Progress Edition 2022: Readers Share Career Advice

Thanks to those who submitted their pieces of advice. You never know who that advice could reach and help.

By Delynn D. Howard

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an elementary school teacher.

As I got older, the idea of being a teacher stuck but I had moved up in the age bracket some. I thought a high school English teacher sounded like a much better idea.

I did two years of college at Central Lakes College (formerly Brainerd Community College when I attended) and moved on to Moorhead State University to major in education.

A number of circumstances brought me back home shortly after starting my junior year there. Do I wish I had that four-year degree under my belt, no matter what my major would have been? Yes, of course. But do I regret it? No, because the choices I made eventually brought me here — to the Brainerd Dispatch. Twenty-three years later and I’m still loving my job.

So, what advice would I give my younger self? Do whatever feels right. You only get one life.

Thanks to those who submitted their pieces of advice. You never know who that advice could reach and help.

I wish I knew then what I know now

I would have started my author website years earlier and completed my social work degree in my 20s.

I completed my Honors AA at Central Lakes College in 2012 at the age of 48. I completed my social work bachelor degree through the College of Saint Scholastica in 2013 at the age of 49. Starting a professional career in my 20s or 30s would have given me many more years of serving my students. I probably would have completed my master’s degree right after my bachelor degree if I was in my 20s. I’m still considering starting a master’s degree, however becoming an author takes priority right now.

At CLC, I reignited my childhood enjoyment of writing, so I wrote a few dozen articles, mostly for the Lake Country Journal from 2013 until 2019. If I knew then, what I know now … I would have created a webpage then.

In 2020, while COVID-19 was causing disruptions for many people, it presented me with the opportunity to publish “100 Things to Do in Minnesota Northwoods Before You Die” through Reedy Press out of Saint Louis. The book was released in April of 2021.

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Starting my webpage created a lot of anxiety for me because so many other author things needed my attention. I am also working full time at CLC, so I don’t have a lot of time to connect with people during the school day. Bradley Miller from BamSites was awesome to partner with and he created a webpage that reflected my writing. My website was up and running about a month before my book was released. If I had completed it earlier, I could have set up pre-sales, and a few other fun events ahead of time. I’m thankful I had the website activated when I did.

My next book, “100 Things to Do in Minnesota Before You Die,” is scheduled for release in spring of 2023. I’m enjoying my work with CLC students during the day, and my writing career in evenings and on weekends. I have the best of two careers.

Looking back, I wish I knew then what I know now!

Julie Jo Larson, author

Your heart will know

I headed off to Hamline University with the idea I wanted to be a bilingual social worker. Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I participated in social justice outreach to people needing anything from dental work to grief counseling and was interested in being helpful.

In 1970, I walked out of the college counselor’s office stunned. She recommended I drop Spanish, having fulfilled the requirement, and pursue the sociology route alone. I changed counselors. I went on to study in Seville, Spain, a semester and returned my senior year, only to be told that teaching was my only viable path with a Spanish major. It was still a time where women were routed to teaching or nursing and interviewers could ask when you were planning on marriage and arrival of your first born.

Looking back at my younger self, I feel the bittersweet mix of dreams and society’s blindness to gender divided potential. The times one lives in might support or redirect dreams. I held to the dream of self-fulfillment despite some closed doors. In my case, I wrote letters to companies in the Twin Cities, expounding the advantages of having bilingual employees, from maintenance to CEOs, if not for mere diversity of ideas, but economically, getting a “two-for-one” deal, saving money on interpreters. Ah, the naivety.

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From General Mills to 3M, companies rejected all innovations from training in intercultural communications of relationship building before business to proper cultural eye contact. Language and cultural seminars for executives didn’t resonate. Theirs was an English only, ethnocentric approach.

I did obtain a teaching license, a piece of paper that didn’t begin to cover what was ahead. When I walked into my first classroom, the outgoing teacher said, “Remember one word: Numbers,” and then left. That meant registration, the continuous convincing sales job to students, parents and administrators enumerating the values of having another language. Without enrollment, classes are canceled. Without classes, you can lose your job. Enter district politics, the other side of teaching.

Advice? Be aware of the outside ebb and flow of community, politics and social changes, while balancing with the love of teaching, students, lifelong learning and always listen to your gut! There will be board meetings, concerned parents, even angry community members challenging the books you use. Deep breath. Be informed. Be the role model the students need. Balance to salvage your passion and energy. Be fed, not fed up.

I didn’t end up being a bilingual social worker. Instead, my career catapulted me into translating for patients, working with Central American refugees, bringing exchange students into schools and taking study groups out to other countries. Truly, each day brought challenge and satisfaction. The only thing we do more of on this planet than sleep is our work. May it be fulfilling. Your heart will know.

Jan Kurtz, Fort Ripley

Failure is never trying at all

Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to new opportunities even if they are out of your comfort zone.

If it doesn’t pan out, that’s OK. It’s not failure. Failure is never trying at all.

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Rebecca Flansburg, freelance writer, Baxter

My advice to my younger self

Hone your communication and interpersonal skills. This is a must in this position. You will use them every day. Being the administrative support person for an elected board is a job where you will have many bosses over the years (22 commissioners over the past 32 years). Remember that everyone has a story. Listen. Be kind.

Let go of perfection. Find value in feedback or criticism instead of taking it personally. Save yourself a lot of undue stress.

Embrace change, especially in technology. It’s inevitable and will make your job easier. When I started there was no email, voicemail or internet. Fun fact: I used to have to walk the agenda over to the Brainerd Dispatch when they were on South 6th Street.

Increase your contribution to your retirement plan every year. It makes a difference.

Therese Norwood, administrative coordinator to the County Board and County Administrator, Crow Wing County Administrator’s Office, Brainerd

Keep pushing yourself

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and stumble from time to time.

We grow the most when we are pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone.

Julie Vandeputte, sales manager, NorthAmCon, Inc., Alpena, Michigan

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