Work Experience versus Leadership

Work experience is something you have gained. It are moments in your life that have created value to you as a person. Unfortunately, many among us interpret this in an incorrect way. So what can we do about this?

It starts all with ourselves. We must understand clearly what kind of work experience we added to ourselves. Plus how this helps towards a position we want. Look not only what experience you have gained but also at what you have experienced.

Leadership in your work experience

I will use leadership as an example because this is a topic what I really enjoy and I want to strengthen my knowledge in. For a long time, I have been interested in becoming a manager of a store, or an entrepreneur. After a long journey I ended up being a team leader in a corporate company. You could say mission accomplished, I am leading a group of people. I am now gaining experience in leadership. However, I experienced a lot in leadership before this as well. Also you can look at leadership from different perspectives. In the beginning I approached it more from an entrepreneur kind a view. The need to have people in your business in order to keep it up and running. Many years later I realized it are the needs of the people which keep your business up and running.

Regardless, on how you look at the work experience you have or will get, it is how you experience it. That brings the value to yourself. For example, you can simply take the orders, perform your task and collect your paycheck. Or you can try to understand why that task needs to be done (opportunity to improve) and learn what’s in it for you and the business.

Experienced the work experience

In approximately 25 years (started to have jobs from my 14th) I had 30 different team leaders in about 16 jobs. Those leaders could be like a supervisor, entrepreneur, remote team lead, store manager or anything comparable. From all of those people I learned a lot of different aspects in regards to leadership. Imagine that the type of business was very different by looking at the location, products/service and so on.

I remember my first job, a summer job, it was on the fields and in the glass house. Removing the weed so the crops could grow, cutting leaves to make space for cucumbers and also harvesting those. The year after, I did some construction for an event organization. This I followed up with a factory job, a place where they make potato powder. Then from my 16th, I started to work after school hours and during the weekend in a supermarket.

When I switched school to finalize gymnasium I started to work full-time in a butcher shop. Here, I was introduced with entrepreneurship. I got intrigued by running your own business, being your own boss. While working I started to study international business, I switched to Small business & retail management. During this study I changed the job twice. First, an internship in a Game cafe plus a side job in the internet-callshop. Second, I started to work as a sales agent in the Telecom retail. When I finished my study, I decided I wanted to become a retail manager plus creating my own retail business.

Only the career journey so far shows already the variety in leadership I must have experienced. I have shared the start of my career journey, to make you aware, that working in different places, for different people teaches you a lot. What stuck most with me so far was the focus on customers, sales techniques, retail marketing and organisational structures. Some questions I started to learn answering:

  • How do you make your organization profitable?
  • What do you need to do to ensure operations will continue?
  • Different kind of businesses need people with unique skills, how to get those and how to utilize?
  • What makes people buy your products? How do you display them and find the correct audience?

From Retail to Office

While working in Sales in the Netherlands was great, there was an opportunity to go abroad. In a corporate office, Munich Germany, I was about to get hired as a customer service representative. On the last moment (while I was ready for my goodbye party) they withdrew. Bummer in my career, but super educative. I took some temporarily jobs in display construction and later on the cold room industry. After some more searching I became a store manager in self storage locations. I was back into the retail but with a really different kind of product. I was not able to experience it towards my benefits and told myself to go abroad.

I left the Netherlands to start working as an accounts receivable clerk in Prague. A huge corporate company, on the top in their industry: outsourcing. Quite a nice concept if you think about it. I had a great work experience here, I managed to learn a lot about both outsourcing and accounts receivable. Unfortunately, the project ended and of course I could have stayed in the company but I found a collector position myself. That was a mistake. Luckily, on my path came an opportunity to work from home as a freelancer (more about that in another post).

It was a short corporate office work experience. Though, I realized it can have a lot of opportunities if you know how to take them. It is full with positions that can teach you a huge diversity of skills. Of course, training possibilities within corporates are plenty to be found as well. By knowing all of that, I did decide to find out the advantages of being self-employed. It is a choice to make but it suited the situation a lot better. Not knowing we wanted to stay in Prague, we now had this flexibility. It also gave me the chance to start thinking as an entrepreneur, to connect with other self-employed people and to work on creating my own business.

At a moment there was another turning point. Not having the steady income, neither the desired living conditions, we had to decide on how to proceed. I choose for stability but with opportunities, the corporate world. Once more I went to the corporate to gain a new portion of work experience. As a freelancer I experienced truly a lot, it were super learn full years in my career (more in another post). Just now being slightly over four years employed I confirm those years were highly educative as well. Moreover, I have been able to focus on my passion for self development and leadership. Questions that I am trying to answer now.

  • How can the the team profit the most of what each individual has to offer?
  • What makes a person a trusted and valued team leader?
  • Does it contribute to the company what we as a team accomplish? And how do we look at it ourselves?
  • How can we complete our tasks and have the space for personal development?