“I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow.” – Julia Cameron
This picks up from a previous blog post.
I have reinvented myself a number of times over the years, both in my vocation and avocation.
It begins with me deciding what I want to be and then proclaiming it.
Previously, I said things like, “I want to be a…”
The energy changed when I stated it as an affirmation: “I am…”
“I am a stage director.”
“I am an opera conductor.”
I continued to conduct at Amato and a few other places, but I also had married and had a daughter. Faced with the need for more income, my wife persuaded me to upgrade my office skills. I invested in a word processing class, learned WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS and immediately went to work as an office temporary at a higher pay rate. I found I could easily handle secretarial work, but discovered that my experience back in college of a course in computer-assisted music research using a mainframe, learning the primitive desktop publishing of the time, learning how to structure a simple database, and learning how to do research on the Internet (again pre-web browser), using the graphical user interface of the Macintosh, gave me an edge in the office.
I said, “I am a word processing secretary.”
I picked up Lotus 1-2-3, Wang, Harvard Graphics and more. I worked in law firm word processing centers and learned document management systems that keep track of versions. DOS was on the way out and I was soon using WordPerfect for Windows, Microsoft Word for Windows, Excel and PowerPoint–all learned on the job.
I could pick up new software programs quickly and as a temp I was exposed to many more features of each program, as each office tended to emphasize different features. For instance, one office was big on tables, another on charts. Some used desktop publishing features such as styles, while others were macros for office organization. This was a time when programs were still small enough that if you learned 80% of a software’s features you were an expert. Today, the programs are so powerful and bloated that if you know 20% of the features you are an expert.
Naturally, with all of my teaching experience in theater and music, I often helped my fellow employees, and I became known as the go-to guy for help–help desk employees rarely know how to use the programs, they are great for installation, troubleshooting and security questions, but as they don’t use the product to do the things secretaries do, they must rely on their help desk database to dispense advice.
I was working at a New York Hospital in human resources when I met an HR consultant who had been hired to help out with a project. He had a fantastical story. He had been the Director of Human Resources at Tower Financial Services reporting directly to the chairman Steven Hoffenberg. While the company was being investigated by the SEC, Hoffenberg had my colleague go through the process of laying off thousands of employees, all the while assuring him that everything was kosher. But Towers was actually a ponzi scheme. When it all collapsed, Hoffenberg laid off my friend, after he had done all his dirty work for him. Soon after, Hoffenberg was prosecuted and went to jail.
This HR consultant was impressed with my work and my personality and told me that I should be a computer software trainer. He helped me revise my resume to emphasize my training skills and experience. He gave me a trainer makeover. When I was laid off from the hospital during a Reduction In Force (RIF) I shopped my resume.
I proclaimed, “I am a software trainer.”
I had a number of interviews and received a number of offers, and chose the one that would give me the best opportunity to advance quickly in the field up to a certified trainer: someone with vendor certification, such as Novell Networking Engineer, which was the hottest career at the time. I worked for New Horizons Computer Learning Center and chose to get certified in Lotus Notes. It proved to be lucrative, as once I was certified I was recruited by another training company at nearly double my salary. There they got me up to speed on the new hot certification, Microsoft. A year later, I was recruited to work as a consultant and trainer for a systems intergrator (one of my students had impressed her boss with my skill) and my salary doubled again.
All because in 1994, I said, “I am a software trainer.”
To be continued… See Part 4