Broad exposures

mile wide and inch deep

I was going to start out by saying that I haven’t had that many jobs – which in this day and age of a job every 9 months or so is probably true. I was then going to follow that up by saying that my first “real” job was in sales. Then I thought, well, there was that job doing technical writing. And there was the job for a neighbor through your high school and college summers that had you doing everything from prepping people for physical therapy to contacting insurance companies to fight for reimbursement – for both the patient AND the office. Then there was your training and student-teaching of English in a high school. And then, of course, there was my real first job of scooping ice cream.

The point of this post originally was that other than my first “real” job in sales, all my other jobs have covered a broad expanse of the business experience. I spoke to this a bit in my “Titles” post, this fact that what I’ve done, what I bring to a company, isn’t hyper-focused in one area like accounting or human resources. That said, I’m not sure any position is or should be narrowed down, but that’s for another day.

After my sales position, all my positions have required me to be a mile wide and an inch (or three) deep.  Certainly owning a business means you have to have experience in all functional areas. You learn quickly that you aren’t the best person for all those areas, but you’d better understand how, why and what each one brings to the table (or financials). I have loved being exposed to, working within and learning about such a broad array of business experiences. I loved the challenge of working with the owner of several small businesses to see how we could make the enterprise better, which sometimes meant financially and sometimes meant process, employee relations, etc.

Owning my business, I decided to learn everything I didn’t know or wasn’t comfortable with over the past few years.  I didn’t become an expert by any means, but I now have a working knowledge of things I never thought I’d want or need – data modeling, investor presentations, lean manufacturing, and more. Does it help or hurt that I didn’t do an extreme deep dive into one of these areas? I think there’s a place for both types of people. Again, a topic for another day, but I now can appreciate what’s happening, what needs to happen and how to make it happen in a lot of business scenarios. I like the fact that I have a broad expanse to pull from in looking at a particular challenge. But I will say that, as I acknowledged in the “Titles” post, that appreciating that skill can be difficult when trying to convince someone that I would be a good fit for a job. Sometimes the skill that we’ve tried to teach our kids, the ability to learn how to learn, doesn’t translate in the job search process. So I now have to learn how to craft that translation and think of it as just another opportunity to educate myself.

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