned hard and soft skills that I use every day. I had the chance to pilot a new program there in a realm totally out of my comfort zone (technology) that is still used there today. It allowed me to work with people all over the world, including Russia, Australia, and Brazil. It shaped who I am as a leader and how I treat employees. And it was really my start in understanding feminism, equality in the workplace, and what I wanted to do with my voice.
University of Phoenix. Ohhhh, UoP, what do I say about you? I had a great boss, fun coworkers, and it was finally my entrance into the advising world that I wanted so badly. But I did not want to be there more than a couple of years. However, it paid well to help us prepare for our future plans to go back to school and I developed a lot of advising skills there. Which was the reason I was able to apply to other advising positions, that eventually landed me at Gonzaga.
And we all know how much I love Gonzaga! What a year of growth for me! I felt like I was contributing to student success and helping them in meaningful ways. Because of the support I received there, it was the first time I really felt like I could be a successful working mom. It felt like I had finally reached my goals.
Then we moved, which was hard. I left GU much sooner than I thought, and the position I’m in now is another stepping stone. And that’s okay. I’m providing for my family, learning new skills, brushing up on skills I haven’t used in a while, taking development courses through HR, and networking with people across campus. It’s pretty fun! These skills and experiences will help me as I move forward in my career and hopefully get back into a more advising-focused role soon.
What if I had just showed up to work at UoP and never tried to be a good advisor because I didn’t plan on being there a long time? What if I had tried to get out of piloting that program because I had no idea how to begin contacting people in Russia when I don’t speak Russian? What if I had ignored individual needs as a camp counselor and treated 12 teenagers as a group instead? Those were jobs that I knew were temporary, but keeping a mindset of perpetual growth has added so much to my career.
Will my next advising job be a final destination or another stepping stone? I don’t know, but I’ve learned that there are stepping stones to other opportunities within my job, too. So I will continue to inventory the skills I’m learning, contributions I’ve made, and not let up on personal growth in my field.
Don’t negate your roles because they may be less prestigious than others. Maybe there’s not always money, but there is always value in the banana stand.
P.S. Recently, I came across Body of Work, which I am adding to my list of must-reads for 2018. I think we all could use help recognizing our personal body of work and how to tie our mishmash experience together for our benefit.