Skip to main content

It’s talent planning season at work, which means everyone is reviewing their career goals and updating their internal resumes with accomplishments and desired roles. This exercise made me think of all of the odd jobs I had growing up in Republic, Ohio. I know from talking to other small town alumni that this list can get even more interesting. I encourage you to comment below with the highlights of your small town resume. Here are my top 4 small town roles:

Cleaning crew (1991-1998) – I referenced in an earlier post Boogers on the wall that I cleaned houses and offices growing up. My favorite story from cleaning Uncle Bob’s house was the day I cleaned the porcupine. My sister and I were a cleaning pair. She cleaned the upstairs and I cleaned the downstairs, which housed my uncle’s office. Some of the special touches in his office were: a fish tank (oh, how I hated cleaning the white, scaly crud that accumulated on top of the tank), a stuffed bobcat, and a stuffed porcupine. And when I say stuffed, I mean by a taxidermist, not JoAnn Fabrics. I had been cleaning Uncle Bob’s office for a couple of years and never had a problem – until the day I decided to clean the base of the porcupine a little more thoroughly than normal and got stuck with a quill. I looked down at my hand and freaked out by the sight of the quill sticking out. I immediately called my mom and said “come help, I got stuck by the porcupine”. She drove as quickly as she could, probably wondering what she would encounter. Without any drama, she easily removed the quill, trying to hold back her laughter. She went back home and I finished cleaning for the day.

Lesson learned: Sometimes it’s ok to do an average job. Going the extra mile might get you stuck.


School picture cutter / stapler (various dates) – My daughters just got their spring pictures back from school. Lifetouch provided the entire pack of photos and then parents are on the honor system to take and pay for what they want, returning what they don’t. My next door neighbor, Linda, worked in our local Lifetouch office and they had a different process. They didn’t simply hand out the entire pack, but instead stapled a sample picture to an order sheet. This required a workforce of three kids (me, my sister, and my neighbors’ daughter) to sit around the kitchen table cutting out and stapling school photos. I’m pretty sure I got paid a small token for this work, or perhaps I got paid in bowls of ice cream, but what I remember most are the laughs. Occasionally there was a photo that got a chuckle, but mostly we were sharing stories and giggling about nonsense.

Lesson learned: It’s not the paycheck that matters at times, it’s the camaraderie and laughter.  


Piano teacher (1994-1998) – I took piano lessons starting in 1st grade and by the time I reached junior high, people decided that I could teach them. I had a couple of students and my favorite was Tracy. She was learning the piano well enough, but what I discovered was that she had a beautiful voice. We worked in secret for 2 months so she could surprise her mom with a solo of “Wind Beneath My Wings” at church. Her mom thought she was going to play a song for the congregation, but instead ended up singing to her mom. It remains one of my proudest “managerial” moments.

Lesson learned: Many times you start a job thinking you’ll have one outcome, and end up with an even better, unexpected outcome.


Church choir director (1995; 1997-1998) – Notice the break in dates here? In my About the woman behind Small Town Leadership blog I said that I have worked since I was 12 and been fired once. That would be this job. I was the choir director and accompanist at Bloomville United Methodist church starting my sophomore year in high school. I was a good piano player, but it’s not something that comes naturally to me. Simultaneously add to that leading a group of singers, and I was fairly challenged. I’d rate myself a low-3 on a 5 point grading scale. A couple of months into the job, the minister’s daughter moved to town and quickly replaced me. It was a relief at the time because I wasn’t comfortable in the job. That year I started accompanying the high school choir, quit taking piano lessons, and learned how to improvise when I play. That shift in activities allowed me to come back strong my senior year after the minister’s daughter moved away and I called to see if I could have the job back. They took me back with open arms and we had a great year making music together.

Lesson learned: Sometimes you just aren’t that good at something and need to move on. You can either take steps in the interim to improve like I was able to do, or recognize your strengths and seek out roles that utilize those skills.

Small Town Leadership Lesson: Two things stand out for me as I review this “small town resume”. First, the overarching theme is that I was working with people I liked and respected. Second, networking combined with a specific skill led to these jobs. 20+ years, four organizations, and a dozen jobs later, this pattern still rings true in my corporate America resume. This reinforces the importance of seeking out teams where you are a good fit and continually engaging your network to help you grow your career.

Help spread the Small Town Leadership message: I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy writing them. In order to keep up my writing momentum, I’m asking for your support in 2 ways. First, subscribe to this blog. On a desktop view, you’ll see this option at the top of each blog post. On mobile, it is at the very bottom of the page of each  blog post. Second, share your favorite post on your preferred social media channel and tag me.  



Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.


  • Kristen says:

    Hi, I check your new stuff regularly. Your story-telling style is witty,
    keep it up!

  • Paida says:

    Great story Natalie. I’m a recent subscriber to this blog and really enjoyed ‘A Small Town Resume.’

    I have to ask, having children of your own and no longer living in a small town, do you feel like there is a lot that they are missing out on or does your upbringing provide a lot of teachable moments that you can imprint on them?

    • Natalie says:

      Good question! I think the main thing my children will miss out on is a natural sense of community. We have to work so much harder to form and feel community in big cities and suburbs. For instance, when we moved into our home, no one welcomed us to the neighborhood. It wasn’t until we were here for 2 months and there was a large snowstorm that brought everyone out to shovel that we met people. Those are things I miss about small town life. That’s why I’m trying to bring back my memories and share lessons that can help bring a sense of small town no matter where we live.

  • Rene Jimenez says:

    I actually like what you have here, certainly like what you are stating and the way in which you say it.
    You make it entertaining and you still take care of to keep it smart.

    I can’t wait to read much more from you.
    This is actually a wonderful website.

  • Jack says:

    I will immediately snatch your rss as I can’t find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service.

    Do you’ve any? Please permit me recognize so that I may just subscribe.

    • Natalie says:

      I’ve sent a subscription sign-up to the email address you included – it will generate an email to you. Thanks for checking out the site!

Leave a Reply