Recently the topic of career paths has been getting a lot of coverage. At least around me, it has been.

A report in the Wall Street Journal said it was the most important thing the class of 2023 plans to consider when they hit the job market.

After losing in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Milwaukee Buck’s star Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka the Greek Freak) was asked if he considered the team’s season a failure because they didn’t repeat as Champions.  He got upset and said he didn’t think it was a failure because you don’t consider a year at work a failure if you aren’t promoted. Nobody expects to work ten years at a job and get a promotion every year.

In the last six months, I have had conversations with each of my children about their long-term career aspirations. My wife is retiring from her job. My daughter-in-law is a teacher, and she is changing schools.

We also did a survey of our coworkers at Willmar Electric. Some of them expressed feelings of being underutilized at work. Of course, many felt overworked. Clearly, we need to figure out how to convert the workload from overworked to underutilized.

My adult career has been spent entirely at Willmar Electric. So, my reference point for how people move around a company revolves around what I have seen here.

I started in the accounting department.  First, working on accounts payable.  I briefly spent some time in accounts receivable and payroll before moving to the top of the department. Then Human Resources was put under my supervision.  It made sense because it was what my degree was in and where my main interests lay.  Then I got the title of Executive VP.  It meant I was in charge of everything my dad didn’t want to do.  Then after working here for 16 years, I became the President. My dad and I switched roles. Now he was doing the things I didn’t like to do. By now, my brother, Justin, was around to be the Executive VP.

I kept doing the same things, only with a better title.  My dad had seen fit to ensure I was doing tasks suited to my skills.  For the next five years, he ensured Justin and I were equipped for the day he retired.

During my career, I have gotten four promotions.  I had tasks given to me, and responsibilities have moved around, but promotions have been few and far between.

At Willmar Electric, the simple career path is Apprentice, Journeyman, Foreman, General Superintendent, Project Manager, and President, but it never works that way. When I look at the people who have risen to the top levels at Wilmar Electric, none took that route.

At one point in their career, all the top people at Wilmar Electric made a sideways movement. With those sideways movements, they would have moved up the corporate ladder. Let me give you some examples.

  • A journeyperson who chooses to run a crew on a significant portion of a large job does more to help their career than a journeyperson who runs a two-person project.
  • A foreman who spends time running a prefab shop is taking a step forward in the long run, even though it isn’t a promotion.
  • Moving from Foreman to estimator isn’t a promotion. It is a move to the office.  Both positions lead to the same place.

I’m sure you get the idea.

My message is to the young people of America looking to find a job with a good career path. Look at the career path of those who have been with the company for 20 years. My guess is that you will find out it hasn’t been a straight path. But you will find a person who likes to take on responsibility.

I know at Willmar Electric, we plan to give everybody a chance during the course of 2023 to discuss the hopes and dreams they have for their career. Just ask; Justin and I are ready to sit down and hear from you.