Respected Elsewhere: The Prophet’s Paradox in Professional Life

Kenn Kitchen
3 min readAug 5, 2023

A prophet is not revered in his own country, according to the Bible.

After years of working in the IT department of the City of Chattanooga, I had moments like that. I “grew up” professionally there, so it felt like my home country—the place where I was raised.

I’m sure we’ve all seen how our parents and elder relatives perceive us in the “big picture” of their recollections of everything from our first words and steps to all of the silly things we did as we learned about the world around us. It makes sense that they perceive us within the context of a greater picture.

But in our professional lives, we don’t always want to be seen in the context of our entire history. When others tried to entice me away from my employment at the City of Chattanooga over the years, I was amazed at how these recruiters saw me: as an expert. Outsiders didn’t have the full picture of my career development; they only saw the most recent version of me. Because that was the only “me” they’d ever known, they saw me for who I’d become.

Consider planting a seed in your own backyard. You cared for the seed as it grew into a sapling on a daily basis. You witnessed it battle the elements, prospering at times, wilting at others, growing inch by inch, straining for the sun. You recall every small leaf that emerged, every broken branch, and every seasonal change it underwent. It grows into a majestic, towering tree over time. But it’s still the small seed you once sowed. The entire voyage is engraved in your mind, and it can be difficult to distinguish the mature tree from the sapling it once was.

Meanwhile, an outsider, such as a visitor to your garden, will be unaware of the seed or sapling. They’d only see the huge and robust tree, with its broad canopy bringing shade and calm. Because of its size and might, they wouldn’t notice its humble beginnings and challenges. They would not see the tree as having grown and evolved. They would just admire it as it is now, without needing to examine its growth history.

My time at the City of Chattanooga was analogous to tending to that tree. I’ve been there since the beginning. I developed, made mistakes, and learned my way to becoming a stalwart in my industry. Those who have known me since the beginning may recall the sapling I once was, the mistakes I made, and the problems I experienced, and it’s possible that they may struggle to distinguish that former version of me from the person I’ve become after nearly four decades in the IT business.

Those who approached me later in my career—those who sought to entice me away from my position—saw only the strong tree I’d grown into. They were unaware of my poor beginnings, my experiences and tribulations, or the lessons I’d learned. They recognized me for what I’d accomplished—my abilities, my knowledge, and the mature professional I’d become. They were able to appreciate my current abilities and value me as the expert I am because they were not burdened by my history.

While I have no regrets about my 30 years with the City of Chattanooga, I am grateful to have also had the opportunity to move on.

Finally, being able to move on and start again can allow you to embrace this new vision of yourself, free of prior faults or challenges. It will allow you to be recognized as the enormous tree you’ve grown into, rather than the seed you were previously. This does not invalidate your past or your journey; rather, it provides a new perspective, a new beginning in which you are appreciated and valued for your current capabilities and accomplishments.

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Kenn Kitchen

Cat lover, coder, server nerd, autodidactic polymath, free thinker.