“Our work is not our vocation,” says Linette Bumford, of Laurel, Maryland. “Our vocation is what we’re doing while we’re alive on this earth. It’s our purpose, it’s our legacy.” Bumford spent much of her life trying to find her purpose, and it wasn’t until earning a business degree from Excelsior University (then College) that she discovered what path she was meant to take.
As Bumford tells it, she was more interested in being an astronaut. But her family was going through some difficult times, and she wanted to move on with her life and out of her hometown, so she learned about the military. Bumford’s father was in the Army, but she wasn’t interested in joining that branch. Instead, she signed up for the Air Force. “Believe it or not, I wasn’t even 18 yet and went off to basic training,” she says. She entered the Air Force’s logistics and supply division and found it suited her.
In the supply field, explains Bumford, you’re responsible for logistical work. “I mean, just imagine the entire supply chain, from pens, paper, boots, bags, airplane parts, you know, anything that would be needed for either people or for the airplanes…ultimately, everyone is supporting getting the planes off the ground,” she says. Bumford was in a special command that handled communications, so she dealt with a lot of moving parts in the process, including timing, dates, and communicating with people. Little did she know then that this job laid the foundation for what became her project management career.
After she left the Air Force, with a degree from Community College of the Air Force, Bumford took courses at Tarleton University and Central Texas College, and completed an associate degree. It was there that she also learned of Excelsior. At first, Bumford was unsure what to pursue as her bachelor’s but then settled on a business degree. At that time, she was working at Verizon Wireless for the general and administrative real estate group and was responsible for a large portfolio of real estate. Bumford reflects on her degree choice: “In getting a general business degree, you get to look and touch and feel everything from finance to legal, to facilities to the frontline of the business, whatever the business is…everything runs like a business…even church organizations run like a business; you have to understand all the aspects.” Bumford earned a Bachelor of Science in Business in 2006 and immediately enrolled in the MBA program at Columbia Southern University. She earned her MBA in 2012.
“I found that going through the general business degree gave me insight into what everyone else was dealing with, their role in the overall business as an organism, and how it takes more than just one function to make that happen,” says Bumford.
With her business degrees and a strong foundation in supply and demand, Bumford began to realize what her vocation was; she knew she wanted to pursue a business career. After dabbling in a few ventures, like helping her husband set up his own small business, Bumford became the director of international operations for CACI International Inc., an organization that provides technology and services for government defense and intelligence operations, as well as for civilian customers.
Bumford says she is thankful to be in her position because there was a time that she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do as her vocation. But after reflecting on her past positions, her degrees, and what was really important to her, she decided her position at CACI International was meant for her. In taking the job, she turned down a prominent job offer that was located farther away. For her, success didn’t necessarily mean how many dollars were in her bank account. “My peace and my happiness, and my ability to be close to my family, doesn’t have a price tag on it. You cannot buy that from me,” she says.
She tries to remind others that their vocation is not necessarily the same as a day-to-day job and that that is only one small piece of their life’s overall “pie.” She encourages younger people to explore their options before choosing a high-paying job just because it pays well. She suggests they use strength finders and personality assessments to learn more about themselves and to help them focus in on their work intentions. “And then that way, when opportunities come, or when you have to evaluate, ‘do I want to take this education path or this internship or whatever these opportunities are,’ they should always be bounced against that intentional center,” she explains.
It took Bumford several years to build a strong foundation for her successful career, but her effort has paid off. She discovered what path she was meant to take and was able to build a life lived with intention. “I think ultimately, it comes back to knowing yourself, knowing what you truly define as success,” says Bumford. “And some of it is quantitative and some of its qualitative, and you have to really keep that in the forefront…and I have things in front of me that I see with my eyes every day that remind me to look at what’s happening and vet [them] against my center.”
More from Linette Bumford:
What advice would you give somebody who didn’t know how to find the right career for them?
“I would say, if they’re in the very beginning stages, just jump right in…And then while you’re doing that, engage with other classmates on what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Engage with alumni, engage with admissions or others like, say subject matter leads…And I would say engage with different industries. There’s all kinds of free industry days out there, or even hiring events…And then second, I always tell people, in parallel to that, spend some time figuring out who you are as a person and what you want in your life. Because success doesn’t always mean how many dollars are in your bank account.”
What’s a meaningful book or magazine you’d recommend?
“I’ve read a Timothy Keller book, ‘Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work,’
twice now, just because I get new nuggets every time when I’m looking for different things with my research. … It says our work is not our vocation; it is what we’re doing while we’re alive on this earth …there’s no silver bullet. There’s no one size fits all. But again, it’s all about what fits your intention for your life.”