Leap (of faith)

If we had a crystal ball, life would be grand. But, because we don’t, we often find ourselves at the mercy of hindsight. Hindsight being 20/20, what is one setback you faced in your career that ended up being a blessing in disguise?

Career choices come in many shapes and forms. When posed the question, “Hindsight being 20/20, what setback in your career ended up being a blessing in disguise?” I knew instantly which period of my life I wanted to write about. I don’t think it was actually a setback, but a dead end. I believe many people face the same type of situation and simply remain stuck.

After high school, I was like a lot of young adults. I went to college because it was expected, without any clear idea of what I wanted to do as a career. Lack of a clear goal and being away from my future husband spoke louder than any future career, so I dropped out of college and got married. I moved away from everything I’d ever known in the safe, sleepy Midwest to the busy, frenetic east coast. Looking back, taking that risk was probably the most significant thing I’ve done for my life, but not my career.

While out east, I worked mainly as a picture framer. When we moved back to Illinois, a lack of a college degree left me with choices I didn’t necessarily like: retail, factory work, or administrative office work. I took a job with a local health system as a part-time payroll clerk, and had a second part-time job with a party store.

At one point, my boss told me she thought I’d be good at human resources. So, my part-time payroll position turned into a full-time payroll/personnel job. My employer had a generous tuition reimbursement policy, and I used it to finish college with a business degree. It took me approximately four years to complete the additional two years of credits I needed.

During my 5 1/2 years there, I held a few positions in different departments. Of course, once I earned my degree I started looking for a more professional position, something I could call a career instead of being a glorified administrative assistant. What became clear as I searched internal listings is that with my particular skills it was unlikely I’d find something more than administrative support in that health system. The people in the positions I would be interested in had held them for years, and likely weren’t going anywhere.

I decided to leave. It was definitely a leap of faith, as I had attained a step up in benefits via seniority. It was hard to walk away from the large paid time off bank, as well as the various other benefits.

My next job wasn’t perfect – it was an office manager for a non-profit – but it gave me a chance to meet a lot of influential people in the community, and showed me a different way of doing business. By the time I was offered a position at my current company, I was ready to tackle the many challenges that would be thrown my way.

Looking back, I see clearly how significant it was for me to leave my job at the hospital. I had good benefits. I was surrounded by people who had worked there for 10, 15 and 20 years. It was hard to walk away from what I knew for something completely unknown. I saw people around me every single day that stayed were they were, doing the same job day in and day out, simply because it was what they knew and it paid the bills. I could have been one of them. I could have stayed, hoping for an opening in another job or department, and found myself there today. Doing the same job.  I’m grateful I’m not.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

April Kunzelman

April Kunzelman, PHR, has a wide range of experience in many aspects of personnel management. For over 10 years, she served as the HR Director for fatwallet.com, building an award-winning culture. April now spends her days working with the non-profit organization Chemo Cargo, aimed at assisting first-time chemotherapy patients. Connect with April on Twitter as @akunzel and @chemocargo.



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April Kunzelman

Kelly – I’m glad this post speaks to you. I don’t consider myself a risk-taker normally. However, looking back, I can see where the saying “no risk, no reward” comes from. Sometimes, the only real option is to step off the ledge. I hope I can remember this myself, when the next opportunity presents itself!

Kelly O

You have no idea how encouraging this is to me, right now, in the place I sit. Sometimes the darkest places yield the best results, and it’s something I find myself continually repeating. I’m not necessarily looking at secure benefits (or much in that vein, but that’s a whole different conversation.) However, it’s a place of comfort, of knowing the devil I’m facing every day, and being a little (okay a lot) afraid of stepping out and being what I know I can be.

Not only does it help me see that I can break into HR despite of a rather circuitous path, but maybe this is the path I need to take to really get it. And, on a personal note, it helps to know that others have taken the Big Scary Leap and survived. Not only survived, but thrived and really found their place.

So thank you. It’s appreciated more than you know.


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