If you could start your career over, what would you do differently?
Do-over? Mulligan? Reflect on the past and learn? Our colleagues have something to say about how they started and where they are today.
[In this column, adopted from the familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to answer the question posed in the title. These are their replies reported verbatim.]
WITH A MINOR TWEAK HERE AND THERE
If I could start my career over, I would not change much. I was never sure what I wanted to do for a career. I held many positions before I landed in the propane business in late 1989. All those jobs I had helped prepare me to handle almost anything. As the first person in my family to get a college degree, I wanted to make my family proud. I realized I had opportunities that my parents and grandparents never had. I always wanted to make a difference. Thanks to my parents for challenging my siblings and me, I learned to overcome any kind of adversity and continue to do my best.
I have made mistakes in my career as most people do. However, I tried to learn from them and be better at my role. I now share my knowledge and experience to younger and new people in the industry. If I can help someone grow in their career, I am more than happy to share my mistakes and successes.
Considering starting my career over is a difficult question for me. I’m not sure I could say I would do it different as this is not a career I would have picked. You could say it was picked for me.
My getting into the propane business was similar to an arranged marriage. I was a propane dealer’s wife, truly on the sidelines. I was home raising a family and working the booth at soccer and basketball games as I was part of our high school booster club. Next thing I know I’m president of Proctor Gas!! Not at all the same call to action as soccer Mom. But like an arranged marriage, I have to say I grew to love my job and my propane family. God sends us down very different paths sometimes, and yes, I would choose to change how I got here, (as losing my husband in 2010 put me at the helm) but not that I am here.
Looking back at my career to date, I wish I’d known earlier that the negative feelings I experienced from any work-performance setback, lost sale, poorly executed marketing campaign, mismanaged project, or any unintended consequence largely depended on my perception and attitude at the time. I could have saved myself a lot of anguish if I had stayed calm, promised to learn from my mistakes, and moved on quickly.
It’s a good lesson for me to remember going forward. I can choose to stay positive in spite of any difficult challenge and outcome. It just may make me more enjoyable to be around, too.
My path was different from many to begin with. After high school, I worked: as a gas station attendant; a warehouse packager for threaded products; manufacturing threaded bolts; selling vacuums, pots and pans and lightbulbs; driving a ready-mix cement truck; concrete construction and then excavation (ditch digging). At the end of all that, I realized more schooling was what I needed so I took it on with renewed vigor and purpose. So, my answer to the question is: Nothing.
National Propane Gas Association
Tinley Park, Illinois
My career started at an investment company that specialized in Tax Shelters. As I had an MBA in Finance this seemed like a good place to begin. Now somewhere along the line I moved out of the investment business into the family business – hose, fittings and valves – which is not exactly the same thing. I think the one thing I would have done differently was to have more faith in myself when I switched careers. My lack of confidence when I started at Fairview, (my self talk was along the lines of “I don’t know anything about this, everyone else knows way more than I do – I’m going to screw it up”), probably made my transition into this new industry a longer, more torturous process. I wish I had pursued my vision faster as opposed to following along with the ‘old ways.’ But I did finally figure it out, so I guess my story has a happy ending!
Oakville, Ontario, CANADA
I would delegate faster and take more risk. You can always change course and no change is permanent.
Buffalo, New York
After thinking about this way too much I decided the answer was easier than I thought. I would change nothing! My first career was in retail. 20 years of owning my own small business. I owned two 3000 sq ft mini dept stores in two small towns approximately 15 miles apart. I had to be a jack of all trades in that career. Bookkeeper, Customer Service, Inventory Control, Maintenance person and all the ordering! I learned SO much in that career. I enjoyed it and loved the customer interaction. I will admit that the maintenance finally got to me one winter, when I was shoveling snow with no place left to put it, except to throw it higher than my head! At that point I sold out and joined my brothers in the fuel software business. Since I used their software for my retail stores I had a first-hand view of the accounting modules, and then just had to learn the fuel side. Because our family grew up in the propane business (our father started his propane business in the 50’s) parts of it felt like home to me! In this, my second career I focused on customer support. Of course, all my years of retail helped with that. I feel extremely lucky to have TWO careers in my life. I was re-energized and humbled at the same time to start a new career at that point in my life. I went from knowing and making every decision in a business, to starting at the bottom and working my way up to learn it all again. Those two careers have given me a wealth of knowledge, experience, and joy, along with a few headaches. But overall, I would not change a thing. It all played into the ‘me’ I am now, and I’m happy with that.
Rural Computer Consultants
Bird Island, Minnesota
When I reflect on my career and if I were to start over, I struggle to think of what I would change. I believe that the decisions I’ve made, and the circumstances of my life, have led me on the path to where I am now, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. That said, I can think of times I should have trusted my gut or spoken my mind sooner–those are changes I could make.
My “career path” all started in high school for me. I was fortunate to attend a highly ranked all boys parochial high school focused on academics and athletics. Because my parents had limited education, my teachers and guidance counselors were my only real source of information regarding colleges, different majors, and potential career opportunities to pursue. They offered no internships, interest inventories, job shadowing, or ways to identify my personal areas of interest or skills.
Because I was not in the top 10 of the class, my guidance counselor suggested I become a Physical Education Teacher because I was a jock. I was also involved in the Navy Junior ROTC program and absolutely loved it. As a result, I was offered an ROTC and Football Scholarship to attend Holy Cross University in Worcester, MA. It was my senior year in 1971, the Vietnam conflict was still very active, and I had to make a commitment to the military for 6 years. I was scared and very confused about what my future would be if I had to go to Vietnam. I declined that scholarship opportunity and went to a state college, played football, met my wife, majored in Special Education, and had a very positive 4-year experience. I ended up spending 24 years as an educator with the last 14 as a Central Office Administrator. In retrospect, I wish I had gone into the military, experienced all it had to offer, and developed my civilian career from there, which ultimately would have led to sales, which I have been doing for over 23 years and still enjoying it! I have no regrets!
P3 Propane Safety
Cumberland, Rhode Island
IF ONLY I COULD…
In our family, my husband is the dreamer while I tend to believe that all that happened before was necessary to have the present be reality. A do-over off the golf course is not a consideration. I could be convinced, however, that learning my life lessons would be more appreciated if they would only, blessedly be quicker. As for careers, I’ve had several—each one circuitously leading to my favorite of all time; the one I have now.
Nancy Coop, Cetane Associates
This column was first published in Butane-Propane News in April 2022.