Careers happen. Some are carefully planned and follow a predetermined path. Others – maybe even most – just happen. A day comes when you pause to look back and realize “Yep! That was a career!” And all along the way you were changing and growing and, yes, developing.

During this month as we take some time to focus on Career Development, it occurred to me that there may not be a need to differentiate between what we choose to call career development and just plain development. Every aspect of what we learn – every skill we acquire – every lesson we complete – adds to our inventory of abilities and changes us in some way.

As we move through the series of jobs and roles that ultimately become our story, we evolve and become a composite of all our experiences. One can say that our careers are a mosaic of that same journey.

Senior executives have told me how their early experiences delivering newspapers taught them basic accountability and time management – things they depend on every day in their corporate roles. A chemistry professor described how her grandmother’s sharing of baking techniques built her understanding of careful measurement and the interaction of ingredients. A young college student revealed that a neighbor who spent hours helping her build a treehouse from a pile of discarded lumber inspired her interest in engineering and taught her basics that remain a foundation to her aspiration to become an engineer. There was the entrepreneur who acknowledged how peddling candy bars for the school band taught him inventory management and cost of goods.

Just as powerful and important to career journeys is learning what is not an interest to be pursued. I spoke with a doctor who turned away from sports when she became disenchanted with the nature of the practice drills; however, she took with her the discipline and commitment she learned from hours of practice. And there was a filmmaker who stopped pursuing retail roles when he realized his energy came from what he could see through a camera lens; although, he believes his work as a teen video store clerk left him with a lasting appreciation for the art of film.

So, perhaps Career Development Month is a time to think about when your career really got started. Reflect on some experiences and skills you acquired along your journey. They have all changed you in some way – you have developed as a result. I know I will always be thankful to my grandmother for teaching me to quilt. The attention to detail, planning, precision, shape placement – all have served me well. And, yes, I have made a few decent quilts along the way as well!