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Devoted to Service

How Sharon Goodrich’s Summer Job Turned into Her Dream Career

By: By Emma Penrod

December 3, 2014

Sharon Goodrich, the foundation director of annual and corporate giving for Primary Children’s Medical Center, didn’t find her dream job at the children’s hospital. It found her.

Looking back on the events that led to her first position with Primary Children’s—a secretary job she wasn’t sure she even wanted—Goodrich says she doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence that she’s still at her “summer job” more than 40 years later.

Goodrich, who grew up on a farm in Idaho, came to Utah to study English at Brigham Young University. In 1974, her sister, who was interning at LDS Hospital, asked Goodrich if she would like to stay in Salt Lake City for the summer. Goodrich didn’t have a car, which limited her to whatever employment she could find within walking distance of her sister’s apartment. That narrowed her options to whatever work she could find at either LDS Hospital or Primary Children’s.

She chose to walk up the hill to Primary Children’s Medical Center to inquire about job openings. There were three—two nursing positions and an opening for a secretary. Goodrich wasn’t a nurse, and she wasn’t all that excited about being a secretary, but the man who interviewed her happened to be from Idaho. When he offered her the secretary position, Goodrich found herself saying “yes.”

“I don’t think that it was a fluke,” she says. “I consider it a gift.”

Making a Difference

A month or so into the job, Goodrich met the head of the medical center’s public relations department, who, when she discovered Goodrich was an English major, asked Goodrich if she would be willing to do some writing for Primary Children’s in her spare time. Goodrich agreed, and by the end of summer, she had been hired permanently to write publicity materials and assist with fundraisers.

She also happened to meet a young man named Stephen, who had also taken a summer job at Primary Children’s Medical Center while waiting to hear back on his assignment for his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although Goodrich had vowed never to “wait for a missionary,” she and Stephen dated daily before he left. The pair married shortly after he returned home from his mission.

“So much of my life is wrapped around Primary Children’s,” Goodrich says. “So much of who I am is because I walked up that hill and took that job thinking, ‘Oh, it’s just a summer job.’”

Goodrich liked her job, but still didn’t plan to stay long-term because she planned to be a stay-at-home mom. But when her children came, she says, her husband was still in school, so she kept working.

At her five-year anniversary with the company, an administrator awarded her a special pen and said he looked forward to seeing her 10-year anniversary. At the time, Goodrich says, she still couldn’t fathom working for the same company for a decade. She actually quit her job at Primary Children’s three times, thinking it was time for her to move on, but never could bring herself to walk out the door.

As her children grew, Goodrich’s work became a family affair. It took years for her children to realize the Salt Palace was not actually dedicated exclusively to the Festival of Trees, which is what they called it every time the family drove by. Later, she taught them to help stuff and address envelopes. It was a good experience for her children, she says, because “they too learned to serve.”

“It’s been more than a job,” Goodrich says. “It means something. I feel like I can make a difference.”

Deeply Dedicated

After a decade with Primary Children’s, Goodrich came to realize why she could never bring herself to leave and finally decided she would dedicate the rest of her career to the medical center. “I find it very satisfying to work in a place where miracles do happen and where people work together for that common goal—to help children,” Goodrich says. “I could work for a company that built bricks, but there’s something about building lives that speaks to me.”

After 14 years of working in PR and assisting with fundraising, Goodrich was promoted into her current position, where she oversees campaigns such as the Primary Children’s Radiothon, Pennies by the Inch, the Festival of Trees and the new Love Notes initiative. By then, she says, she truly believed she had found her dream job—not just because of the cause she supported, but because she got to witness people giving of themselves and of their means every single day.

“I caught that love—I could see the best in people every day, and to me that’s very satisfying, very energizing,” she says. “I get to experience Christmas every day.”

Working with volunteers, who are just as dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children but who do the work for free, is especially energizing and rewarding, Goodrich says.

Although she never planned to have a 40-year career anywhere, much less at Primary Children’s, Goodrich says that looking back, she wouldn’t change a thing about how her career has panned out.

“I’ve just been so lucky,” she says. “I think we all look for our dream job, and I don’t think many people are fortunate enough to find it.”  

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