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Virginia Tech


Job Hopping: Why A Million Jobs Is a Good Thing

photo Let's face it, no one sails through their work life with grace and ease. We stumble, we fail, we struggle and we learn some pretty great lessons along the way.  For me, those lessons have come from 32 different, paying jobs in 21 years. You heard that right. 32. From orientation leader to cold caller, I wouldn't believe it myself if I hadn't written them all down.* Am I flighty? Do I lack work ethic? Am I a poor performer? Not a bit.

We've been chastising millenials for job hopping and holding too many jobs. We assume the worst--lack of promotions, laziness, perspective--but maybe there's more to it, especially early in your career. What if having a million jobs was a good thing?

For me it was. It deepened my skill sets and ability to understand how diverse groups of people work. I figured out what interested me and what didn't. I didn't understand it then but as an orientation leader at Virginia Tech, I first learned the art of HR and onboarding. I fell in love with the opportunity to welcome people to a new community and help them fit it in.

There were more practical lessons too. I quickly learned the very-valuable lesson of how much money mattered to me. I started working at 13 in hourly jobs. The more I worked, the more I made. But I had to balance the tradeoffs--did I want more cash or more time with my friends? Annoying decisions to make back then. Transformative lessons when I look back now.

But if I thought I worked many jobs, I don't hold a candle to Scott Crawford, the now Director of Career Services at Wabash College in Indiana. Scott's had double the amount of jobs I've had. 64 jobs to be exact from cloth cutter to human trash compactor. And he's nowhere near the end of his career.

You might think Scott the definition of job-hopper, but truth be told, he's been in the same field for over 20 years. And in his current job for eight. However, he's not shy about his job-hopping past. In fact, it might be the reason he's been successful in his field and happy in his job now.

"I think the main thing is that every [workplace] thinks they’re somehow unique or special but they’re usually more similar than they think. After awhile I could tell immediately if (a) I was going to like it/fit in, and (b) if the place was run well or not," says Scott. "I quit one place after 3 days.  I could tell it was going nowhere (really poor training/orientation), and it closed shortly thereafter."

The more experiences you have, the more sure you might be when you finally land. And the more obvious it will be when you don't. I wrote about the job hopping people do in The Right Job, Right Now (St. Martin's Press), and the idea that we overcompensate. We hate our boss in one job, so we look for a better boss. We find that better boss in our new job, but the growth potential we took for granted at the old job is now missing. Not the best strategy in our professional careers. But it is early on.

Having a million jobs early on helps you make key decisions. After working retail, I knew I didn't want a job in fashion. The perks of hospitality are great but the pay isn't. And multiple internships in public relations helped me codify specific skills and understand the reality of the corporate world before I fully committed.

As for Scott, he looked for leadership inspiration:

"One of the best run [places I have worked] was Wichita State University. The President there at the time really created a ‘we’re all in this together’ kind of atmosphere, and communication flowed freely. He moved his office to the bottom floor of the Admin Building from the previous President's suite at the top) right at the front door, with his doors open.  One thing the President said that made a big impression on me 'if you see a piece of trash on the sidewalk, pick it up and throw it away.  Don’t assume someone else will, or that it’s the groundskeeper’s job to do that.  We’re all responsible for how this school is perceived.'  I think about that a lot," he says.

The way we work, our successes now and our engagement in work are a result of where we've been. Forget conference best practices and what's worked for everyone else. Look back to your own experiences to remember what influenced you. What did you like the most and how can you find that and emulate that moving forward? A million jobs means a million lessons, leaders and projects to take the best from.

Just ask Scott: from a broom factory to wrapping gifts to stocking fine china, he's got a lesson from every single, solitary experience.

"My shortest job was one day. They'd fired the guy that hired me, and forgot he'd [just hired me]. Then, they had no position for me, so they gave me three months severance pay," says Scott.  "Management styles and bosses, however, varied wildly, and I most definitely enjoyed working in more collaborative and participatory atmospheres, with bosses who actually cared about the organization or product/service, not just their own careers."

As for me, I'm still learning, and still counting:

  1. Snack Bar Attendant (1988)
  2. Camp Counselor
  3. Customer Service Associate
  4. Cashier
  5. Head Cashier
  6. Customer Service Manager
  7. Lifeguard
  8. After School Program Leader
  9. Call Center Associate
  10. Public Relations Intern
  11. Public Relations Assistant
  12. Waitress
  13. Retail Salesperson
  14. College Orientation Leader
  15. College Orientation Assistant
  16. Graduate Student Affairs Assistant
  17. Training Coordinator
  18. HR Generalist
  19. Recruiter
  20. Recruiting Manager
  21. Sr. Manager, Member Services
  22. Program Director
  23. Career Coach
  24. Assistant Director, Career Services
  25. Author
  26. MBA Intern
  27. Director, Talent Management
  28. Director, Talent Acquisition
  29. Senior Director, Employer Brand
  30. Consultant
  31. Speaker
  32. Founder (2013)


Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce strategy that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.


