When I reviewed my non-linear career story about four years ago, I worried others saw a disjointed and asynchronous series of jobs. They were all good jobs, just uniquely different and representing a variety of industries. I knew it was time to look at my history through a fresh lens—to proactively discover the threads that tell a true story of who I am and the skillset I offer.
Today, I’m fortunate to work as a business consultant for Propeller, specializing in change management initiatives for global companies. Propeller is a consulting firm that prizes candidates with diverse professional backgrounds and unique skillsets. I’ve been here almost four years, and professionally, I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m challenged, stretched, and deeply engaged in my work—refining the soft and hard skills I came with, and building up new skills and capabilities that allow me to deliver the changes our clients seek.
Had I not done the intentional work a few years ago to take a fresh and unfiltered view of my education and career blueprint, I would not have discovered the “a-ha!” storyline that knits a true picture of who I am—and how that’s of value in the business world. - Riley Smith
Related: 5 Tips to Stand Out As A Candidate
From high school biology teacher to hospitality marketer, to political campaign strategist, to sustainability expert.
Yes. You read that correctly. I did all those things. It was a trajectory preceded by a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in sustainability. A recession and the desire to move out of education led me to my political and marketing roles and then sustainability work. Those decisions were not planned, but they were intentional. I saw opportunities to hone skill sets in different environments that could be useful in future roles, even if the industry or role was not part of my planned journey.
Approach it with a fresh lens and take the time you need
What was my process for teasing out a genuine and compelling story I could tell with confidence to a prospective employer?
My first step was to review and take notes on everything, from what lead me to initially choose my educational degrees through each successive role. I typed up my soft skills, hard skills, and the commonalities among roles—especially because they were roles across education, retail, manufacturing, food and beverage, software/technology, non-profit, and city government. For instance, two of my roles were first-time positions, which involved me crafting program strategy, bringing stakeholders along, educating our audiences, and executing against metrics that had never been tracked before.
From that deep-dive review, I identified the strengths that floated to the top as new program development, training, coaching, facilitating, stakeholder engagement/buy-in, advocating for funding, coalition building, and storytelling. The roles in which I helped create cultural, educational, and systemic change—energized me the most. I even boiled it down to a single story-telling sentence: I excel in roles where I proactively move and lead others from a current state to a future state, particularly when that change is undefined, unpopular, or confounding.
I think it was at this point I actually did a topical search for something like, “driving change forward” or even “change management” and Propeller Consulting popped up. Providence.
Next up, a resume expert helped me build a new professional story and persona, and from there I created a cover letter story that framed up what I collectively achieved across the roles and the performance metrics to support it. What a great personal and professional discovery exercise!
You have to get through the mud and past the hurdles of what you perceive as a hodgepodge resume and poor reflection of you, to a place where you can celebrate your journey, celebrate your story, and understand the intrinsic value of what your skillset offers to an employer. - Riley Smith
Commit to your new role—and keep learning
It was definitely a leap of faith to jump into the business consulting world, and I found myself approaching my first client project with hesitancy. And yet, because I knew I had the skillset to help solve my first complex consulting challenge, I needed to get past any imposter syndrome feelings I had by committing to the client and project 100%--to essentially “be” the expert in the room. Yes, it was challenging. And incredibly rewarding. Eventually, I realized that my problem-solving approaches and thought processes lined up, integrated with, and even complemented my colleagues’ approaches. I knew I was bringing something valuable to the table.
Any feedback I receive that my change management leadership is instrumental to a projects’ success, just validates and encourages me to lean into it more, learn more, and broaden my scope. - Riley Smith
A Book I highly recommend:
“Designing Your Life” By Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.
Designing Your Life shows how design thinking can help create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are.
The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.
Are you someone with a non-traditional resume? Did this article strike a chord with you?
Propeller celebrates diverse professional experiences and is always looking for talented people. Check out our Careers page and open positions, and consider whether Propeller might be your best next step.