I just read a note from Mark Cenedella at The Ladders who said he’s had 27 jobs. I added up mine: I’ve had at least 24 different jobs. Those numbers do include part-time, temporary, college, high school and moonlighting jobs, as well as the regular full-time gigs.

Here’s my list:

1) Summer babysitting
2) McDonald’s (a year)
3-6) Financial aid jobs at college
– washing dishes
– stacking books in the music library
– helping kids at the local school library
– staffing the student government office
7-8) Summer Research Assistant for a special project (twice)
9-10) Summer Research Assistant for two separate professors
11) Teaching Assistant in graduate school
12-14) 3 lengthy temp assignments (one of which offered me a full-time job)
NOTE: this was in 1981, the last time the unemployment rate was so high…
15) Fundraiser/Program Developer at a non-profit in the South Bronx (3 years)
16) Fundraising consultant at a small firm (7 months)
17) Assistant Director of a department at a large NYC anti-poverty organization (6 years)
18) Cook for caterer (moonlighting job)
19) Demonstration cooking at the Food Emporium (Saturdays)
20) Associate Commissioner at a NYC government agency (4 years)
21) CEO of a non-profit (11 years)
22) Consultant (several months)
23) CEO of another non-profit (1 year)
24) Writer/Coach (present)

Looking at this, I realize a few things:

  • I spent the beginning of my work life assembling many experiences and skills that I then put to use in leadership positions. No experience went to waste. While my main jobs were varied, the common thread was that all of them contributed in some way to the foundation I was building in organizational management and leadership. I wasn’t really conscious of a goal most of the time; I followed my curiosity about how organizations operate and took jobs that illuminated various aspects.
  • It took years to achieve my goal of being in charge of an organization. I learned patience, and gathered a lot of information – including what I call “negative powers of example.” Those were behaviors and policies I vowed not to repeat when I was in a position of authority. I was always on a trajectory to get more control over my work environment and job duties, though.
  • The side jobs I took to make a little extra income used my love of cooking.
  • These are only the jobs I got; I was a perpetual job seeker, however. I constantly updated my resume, went on informational interviews, perused want ads, applied for interesting jobs, went on interviews, and even turned down a few offers because I realized that my current job was comparatively good.

How many jobs have you had? How are you using your previous work experiences in your current search? What trends or common threads are there in your jobs?