It is interesting to me how our chosen careers build upon themselves; how each experience adds to the wisdom base, which then allows you to be able to succeed at the next level. I could not do the job I am currently doing as well as I do if I had not had the experience in my previous position. I could not have done that job nearly as well as I did had I not had the experience in the position previous to that. And so on backwards to my very first professional experience. And actually – even before that – to my college experience. Each work experience added to the knowledge base and allowed me to succeed at the next opportunity.
So here is my question: As I approach the end of my career, what do I do with all of this knowledge, wisdom and experience gained over years of working? It seems like such a waste to just do an all stop and retire one day and walk away from it all. No, I’m not retiring any time soon, but I am definitely closer to that end than the other end.
Personally, I still love what I do. I still get a lot of energy from working with clients and my sales team, being on the show floor, seeing everything come together and watching results happen. To me this is an exciting industry; never a dull moment. I have given very little thought to ‘retirement’; in whatever form that takes in this day and age.
But we all must address this at some point. It does not matter what your chosen path has been, if you’ve done it for this long you carry with you tremendous knowledge gained through the experiences of your life.
So how do you leave a legacy? How do you pass it on to the next generation? How do you add it to the greater knowledge of an industry, a society, a culture rather than just walking away and taking it all with you? I’ll have to admit, I’ve spent more time thinking about this in the last couple years than ever before.
I do think some of it is passed on and shared with people I have worked with – employees, co-workers, industry friends. We train employees and coworkers – by what we intentionally do in formal training – but also by how we treat them, how we handle ourselves in situations, how we interact with others on our teams. We share with our industry by being involved and connected, and being a part of associations like EDPA. And we pass it on to our world by volunteering in our communities and our churches.
We also help build that legacy by who we hire and how we build our work teams.
One of the things that always has helped me when interviewing candidates for senior-level positions is meeting them for lunch or dinner, with their spouse. I get to see how they interact with people close to them, how they treat the servers and those not ‘important’ to them. It’s a great way to help understand the person.
In today’s HR, rules-driven culture, there are so many questions you cannot ask – some of the questions that lead to a better understanding of who the person is and how they might fit your company’s culture and be open to learning more. The questions I really want answers to. Skill is only one part of the equation; personality and cultural fit are equally – if not more – important.
My daughter is just starting her career – taking her first ‘real’ job out of college. She is at the beginning of a long and wonderful journey, a journey that will take her on a roller-coaster ride through life, a journey that will make her wiser and give her the opportunity to learn so much, and contribute hugely to her chosen field.
My hope is that she is open to learning from those around her, that she can – better than I did – realize that there is much knowledge and experience around her that can make her a better professional, and a better person. She has a lot of talent and creativity; now she just needs to be open to adding to that by observing and learning from what happens around her.
And those of us at the other end of the spectrum need to be ready and willing to share the knowledge and wisdom we’ve gained with those that will be carrying the torch onward from here. Leaving it all with them sounds a lot better to me than hauling it all around on a golf cart from this day forward.
See you on the show floor.
Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 35 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house owner. He is currently a vice president at Hamilton Exhibits and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.