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Thursday Lunch Break: Coming Home

Every Thursday at exaqueo, we make sure to take a break and enjoy real life. Here's this Thursday's Lunch Break: This Thursday, I watched a video over lunch that resonated past and present. I didn't grow up in a true military family. One of my grandfathers served but my Dad was a teacher (ironically at the Valley Forge Military Academy) so he was never called up during Vietnam. But when my Dad was born, his father was overseas serving. My exposure to the military however, was minimal. But as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech--one of only two schools in the country with a Corps of Cadets--my eyes were opened. Cadets had their own dorms, strict rules, and an admirable presence at our football games. More importantly, they represent the Hokies in every branch of the service. Fast forward a few years later and I'm waxing poetic about Virginia Tech to my cousin Mandy who falls in love with the campus and the school the second the car stops amongst the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains.

She also fell in love another way--with a young cadet from a military family. And when Rich proposed right before she graduated--he would soon be deployed--I confessed my worries to Mandy's Dad. "Getting married right out of college is a disaster," I said.

This, based on the numerous divorces I had seen amongst my friends. Fast forward again, and Mandy's getting ready to have her first baby next week. And Rich is just back from another deployment. Just in time. I was wrong about the marrying early thing. In a few days, my aunt and uncle head west to Hawaii where Rich and Mandy are based and they will meet their first grandchild.

I already shipped over some Hokie gear--newborns look adorable in maroon and orange. Another little fan, another Dad home, another chance for a husband and wife to fall in love all over again.

Here's Thursday's lunch break: a video to make you feel good. Click below on the first screenshot to watch. (Warning: tissues required).




Mandy and Rich, before his most recent deployment.






Cpl. Robert C. Strayer May 16, 1945 dental trailer



While deployed: Cpl. Robert C. Strayer in the Dental Clinic, 1945








Muriel Strayer and Baby John


My Dad as a newborn, and his Mom Muriel; this is the photo she sent to her husband, my grandfather, so he could see his newborn son while on an overseas deployment. The flowers on the bedside table are from my grandfather.





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College Football is a Brand Business

If you know me, you know that I love (American) football season. I grew up in Philadelphia where I think the hospitals do something to newborns to make them like football.  I did my undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech and it just made my fan status rise. There's nothing like jumping up and down to Metallica as your team enters the stadium. But people, it's a business and the 2011 BCS bowl game selections remind us of that more than ever. I've seen the word travesty more than once used to describe what happened last night.  Yes, Virginia Tech and Michigan were selected for the BCS bid over higher ranked Kansas State and Boise State.  Am I beyond excited. Yep. Did they both deserve it? Maybe, maybe not.

My sister and brother-in-law both went to Michigan. My Dad's from Michigan. I'm surrounded by it. And while I'll never be a fan of the maize and blue, I've been waiting for this match-up forever (mostly to shut up my brother in law, but that's another story).

The deal is, these are two teams with two of the best brands in college football, hands down.  Virginia Tech's been in the postseason every year since 1993 and it's stadium was voted by ESPN as the number one scariest place to play.  Michigan has the biggest college football stadium in the country which it regularly fills. It's also got the highest winning percentage in college football history.

The bottom line is we're good, and we fill stadiums.

The BCS isn't fair. It's a business. Capitalism people. And whether it's right or wrong, we're fans of this business that's evolved.

You see, brands drive business. And you've got two iconic brands here.  Virginia Tech fans and Michigan fans are rabid and have been for a long time. They wear the team colors to the game (not stilettos) and their fans are as loyal and travel wherever the team goes.  That loyalty means every Sugar Bowl seat will be filled and merchandise sales will skyrocket.  It's also gold for TV and advertisers.

There's also the PR factor. Articles about the "travesty" are dominating my feeds today. But it's press, and promotion, and we're all talking about it.

My Michigan-laden family will argue that Michigan has a better brand, but I can't tell you that. What I can tell you is that I've watched Virginia Tech INTENTLY build its brand since I started there in (ahem) 1993. Its brand is bolstered by a coach who's been almost entirely scandal-free (save one football-track team fight) in his 25 years, fans who are known for being well-behaved at games, and we have the nation's longest winning streak of 10+ win seasons in all of College FBS.

I'll be the first to admit, I hate the BCS. I've always advocated for a playoff. But this is a business.  And business likes strong brands. Strong brands mean money.

As I type this, I'm using my Mac. It's not the best computer and has a low market share in business sales, but Apple's won the brand war--and it's not just about sales.

So the Sugar Bowl 2012 may seem bitter to KState and Boise State fans---for that I'm sorry. But the fact is, we're BCS ranked and we have a great brand. And until the system changes, that's the system. And this year, that's a sweet victory for this Hokie.