Week 9: Job Search Lessons from . . . My Kids

Life’s lessons can come from any number of sources, and this week I learned three valuable lessons from my kids that I have successfully applied to my job search. First, “Do what you have to do first, then do what you want to do.” To be fair, this is a lesson that I teach often, but need to apply to myself more frequently. Over the weekend I installed several software upgrades as well as some new software. Back to back. Without rebooting after each install. I didn't want to wait. As you likely guessed, I blue-screened. It stopped my job search (and updates to this blog) dead in my tracks and had me scared half to death that I had lost my most recent client work efforts. Because I didn't take the time to load the new software properly, it took me over two extra days to re-do it the right way. Sometimes I learn from positive results, and sometimes with an ice pack on my forehead from banging it against the proverbial wall. My second lesson hit me this morning as I was driving our kids to high school. They were reviewing and testing each other for a history exam and were discussing the merits and differences between Plato and Aristotle (actually a very interesting topic). I was struck by their differences on politics, specifically, on who should rule -- the upper class (patricians) or middle class (plebeians). Plato reasoned that only the educated elite should lead, while Aristotle felt that the middle class should govern because they can lead and follow, both from experience. As leaders in IT, others look to us to, well, lead. But that is not all. Think of the traits of the best leaders in your own experience. For me, I looked up to and mimicked leaders who had worked in the trenches and who knew what it means to actually do the work the project plan called for. I also watched for those who could work effectively across the organization. And, most important for me, I looked for those who could teach me the lessons that their mentors taught them. During my job search I have spent time reviewing the resumes of other leaders, and I see that pattern of leader/partner/follower again and again. This tenet of leadership applies in the commercial world just as readily as it does in the military. Similarly, I very frequently see position specs that call for individuals with proven successes as leaders, who team well with their peers, and who can follow strategic directives from the CEO once decisions have been made. From this morning’s second lesson, then, I have learned that to succeed in my job search I need to be able to demonstrate that I can lead in my prospective employer’s organization, that I can play well with others and partner effectively with their team, and that I can follow my leaders. There are appropriate times for each, and a truly successful leader uses all of these to accomplish the strategic goals with which he or she is tasked. My third lesson comes from an inside, family joke. Remember the old Claymation Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? (longest running Christmas special & back story). Last year my wife and kids gave me a T-shirt for Christmas with a picture of Rudolph and Hermey, the elf who wants to be a dentist. The T-shirt says, “Why don’t I fit in?!” It is one of my favorite shirts, and in fact I have it on as I type this entry today :-P

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