by Michelle Mayes, Illinois Chapter, Business & Finance and Taxonomy Divisions
As a child I started autobiographical essays with some form of “Like Columbus, I discovered America on October 12…”A trope usually good for a chuckle from the teacher.
In some Caribbean countries, Columbus Day is actually called Discovery Day, and with the passage of another year I am finding I am still discovering where the future leads. After eight years in one firm I am again on a path to find out what is next. In my last full-time position, I was the person who was defying stereotypes in a siloed firm, using my skills in research, Web slinging, data mining, and knowledge management in new ways, across silos. On the far side I am finding that being the person who can do anything is great when you’re employed, but such a diverse resume leads interviewers and recruiters to ask “with so many different things you’ve done, what do you want to do now?”
That question took me aback at first. Did they want to hear that I only had eyes for this particular job and discount everything else? Do they think I’ll leave because they can’t offer me a position in all those areas? But when I think about those doubts, I realize it goes against my personal experience of taking what you have and making more from it.
Many pieces on this blog have stressed the importance of stretching yourself to develop new skills, and I have followed that path most of my career, to generally positive results. In my first professional position it meant moving from research to designing the first intranet site (after IT) in the company. In my next position it led to starting a satellite library and taking over hands-on portions of training. In my last position it meant moving from behind the scenes to working on the trading floor. I have not found every experience ended in a rosy ever after, but as Thomas Edison notes, learning what paths do not work is also valuable.
So what then is my answer to “what do I want to do now?” I want to keep discovering, I want to keep reaching, and I want to work for someone who values an employee who is always reaching, not to “move up and out” but to say “yes and.” The future rarely belongs to those who simply fulfill the requirements of the job description. It belongs to those who, when encountering the unexpected, forge a different path instead.
Michelle Mayes is a member of the Future Ready 365 task force. True to form, she said, “sure, I can set up the blog” even though she hadn’t actually worked in WordPress before. Previous SLA positions include Webmaster of SLA Illinois’ web site.