My Personal Career Path

Written By: Ibby Smith Stofer

My Personal Career Path

Career advice can come from many different sources. My career has been fun and rewarding but has also had its share of challenges. Whether you have invested years in your field, are new to the workplace, or are considering changing fields, there is always room for career growth. The following is a summary of my career up to this point, it shows how crucial one particular skill was through my experience.

The choices I made in college demonstrate some of my earliest need to use this particular skill. I was determined to be a college counselor who could help others find their right path. My business administration major was a good foundation, however, going into counseling would require another year of study. Frankly, I did not have access to the funds that were required to pursue my desire.

What was I supposed to do? I was fortunate to be offered my first job with a company that to many was known as “Ma Bell.” There I worked as a customer service trainer and it was a close fit considering what I initially thought I would do. I helped new employees as they began their new career. The only hitch was that this job required me to move to the Big Apple. Now being a country girl, New York was a significant change that caused me to pause. It caused my mother severe concerns but, I reached into my bag of skills and off I went. Was the skill that led me to New York confidence? Honestly no. I was scared to death, so it was certainly not confidence.

I had no knowledge or experience in training so those were not the skills that help me through the beginning stages. I did have curiosity and a desire to learn, but those alone were not the reason I willingly changed my career direction.

After a brief stay in NYC, once again that mysterious skill led me to my next adventure. Because of my previous job I could easily transfer anywhere within the vast network of AT&T, so I packed my bags and headed to San Diego.

Surprise! When I went to Pacific Bell in San Diego, I found they had no openings and all my experience and top ratings meant nothing. Since I had little money and needed food and housing, the search for a new position began in earnest. In the early 70’s there was not a lot of industry in San Diego and one trip to Los Angeles convinced me it was once again time to change my vision of what my career would be.

After some not so great jobs, that included selling advertising space over the phone and working in an employment agency, a friend suggested that I apply for a customer service job with IVAC.

Road-sign off path

I was offered the job at IVAC, and so, my next 30 plus years of working involved me relying heavily on that same skill over and over as my role and responsibilities, as well as the company, changed on what seemed like a semiannual basis.

With IVAC I had found the ideal combination for fulfilling my need to work for a company that provided healthcare products and services (my Mom was an RN), my need to help others, as well as my need for working for a company that provided opportunity to their employees.

I had the opportunity to be an individual contributor, to manage others, and to become the voice of corporate to our customers. I really enjoyed working with our sales team members to finalize contract terms and pricing. That responsibility emphasized my personal need to use the skill that had accompanied, if not led, me throughout my career.

Surprise hit again following a corporate acquisition. While I had survived and sometimes thrived through previous transitions, this time it was not to be. I again asked myself, what now? Throughout my career I had the good fortune to work with many wonderful people who stood by my side as I found my way to Med One, my current company. Now after nearly eight years I can easily say that the skill (I have yet to name) has stayed with me and led me on adventures and into fields I never would have explored otherwise.

I attribute this skill to my career success and hope it will remain a constant companion in both my personal and professional life.

Have you identified it?
Flexibility and an open mind.

The definition of my secret weapon, just in case I have confused you is:

A ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements.

A quote by author Deborah Day that says it best: It “requires and open mind and a welcoming of new alternatives.”

While there are many different opinions of what the most important career skills are, I find that an open mind, along with one or two words of wisdom from my wonderful Mom have been key to both my personal and job satisfaction.

There is a song that often plays in my head. It reminds me of the skill I have been referring to throughout this story. It was by Dean Martin as I recall. It was something like this. “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket. Never let it go.” I like to think of flexibility and an open mind as my falling star that I want to never let go. It has been with me and helped me in ways too numerous to count. It has been my secret weapon.

I would love to know what you deem as your personal skill that you depend on. Please let me know. You can email me at or call me at 800-248-5882 or find me on LinkedIn. I am flexible! Hope to hear from you.

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