I began my career in a training and development program that fostered only the skills I needed to manage the immediate responsibilities of my role. Nothing more, nothing less. But I needed more. I needed reference, I needed strategy. I didn’t know how my job fit into the overall team or bigger picture, and I wasn’t enabled to do anything other than what they told me. So I wasn’t happy; I didn’t succeed.
I wasn’t an early bloomer. It took me five years to uncover many of the truths I’m now teaching recent grads. Like the truth about what really helps advance careers. (It’s not writing great SQL statements.) And how to find happiness in work. (Start with determining what you want to get paid for.)
So I started thinking about this a lot. Over the past ten or so years I’ve been observing Corporate America and how young people are brought into the fold. They either sizzle or they fizzle. Now some people were going to sizzle no matter what, while others never had a chance. But there’s a whole group of people with the attitude and the aptitude who could fall either way. And it’s my theory that in the process of helping that group succeed, the whole organization benefits. A rising tide lifts all boats.
In addition to my day-to-day, and unlike probably most others, I’ve had a focus on this narrow part of corporate life, and I’ve started building my career around it. It is my contention that employees with 0 – 5 years of experience can be the most valuable in any organization, assuming we define value as the ratio of benefit to cost (and sometimes notwithstanding that). Junior employees just need strong training to grow on, the freedom to make mistakes, a close bond to their employer, and a sense of how they belong.
Of course, I can’t provide much of those things through this blog, but I can work a little on the training part. I don’t know what everyone out there does, but I do know many transferable skills that can make a difference in any industry and on any career path. Most of them are “soft skills.” (I use quotes because I believe the term “soft” marginalizes the value of those skills. Given the choice, hard skills sound so much cooler than soft skills. But ask anyone who’s climbed the ladder a few rungs, and they’ll tell you it’s because of soft skills.) I prefer to call them foundational skills, but I don’t have a good roll-out plan for commercializing that term, so I usually continue calling them soft skills.
My chosen industry is business and technology project delivery. For a few years now, I’ve helped Fortune 500 companies implement new business processes, enhance technology systems, take new products to market, and configure software packages. It’s a neat career. I get to work in different cities, with cool new technology, and help organizations identify and solve some pretty complex business problems. Always changing, consistently challenging, and high-energy.
Now I’m working to help young people join Corporate America in the same field, and that’s part of the reason why I write this blog. I’m not a great writer, probably due to a combination of impatience and inattention to detail. But this is one of the ways I try to make a difference and help out. It’s not the only way.
I built a ten-day new consultant project delivery boot camp for Genesis10’s G10 Associates Program that introduces recent grads to things like professional communication, using influence without authority, and managing ambiguity. Skills that are typically left out of new employee orientation. In fact, I don’t know of many corporations that teach any employee how to influence others or deftly handle ambiguous environs. I speak at local and national meetings of professional organizations like the Project Management Institute, the International Institute of Business Analysis, Business Analyst World, and others. I also really enjoy working with business fraternities and career development centers to help graduating seniors prepare for the “real world.” I’ve even done some one-on-one coaching with college-age job-seekers with pretty good success. I’ve discovered that students don’t get the advice they need. What advice they do get is usually decades old and may have never been relevant. So I try to bridge that gap as best I can.
These are the things that energize me every day. I’d love to hear from anyone who shares the same passion.