by Dan Choi
Getting a great job and having a successful career is like dating and having a great relationship, you might get lucky, but usually it requires a clear assessment of what you have to offer and what you are looking for. You need to find someone who meets your requirements and whose requirements you meet. Then there needs to be chemistry and a mutual desire to progress. In order to grow the relationship once it is established, you need to continually re-evaluate, adapt and enhance your qualities. As the state of the relationship changes, the criteria for success in that relationship will change as well. Your understanding and willingness to change are key factors to continued success. Most people understand intuitively that personal relationships are about the intangibles, not the hard skills. Yet in the workplace, many workers continue to believe that their success is based on their hard skills. I believe that while the hard skills are an important factor in one’s career, it is interpersonal skills and other soft skills that differentiate you.
I have worked for 25 years at multiple companies and all levels of management. During this time, it has become painfully apparent that while students and employees are trained and schooled in various professional skills, the vast majority still do not know how to successfully navigate their careers to reach their goals. I see bright, smart and highly skilled people taking the wrong initial opportunity, which sets a less than optimum trajectory for the rest of their career. Even worse is when a person has all the right skills, are in the right job yet still plateau in their career because they do not understand how they are truly being measured and the criteria for success.
I have worked extensively with corporate learning and development organizations to help address this issue of career development within the companies which I have worked. As I have become more involved with Baruch and the Executives on Campus (EOC) program, it has become apparent that the challenge is even greater for graduating students.
These concerns led to the creation of the “Do You Have What It Takes” career development workshop. This workshop was built in conjunction with my two partners in crime, Jacqueline (“J.”) McLoughlin, EOC Program, and Eugenia Liakaris, Graduate Career Management Center, Zicklin School of Business. The program was held every Friday for two hours over a four week period. The focus of the workshop was the challenges of the changing world, entering the workplace, defining “your brand,” and understanding the criteria for success in the workplace. To maintain focus and have maximum impact, the workshop was kept small. Ten students from Zicklin School of Business successfully applied and were accepted.
The goal of the workshop was not to focus on the mechanics and tactical steps required for students to get a job and be successful in their careers. Rather, the intent was to enlarge students’ vision and understanding of how they are being viewed at work, what types of challenges they may face, and how to understand the criteria for measurement by which they will be judged. Through lecture, role play, dialogue and presentation, we spent the four weeks exploring the impact of global events on the job market, how to approach the interview, the value of building a personal brand that is representative, and finally, how to apply this to finding and being successful in a career. Without this knowledge, the ability to get a great job and ultimately have a very successful career is often luck. “Trust me, you can’t play the game if you don’t know the rules. And if you don’t know the rules, someone’s bound to get hurt.” – Alyson Noel
General feedback was very positive from the participants and several of the students commented on how the workshop has helped change their viewpoint and approach to their careers. Tying real world experiences and direct and honest dialogue together in a more comprehensive view of building a career offered the students a way to build a broader picture of what the challenges and success may look like. Sometimes it only takes one new thought or key concept to dramatically change the trajectory of one’s career. Hopefully this workshop has exposed participants to new ways of thinking about their careers, and will help them be successful in the workplace.