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  • Mark Olivito

The Compass: The Ultimate Career Metaphor

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

As a lifelong Manufacturing guy, I've always had a love for product, the tangible.

At PAVERART, we have a design collection that is simply iconic. The Compass Rose. We have built a ton of them, and the "mother of all compass rose" designs sits in Leonardtown Maryland. It's a great story of a town that sees possibility in the dormant, and brings it to life and perseveres over decades to make the future better then the present.

compass rose, true north, landscape architecture, PAVERART
Leonardtown Maryland Compass Rose - Manufactured By PAVERART

While it's tangible, I actually love the Compass Rose for it's IN-tangible characteristics.

  • Direction

  • True north

  • Where you are headed...

  • Making it yours, customizing points, colors, sizes, textures, letters. A million combinations are possible.

A Compass is the ultimate metaphor for a career, and figuring out what you want to do. It's also why the Brick By Brick Apprenticeship logo features the compass and your path.

paverart, brick by brick apprenticeship, culture

The college and career planning process gets a few things wrong when it comes to "direction." What's that?

"What % of the 17 year old actually knows what they want to do when they grow up? And what portion are able to evaluate a multi 6 figure investment decision?"

Not sure if there is actual data on these 2 questions, but wouldn't it be safe to say the % is relatively low?

This entire program challenges "there's only one path" mantra that is relentlessly drummed into kids head, especially when they don't really know, probably can't affort it and the outcomes are highly uncertain. But what IS certain?

  • It costs money to live.

  • It costs more each year.

  • We are going to live longer then ever.....80+ years.

  • Your Results will matter more than anything.

  • The journey is long and uncertain.

  • TIME is your greatest asset.

  • TIME in the market (investments) is as close to magic as it gets, and it can be proven mathmatically (certainty).

  • Technology changes everything.

Here's where I think high schools need to put more energy into:

WORK. Meaningful, rewarding work, regardless of the job. Earning a paycheck. Getting feedback. Working More. Getting better.

I'm a believe that all jobs matter, there is no such thing as a crappy job.

A couple of quick stories about WORK, from high school and college days....

My high school junior and senior years I was in DECA, which enabled me to leave school at noonish to go work for 20+ hours a week. I was 17 years old, on cloud 9 with my drivers license and working at a liquor store, which my uncle owned and I was fortunate to have him employ me. I stocked shelves, vacuumed, sold to customers, ran the lottery machine/cash register, made deliveries, whatever had to be done. After about a year they gave me keys to the store, so I could lock it up/close. I was on top of the world, with the feeling that someone trusted me with literal keys to the shop. When my school day ended, the adrenaline would start, I made the trip up to the store, I grabbed a slice of pizza and started working. I felt like part of the team, making a difference and contributing. My cousin was a master wine salesman and I learned everything I could watching him.

Fast forward about 5 years, while at college at the age of 22, on my last of 4, 6 month Co-ops with Kraft Foods, the largest food manufacturing company (at the time) in the USA. My first 2 co-ops were in their headquarters, big lavish building and I was on a startup team of brilliant people who included me on big projects. But I knew my path to a job after graduation was "in the field" so I worked to have my last 2 co-ops in a sales office, and then in retail, in Boston, as a retail "sales rep."

In the world of Consumer Products, many "reps" do what's called "re-sets." That's a fancy way of saying you remove every single item (thousands) from the shelf, clean the shelf, and re-stock it in a new layout that someone in headquarters drew up They could take weeks depending on what aisle (s). I'll never forget the pity party of one I experienced in my first re-set at Kraft. "I'm going to college to be a stock boy and set a shelf with 32oz Kraft Mayonnaise, really?" My mind started to race, would this be life after college? Would I get promoted, how long would it take, etc.

What changed in my mindset from 17 to 22?

Obviously my expectations of what "real work" was supposed to look like as I worked my way through college. The moment I was confronted with a change to what the expectation was in my mind, massive conflict, anxiety, regret, you name it.

Was this my college experience somehow raising my expectation of what I should expect? Possibly. The truth is, with age comes experience and some wisdom, but sometimes you need decades worth of experience to actually get a healthy perspective.

In a number of ways, the 17 year old kid was wiser then the 22 year old kid less then a year away from graduating and on his last co-op.


At 17 I was excited to learn, experience, and be part of a team. I was GRATEFUL for being out of high school early so I could go to work, contribute, earn some money, and by myself gas $'s and a slice of pizza on break. I was MORE excited to earn some trust and close, open and train the new hires after I got comfortable myself. In short, I was on cloud nine for the opportunity that job afforded me and the process of trying to contribute.

At 22, doing the grocery store re-set, I did a good job, BUT the joy of the journey was minimized by non-sense. The conflict over what I was doing vs what I thought I was "going to school for" consumed too much head space.

One of my co-workers on the re-set broke a jar of baby food and it got all over her open toed shoes. She laughed out loud and called herself a dumbass for wearing open toed shoes. All the guys around her laughed and participated in the moment. At that moment the pity party of one started to fade.

  • A slice of pizza.

  • The keys to the shop.

  • Laughing when the baby food jar breaks and gets you messy.

All part of enjoying the moment.

And moments turn into days.

Days turn into weeks, months and years.

Next thing you know your moments are adding up to a journey. When you LEARN to enjoy it, learn to be grateful for the opportunity, and embrace the rough moments guaranteed to happen, that's when success starts to show up.

That's when your on a journey of real purpose.

Obsessing on a major, field or school is less important. Learn to approach the journey with a compass.

Your Compass happens to be what YOU control.
  • Your attitude.

  • Your work ethic.

  • Your willingness and ability to help others.

  • Your willingness to take on the tough assignment, that others are hesitant to do.

  • Your reputation. What people think about you when your name comes up.

Your understanding that results & reputation matter more than all else. Not your pedigree. Not your family's bank account. But what you can do and how you do it.

That's your compass. What you have, what you do with it, and how you get better. Make the most of that and your true north will take care of itself.


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