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Five Skills I Obtained from a Circuitous Career Path

Written By: Wendi Wheeler

When I was little, I wanted to be a clown. I sent a letter to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College and weeks later received a package with brochures and a huge poster filled with clown faces. I taped the poster above my bed and dreamed of the day I would delight and terrify children under the lights in a circus tent.

Fast forward to my first Education Methods college class. Dr. Cummings instructed us to pull out a piece of paper and write, “Why I Want to be a Teacher.” I wrote two sentences: I don’t want to be a teacher. I want to be a clown. To no one’s surprise, I did not graduate from that institution.

In the years following my exodus from higher education, I have sold sandwiches, cars, and makeup. I have been a personal trainer, a receptionist, and a copywriter. I taught public speaking, coached marathon runners, and mentored orchestra woodwind players.

My resume looks like I have commitment issues. To be fair, I do. When an interviewer remarks about my inability to choose and stay on a career path, I smile and tell them my friend says, “I love how you are always reinventing yourself.”

What follows are five skills I have mastered on my journey from wannabe clown to a future therapist.

Conflict Resolution

When I managed a university’s financial services center, most of our customers were either yelling or crying. I learned to de-escalate a situation by putting my hand up between myself and the person in crisis and calmly saying, “I want to help you, but I need you to stop.” It works face-to-face and on the phone, even though the caller can’t see you.

Golden Rule Customer Service

Mary Kay Ash once said, “Pretend that every single person you encounter has a sign around their neck that says, 'make me feel important.’” The fact is, people buy from people they like, and people like you when you show them you care.

Relationship Marketing

People think personal training is about burpees and biceps. I told new trainers, “Your clients don’t care how much you can bench press. If you treat them like a rockstar, they will keep coming back and bring their friends with them.”

Presenting and Teaching

Today I love public speaking, but when I was young I was so afraid of people that I would not even phone my grandmother. As a college public speaking instructor, I have learned a lot about speaking by teaching it.

Coaching and Mentoring

My best boss was one of the most terrifying people I have ever met. When we made a mistake on a sales call, he would coach us immediately after we ended the call rather than waiting until our scheduled one-on-one. I hated this because it felt confrontational, but I never made the same mistake twice. He also wanted me to be happy, and he made a path for me to advance in my career.

Today I returned to the same college campus I once left, this time as a graduate student in clinical mental health counseling. It took me the better part of 50 years to discover my purpose and to find a career that will help me fulfill it. I followed a long and winding road to end up where I am today, and I would not trade a mile of it.


Meet the Author

Wendi Wheeler

Wendi Wheeler is a writer, teacher, and future therapist. Follow her blog, Being Wendi, and come back to for her future article titled, “How to Write a Resume That Doesn’t Look Like You Have Commitment Issues.”


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