Sunday, November 04, 2012

To Move Forward, Sometimes You Have To Venture Into The Unknown

I had some deep conversations this past week.  Those conversations led me to think about how many people get to a point in their lives (work, family, etc) where they feel stagnant.    Things seem routine and maybe even a little boring.   For some this feeling is ok, but for others, they yearn to break out of the routine into something new.

Yet, many people don't even know where to begin to change.  I definitely was like this.  There were a few things in my life in the years past where I felt things had gotten stagnant.  I liked what I did but it felt like the "same old thing".   I was semi-aware of this but did not know how to get out of it.

Fortunately, for a couple of situations in my life, I found a way to break out of the routine into something newer and fresher.

Basketball Officiating

I started officiating youth basketball around 1993.  I had served as a volunteer coach for my old catholic grammar school since 1988.  The school's athletic director needed an official at another school he ran and he asked me to help out.

I signed up and started officiating in addition to my coaching duties.  The early years were rough as I had no idea what I was doing.  Over time, my experience grew and I gained confidence in my capabilities.  However, the youth league was limited in training the officials.   I knew a lot of about the youth league but not about the "actual" rules of basketball.

As time went on, I realized I was getting bored of officiating the youth league.  I didn't really know what to do so I just kept doing the routine for a few years until a chance opportunity appeared.  I had referred a couple of friends to come officiate in the youth league with me.

They joined the youth league but took a chance to join a basketball officiating group to work high school and adult basketball games around 2002.  I had tried to join this group a few years before but had not been accepted.  With a second opportunity, I went along with my friends to training and was finally accepted into the group.

Though I wouldn't realize it at the time, this situation was a great thing for me.  Joining the group was tough initially but the knowledge and experience I gained were great for me.  I was able to apply it to youth basketball as well and get my interest back.

While my high school officiating hasn't gone as well as I would like due to multiple issues (mainly work), I have enjoyed the past 10 years working with the officiating group.

Sales Engineering

Fresh out of college, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my career.  For the first year, I stayed with a part time administrative job I had.  I had worked with the company toward the end of my college days and they were willing to keep me around.

About a year after I graduated from college, I saw a posting for a "Technical Analyst" position at my college Career Center and immediately applied.  After screening with the folks at the Career Center, I interviewed with a manager at the company.   The interview was pretty uneventful and I was told a few days later that I had gotten the position.

From those humble beginnings, I spent seven years at the company (1999 to 2006).  For about 5 1/2 years, I was a technical support representative (the other 1 1/2 years were spent as a process manager).

By 2006, I had gotten a little tired of doing technical support and was looking for a change.   An opportunity presented itself with a smaller company which I ultimately decided to pursue.   With the smaller company, I ended up doing a mix of work including technical support, sales engineering, manual writing, QA Testing and project management.    The overall experience was good but I got laid off as the company had not been doing well.

At this point, I still yearned for a change.  While I had gotten an opportunity to diversify my skills, I still spent a good amount of time on the phone with customers doing technical support.   I wanted to get away from that type of work if it was possible. I looked around for jobs online.  However, most of what I was qualified for was still technical support positions.

Then a chance opportunity occurred one day.  I was out one day when my cell phone rang.  I answered the call as I was expecting a call back from a company regarding a job I had applied for.  It turned out to be a recruiter instead.

This particular recruiter had saw my resume and inquired if I would be interested in a "Sales Engineer" position with a local company.   He had noticed that I had some sales engineer experience with my last job.

We talked a lot about my background, the job, and the requirements.  After the discussion, the recruiter stated he was impressed and wanted to submit my resume to the hiring manager.  I was a little less sure and asked the recruiter to send me information on the position so I could think about it.

After a few days, I had emailed the recruiter to decline the position.  The reasons were simple.  I did not know much about Sales and I did not know much of the about the technology that was required for the position.   The recruiter emailed me back almost immediately and stated that I should reconsider.

I thought about this for a short while and called the recruiter back about 30 minutes later.  I told him that he could submit my resume.  The reason for the change of heart?  I had finally seen that this job would be a natural evolution from my technical support position.

After one interview with my manager (who is now a Vice President), I got the position and remain there today (after 4 years +/- some layoffs....another story hahaha).


As you can see from my stories, I was a little stagnant in some aspects of my life.  Yet, I was fortunate enough to have some opportunities come up to break out of the routine.  That is really my main point.

Many people feel they have to "find something" to break out of their routine.  In reality, I have found that opportunities COME TO YOU.  You just have to learn to be aware and take advantage.  Have courage to venture into the unknown even if you're not sure it's the right thing.

Good luck!

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