Sometime we learn life lessons through the smallest of things.

I have a habit of grabbing breakfast when I arrive at work simply because I am not a morning person by nature and like my extra five minutes of shut eye.  So, I usually pass through the break room to add hot water to a packet of oatmeal and grab a green tea or coffee.  Thus, I am usually toting a hot drink, a cup of oatmeal and maybe a fruit, along with my purse, portfolio, and sometimes a laptop as I try to negotiate a series of closed doors between the staff break room and my office.  My goal is efficiency–making only one trip.

A few days ago, I had so many things in hand that it was necessary to stoop down, place my cup of hot green tea on the floor, reach up and turn the door handle, shove my body into the open door space, carefully reach down to pick up the green tea, stand up, and proceed through the door–all without spilling or dropping anything.  (Too bad someone didn’t catch that on video as it was a disaster looking for a place to happen.) As I walked down the hall toward my office, I started contemplating that silly little dance that I had just performed.  I found that it is applicable to more than just fetching breakfast on the way in.

When you think about your life, it really is a series of doors.  Each door has to be opened somehow in order to get through.  Some doors are propped open while others are locked and require a key.  Other doors are heavy and difficult to open without a hard shove.  There are doors that have a window that you can see through to the other side.  There are also doors that are windowless and almost foreboding.

Your future career path can also be viewed as a series of doors.  When you are a college student you are trying to earn the key to unlocking your future–your degree.  So the door to your first career is locked until you do so.  Even after you have earned the key, the door may still be difficult to shove open, and you might actually need some assistance from your contacts (network). You might view this as the interview process that leads you to a job offer or the learning curve that you face when you arrive on the job the first day.

Later in your career you may face a door that is closed but unlocked.  Then, you need to possess the wisdom to know what you can handle.  You need to know what you can hold on to or must put down in order to turn the door knob and open the door.  Perhaps you have too many tasks that prevent you from moving forward.  If you put the wrong one down and stumble through the opening, the one you are holding could burn you.  You may need someone to open the door for you or to hold something for you while you walk through.  If the door is windowless, you might even need information, reassurance and advice before attempting to pass through.

Doors.  The choice of whether to walk through them is often your own.  You must know your abilities and how to handle your responsibilities while moving forward.  You must have the wisdom to ask for help when you need it.  You must know when to seek additional keys (skills, experience, degrees…) to pass through a door.  It also does not hurt to have a certain amount of grace in negotiating the doors either.

So, practically speaking, what do you do with this little life lesson?

  1. Take inventory of your potential doors. Where are you likely to meet obstacles on your career path that you must walk through?
  2. Plan how you will open these doors.  What does it take to move through each door?  Will you need to gain additional experience or an advanced degree?
  3. Build a network of people who can help you open doors or facilitate your way through them. It is really helpful to have someone who is already inside the door to help you through.
  4. Know your abilities.  Make sure that you are not carrying more than you can handle when attempting to negotiate a door.

I know I say this almost every week, but I want to encourage college students to use their career centers in identifying their doors and building a plan to walk through.

Good luck!


As Assistant Director of Recruiting within the Wake Forest Schools of Business Corporate Relations team, Lisa’s passion is connecting employers with student talent and creating a positive experience for both. She manages all aspects of recruiting, retention, and systems for the graduate business school.  Her strengths include relationship management, networking, social media engagement, information aggregation, process facilitation and communication. Lisa has been employed at Wake Forest since the fall of 2002.  She has over 20 years of work experience in various roles.  Prior to arriving at Wake Forest, she was an entrepreneur, venturing into web-based international sales and marketing of salvage automotive parts and accessories.  Before that, she was a trust officer in the Employee Benefit Trust area of Wachovia Bank.  Lisa is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. Lisa earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Rollins College and will complete her Masters in Liberal Arts from Wake Forest in 2011.  Visit Lisa’s blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. Using Your Existing Contacts to Find the Perfect Job
  2. The Informational Interview
  3. Leveraging Social Media in Your Job Search

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