I grew up on a dairy farm in Northern Indiana. While attending Goshen College, a Mennonite liberal arts college, I decided to become a Physical Education teacher. This did not please my father. Why would I have spent all that money on a college degree just to teach people how to play?
After 13 years of teaching PE and coaching women’s sports at a small Mennonite High School in southeastern Pennsylvania, and having acquired a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Temple University, I grew restless. A personal and spiritual quest led me to study at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.
I successfully earned a Master of Divinity degree, and gained a fresh perspective on some of the personal questions that had driven me to study theology. However, the window of possibility of being “called” to pastor a Mennonite church was definitely closed. It would not have been in line with Mennonite doctrine to “call” a lesbian to its ministry.
After a stint of managing a café owned by a local campus ministry group, my girlfriend was “called” to a Campus Ministry position at The University of Maine, Orono! They say you do strange things for love. That described exactly why I helped Elizabeth pack the Toyota and drive cross country to Maine.
Little did I know how difficult it would be to find my place in the world of work in this new environment. From 1990 to 2006, I had 14 different jobs. These jobs ran the gamut from professional to working retail.
I entered the Social Service arena working as an Employment Specialist. After about 2 years of learning the ropes, I ran into some difficulty with the manager of the company, and was forced to resign.
This had never happened to me before, and it lead to some intense soul searching. This experience allowed me to identify with the anger and frustration that folks on unemployment experience. It forced me to find a way to deal with my anger, and begin to heal. I still did not know what I was going to do with my life, but at least, I had opened myself to learning more about the very real connections between one’s job and one’s emotions.
I then had several stints teaching at the elementary level, and substitute teaching in a variety of settings. This prompted me to pursue the graduate courses necessary for State of Maine accreditation for Grades 1 – 5. Armed with all the transcripts documenting the completion of the requisite courses, I began applying for jobs. Somehow I missed one requirement. In order to become certified, a superintendent would have to agree to hire me conditionally for one year. Then following satisfactorially meeting all the requirements posed for that year, I would be eligible for certification.
By that point, I had acquired 13 years of teaching experience, and according to the union rules, a school district would have to pay me at the level corresponding to that level of experience. Now why would a district agree to hire me conditionally and pay me more than they would pay a recent graduate with an Elementary Education degree (whose degree included state certification)? The answer was pretty obvious. I was again searching for a path to another viable career.
I taught high school dropouts for a couple of years at YouthBuild Portland. Initiating a service learning project with students and successfully empowering students to acquire new reading and writing skills proved very satisfying. But then the job ended.
This was my last foray into education. For the next several years, I pursued a variety of short term jobs. I worked as a customer service associate at Home Depot. Initially I was excited to have the opportunity to work in the garden department. However that excitement turned to disgust after one of the mandatory trainings focused on all the products designed to kill weeds. Needless to say, this farm girl did not last long in this environment.
I worked as a janitor in a local school. Having learned some basic carpentry from a neighbor I liked the challenge of making basic repairs to broken tables and chairs. I even tolerated the daily grind of mopping floors and breaking down cardboard boxes. However, after about a year, it was time to move on.
For about 2 years, under the tutelage of a neighbor, I applied basic carpentry skills to renovating our home. I framed and replaced all the windows in the house, re-pitched and shingled a new roof, sheet rocked several rooms in the house, and prepped the house for Efficiency Maine to install new insulation in the crawl space and in the attic.
This basic construction experience opened the door to locate underground utilities for On Target. While I enjoyed the challenge of working outside, there was too much alone time for this gregarious woman. Another job bites the dust!
Then while unemployed, and fulfilling the requirement to apply for at least 3 jobs a week, I got an interview! I was hired as a manager at a social service agency in Auburn. During one of the client meetings, I met a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor from the Lewiston Career Center. She told me that I would make an excellent VR Counselor. She briefly described what the position was all about, and how to apply.
Some months later, I learned of an opening in the Lewiston office, and as they say, the rest is history.
While I believe that every job prepared me in some way for my current role as a trainer of trainers, it was my tenure as a VR Counselor that directly led to my engagement with the World of Work Inventory (WOWI®).
Following training to learn how to interpret the WOWI, I thought this instrument was the next best thing to white bread! As a leader of the Career Exploration Workshop (at Voc Rehab) I delighted in helping participants understand how the results of this assessment pointed to a career or job that would be a good match for their skills, interests, and personality preferences.
Why am I telling you this story? Obviously you can get the nuts and bolts of my life story from the section on this web site “Who is Rosie”. I am sharing this story to show how my circuitous route through numerous jobs and multiple career changes was in fact the “boot camp” that prepared me with the foundation of skills and passion necessary to establish my own business, Rosie Works.
This boot camp while arduous, gave me the opportunity to experience first- hand the emotions and challenges inherent in making a career change. I can truly say to workshop participants, “I have been there.” “ I understand what you are going through.” “ I know how difficult it is to make changes.”
I would invite you to contact me to find out more about how the WOWI could be integrated into your program. There’s a chance that this assessment tool could revolutionize the way that your agency helps participants figure out what they are going to do when they grow up.