I received an email the other day from LinkedIn pal, Larry Megugorac, who is a Business Development/Sales professional, saying:

“I’ve got to hand to you....I cannot figure out how a former Accountant goes into Recruiting.

Obviously being in sales before-hand helped tremendously. I always thought that Accountants were a conservative group. Recruiters only get paid when they make a successful placement right? I thought Accountants were risk adverse.

I'm glad you proved me wrong! Way to go Valerie!"

I laughed out loud when I read it, because it captures the story of my life. No one ever expects me to have gone from one thing to the next. People who met me when I was a salesperson could not understand why I left to pursue accounting. People who met me as an accountant couldn’t understand how I came out of sales and people who meet me as a recruiter always want to know how a CPA becomes a recruiter.

I don’t mean to imply that I am this big “out-of-the-box” thinker, I just don’t fit IN any box at all! The problem is that, in general, we have a check-box world when it comes to careers. This is especially evident to me in my day job because I recruit in the Accounting & Finance field….trust me. The funny thing is that when I went into accounting, I was somewhat relieved - I would actually be able to check a box! Silly, silly me....

As a recruiter, I occasionally come across people just like me; people who just don’t fit in a box. When I encounter these people I tell them “you have no idea just how much I GET you”. They are relieved to hear it. It also validates me, even though no one ever said that to me as I was struggling.

On the client side, I am actually a little relieved when I get a job order and they tell me they already know that they are looking for a combination of skill sets that doesn’t typically exist. The client looks at me with these inquiring eyes as if to say:

“Do you get what I need here? Do you have the patience to find it?”

So here is my challenge to you. The next time you meet someone whose career you don’t quite understand, remember that there are many people who just cannot easily check a box. Rather than judge them negatively because of it, you should listen to them and let them explain where their value lies with regard to your organization or to your network.

I think ultimately, the real answer to my conundrum lies in the fact that people like me need to build our own boxes, so to speak. My hypothesis is that I am really supposed to be an entrepreneur, but I keep hanging onto the check-box world. This is a question that I am actively exploring right now. In fact this blog is my first baby step in that direction.

In the meantime, my next post will discuss how those of us who deal with this issue must craft our story in order to be effective in a check-box world. Stay tuned!

This content was previously published on www.careercourageously.com

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