My vocational journey took me all the way from Lisbon to Crystal River, Florida. From a European city with a sense of glamour and history to a small town in the middle of nowhere. Let’s just say that I definitely experienced culture shock. Some moments were difficult but I will never forget the months I spent in the sunshine state working at a nuclear facility. My experiences provided me with life lessons that go beyond the workplace.
You have to crawl before you walk
I knew being a forklift driver at a nuclear facility was far from the marketing and public relations work I envisioned for myself. But I had to start somewhere. They say innocence is bliss; I was actually naive enough to believe that this could be a great starting place for me. Those long days were hard but I took every opportunity to learn as much as I could. I became a student of the nuclear energy, the utility industry and my role. Yes, the role of a materials specialist who issued the right pieces for the work being done inside the plant. I would ask questions and tried to connect with other employees. While my desire was to eventually move into a communications position, I recognized early on that I needed to experience this reality if I was to ever tell a compelling story to employees. This experience would make me better in the future. I needed to crawl before I could walk. That attitude was key as I reflect back on the other employees’ willingness to answer my questions. They saw my inquiries as a real interest and that lead to my second lesson at the nuclear plant.
Be intentional with every interaction
This lesson might sound a little forced, almost self-serving, but the truth is that intentionality creates real relationships. I experienced it for the first time at this nuclear site. Yes, being intentional means that I was aware of how to connect and who to connect with. I knew the plant manager and the communications team onsite. But I also knew the janitor and the cafeteria manager. My interactions with the people in power were just as important as my interactions with my peers. Ultimately, every connection you make can be an advocate for your cause. You just need to give as much as you get in return. Real relationships are mutually beneficial. That is what happened when I met the folks who would introduce me to my future manager. I recall asking questions which led to me providing ideas for communications strategies at the plant. That led to them building the bridge that made it easier for me to connect with a leader that would later hire me.
Looking back all these applications sound simple and easy, but it took reflecting and writing them down to truly recognize them. Do you have similar stories? Have you reflected and grown in appreciation for those early days in your career? Who did you connect with on along the way? Join in on the conversation and share in the comments section below.