This month I reached a major milestone in my career…and I almost missed it.
Last month I mentioned that I was finishing up my book manuscript. I did, in fact, submit it to the publisher near the end of June. I’m now anxiously waiting for them to review it in hopes they find no catastrophic structural problems (I’m fine with the copywriter splattering it with red ink if it makes my writing flow better). Likely I’ll hear back later this month. After hitting the send button I took some time off to decompress, and also to visit my family for the first time in a year. Everyone I encountered (which was probably far more than I had encountered for the last year) had been vaccinated. [Note: If you haven’t been vaccinated, know that 99% of deaths due to COVID now are in people who refuse to get vaccinated.]
But that isn’t the milestone I’m talking about.
With the calendar turning the page from June to July, LinkedIn has duly informed me that my current job, aka, writer, has now become the longest-held position in my professional career.
I recently received a notification of a former colleague who had reached 40 years at the same company. My scientific career was more a set of steppingstones. I was encouraged out of my first job by an arsonist burning down the marine biology laboratory. Moving on to an aquatic toxicology lab, I hopped from “technician” to “supervisor” to “manager” within a matter of months, then “project manager” of a $4.1 million equivalent field project. One week I had the president of the company with his arm around my shoulder congratulating me for the work; a few weeks later I was “downsized” (the president was gone a few months after that). My next move brought me to Washington, D.C. Six years at a consulting firm ended when half the technical people split off into their own solo companies and my boss moved to a new company himself. Rather than rebuild from scratch, I jumped to another consulting firm a few blocks away where things went well for five years until I was laid off (along with 10% of the company). Coincidentally, it happened on the day I had planned to give my notice, having accepted a leadership position in a new company the day before. That new position only lasted 2-1/2 years; the fit was so bad I jumped to a new firm the day I would have received a bonus.
The final place I worked was as a scientist in a law firm. I went there explicitly because I thought it gave me the best opportunity to take the business I had previously developed to a place where it could be better expressed. I also figured the new place could get me a few trips to Europe to service a new regulatory law recently passed. I ended up moving to Brussels for three years. While there I picked up a travel bug.
By the time I returned to the US, I had started thinking more about travel and Abraham Lincoln (my closeted passion). I hung on with the law firm for 2-1/2 more years back in DC while finishing up work for my own clients. Meanwhile, the firm wasn’t making much effort to develop work in new areas of business and my inclination to do so on their behalf was fading quickly. In January 2012 I took two major steps: 1) I went to New York to a writers conference to pitch a book idea, and 2) I joined the Lincoln Group of DC. Both contributed to the star-alignment needed for me to make a major life change.
On September 12, 2013 I quit the firm, left my paid scientific career, and began my “new endeavors” writing and studying Abraham Lincoln.
According to LinkedIn, that makes this month 7 years, 11 months in my current position, my longest time in any one job.
As I’ve written in past “Reflections of a Science Traveler,” it was the best decision I ever made. My first two traditionally published books were science-related: Nikola Tesla, followed by Thomas Edison. I wrote a Tesla e-book to flesh out an interesting aspect of his life that didn’t fit in the original book, then a second e-book to document connections between Tesla (and Edison) and Lincoln. That was my purposeful transition to a Lincoln focus. Fall River Press gave me an opportunity to do a Lincoln book in the same graphics-heavy style of the Tesla and Edison books, and it gave me a successful and rewarding experience.
And now the new Lincoln book manuscript is in the hands of Rowman & Littlefield. Several more books are in various stages. Traveling is about to pick up in a post-pandemic world.
I think I’ll continue at this present job.
David J. Kent is an avid traveler, scientist, and Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World as well as two specialty e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.