News and Tribune


April 28, 2012

DODD: My growing career

“Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas.” — Paula Poundstone

One of the television shows that I have watched a few times is “Undercover Boss.” While I agree with Kim that I don’t totally believe it might not be a bit scripted, it still points out one of life’s truism that I have experienced many times.

It is the scenario of a fish out of water that so often works as a comedy premise. However, in real life, it is often referred to as being out of your element. It can also be called leaving your comfort zone.

I have been one to experience many different occupations and allow myself very unique opportunities in my life. It is one of the reasons I never climbed up any corporate or career ladders. In school we used to take aptitude tests. I always did well in many categories; however, upon evaluation, many times I was told I would be easily bored with the same routine. That prophecy has proven true for me in my life’s decisions. I was never one to shy away from taking chances or allowing myself to do things that others would never attempt.

One of my personal traits has also been that I have never been greatly motivated by money — a rather strong impediment to great wealth and business success. My satisfaction has always been more in the line of altruism. Every person must judge success and failure in terms of their own personal satisfaction. Some of my highest-paying jobs allowed me the least personal satisfaction and happiness.

Many people will spend their lifetime in one job or one career, while not happy or content, but feel a sense of security. For many, the feeling of the known evil versus the unknown will allow enough contentment to simply remain in safe while not satisfying environment.

One of the most obvious traits someone has to have in achieving success is risk-taking and the ability to risk failure. It’s something I talk about with my 17-year-old son. I try to impress upon him to avoid the pitfalls of young love and marriage, having kids right away or falling into a number of life’s traps, which close the doors upon literally having many options available to a young person.

Since I have mostly been a people-person, finding myself in new job and social situation has never been a problem for me. However, as I get older and have to operate among younger people, it has been a bit more of a challenge.

Things such as different years of experience, different levels of education and certainly a wide difference in life’s experiences can create a chasm between people in a job setting. Fifty-plus year olds and 20-somethings have to reach across divides to find common ground. Young people who have never been married nor have no children would find a hard relating to older married co-workers with children. It’s obviously something you have no real concept of until you have kids of your own.

What “Undercover Boss” shows quite uniquely is that regardless of how intelligent or well-educated a person is, when you are tasked with something totally unfamiliar to your talents and experiences, you can look totally inept and quite frankly, not real intelligent. What also occurs is the sense of lack of confidence in yourself even at a lower skill level when co-workers at the lower level see you as such. Acceptance or alienation of your fellow workers can affect your self-confidence.

As an example, I would take someone like a senior vice-president who runs the worldwide Walmart corporation who was put on a cash register. I would suggest that in a very short time, the lines would be backed up and business would be lost. However, I could take a high school dropout with a few weeks training and see them as a likely candidate for employee of the year. I would suggest that same cashier in a boardroom with the corporate figures would not fare as well.

It’s something that young people need to know. There’s little difference between being in a rut and accepting the same old routine simply out of familiarity. There’s little chance of knowing what you will or won’t like as a career until you have given yourself varied opportunities when you are young.

I placed myself in a new field and totally unfamiliar environment in November. It was a field in which I had no prior training or experience. I know I looked totally like a fish out of water on many occasions and some days still can feel that way. I will add that the experience for a writer has been invaluable as I deal with all levels of humanity on almost every level each day I am at work.

I interact with people from the most powerful to the very dregs of society on a daily basis and almost everything in between. I find all of my skills, intellect and patience can be utilized in the same day. I will forever be changed from these interactions.

And I never know how long any of these working experiences will last. Every position I have held from the corporate world to the self-employed has given me a much better understanding of people, of myself and of the journey of life. I always look forward to the next opportunity — and the next challenge.

However, that feeling of total inadequacy and insecurity follows you to each new training period. One can never be totally prepared enough or obtain enough education to overcome the initial phase of a new job opportunity. Hopefully in a good experience, those are offset by personal growth.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who lives in Otisco and can be reached at

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