Barbara. Advice

posted May 19th, 2010 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Barbara to tell me the best advice she had ever been given. She said: “I remember reading this advertising campaign that a large US company developed many years ago, possibly in the 80’s and it had a bunch of different aspects to it but one of the things was to never give up. It was early in my career and it always stuck with me. I remember reading it and it’s always stuck with me because I think that’s so important no matter what you’re doing, whether you don’t feel like you can find a solution to a problem or you find yourself in a difficult situation where it just feels like you can’t deal with it; it fits.  I would give that advice to anyone because that advice is so important.”


In terms of advice I would give to a young women, it would be to get a good education and early on in your career get as much experience as you can and don’t worry about the financial side of things because if you just focus on getting the right experience  ultimately the financial rewards will come. If you think it’s all about the money then you sometimes forego relevant work experiences that would get you further ahead in the long run.  Young people, sometimes lose sight of that. I remember in my first year working at a CA firm, I hated it and thought about going back and doing my MBA but I kept going with it and the next year was so much better. I have run into young people today who quit their first job within the first year because they felt they were not using all of their skills and education. There aren’t many entry level jobs where you do use all of your skills and education.  Regardless, I would give the same advice which is to get as much experience as you can even if you don’ think you’re learning that much or you’re not using all of your skills and education. Your position and experience are going to be a stepping stone to something else.  Being patient is an important thing and younger people today are not very patient.” 


Barbara says she knows two people in the last year who came out of school with a good education and then quit a job in their fields after six months with nothing else to go to. She says: “In the early years of my career, I was given responsibility very quickly. You can’t look at what you’re doing today and evaluate the potential of an entry level job because a year from now you could be doing something totally different.  I’ve worked in situations where my next position, my next move would have been into my boss’s job and it didn’t seem like they were going anywhere so I left thinking there was nowhere for me to go at the firm and then six months later that person would get a promotion or they would leave.  There is always movement. You have to have a little patience and not just jump for a little more money or a title.  A lot of people are very focused on titles and I don’t think titles matter. I think it’s the work, the experience you’re getting and the opportunities you are exposed to. These things are much more important than titles or money.”


I asked Barbara whether she would advise a young woman to establish alliances with other women at their firm or elsewhere. She said early in her career she joined a lot of associations and industry groups and anything else she could. She says she would advise young women to be open to those things.  She said she took on positions in the  associations she joined and although it was all volunteer work it was really good for networking. She says within your own organization, you should volunteer for assignments, including being on the social committee or recruiting committee or anything along those lines. She says these are really important things to do because you meet people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet.  You get exposure and you learn totally different skill sets. 


Barbara said she continued with her education when she was working and she thought it was beneficial. She said she did different things related to the work that she was doing. She completed her MBA at night school and she took several securities courses. She said she did this immediately following her university graduation for a number of years. She said she did a lot of this type of thing and she found that it was really useful and she met people doing it. 


She thinks a combination of volunteer positions and educational pursuits as well as attendance at industry functions works well. She said sometimes there are other things you’d rather do but you always meet people at these events and they are people in your industry. She says she found over the years that a lot of opportunities come from the  people you meet and know.  She says people think about you when they are contacted by search firms; in these situations, people think of their friends or the people they know in the industry.  She gave the example of people who she had met through an industry association or otherwise who are looking for jobs. They send her their resumés and although she doesn’t know them well they felt comfortable sending them to her because they had met her through an industry association. And sometimes they are lucky and a recruiter happens to call her the next day and their name is top of mind.


She says it’s important to stay involved and develop a profile in your industry by organizing conferences or whatever needs doing because you will meet people. She said many years ago, she volunteered for a conference and she was organizing all the speakers and although it was a lot work, she had the opportunity to meet all of these people.  She says the effort is worthwhile. It means you’re getting involved and meeting people which helps. She says if you think of it in terms of just going out and meeting people you will end up enjoying it and other opportunities often come from it.


And Barbara says the time to network is not when you need to find a job.  It’s when you’re working. It’s hard to call somebody you worked with five years ago and haven’t kept up with because you have lost your job. You have to keep up with your network throughout your career because it makes it a lot easier if you do find yourself looking for a job.


I asked Barbara when she considered her career in its entirety what she would do differently, if anything? She said she had worked in a number of different companies and they were mostly great learning experiences.  She said one of her job choices was a big mistake. She took a position and she didn’t get a lot out of it.  However, she said this was the only one. She said she was unhappy in the position she was in and she jumped at the new opportunity. She said with hindsight, she knows it is important to really make sure that it is the right thing to do and you’re not just making a move because you want to get out of your current situation because many other opportunities are going to come along and even if you’re not enjoying your current environment going to a job where you’re going to be equally unhappy, or more unhappy, means you’re going to find yourself looking again.  She says it’s important in a difficult situation to be patient and find the right thing. Sometimes the problem is you’re really busy and you don’t have a lot of time and when somebody calls you it’s easy so you just take a chance. She says when you’re looking at a job opportunity it always seems perfect and it never is because there’s no such thing as the perfect job which is one of the things she has learned. It’s about finding something that’s balanced.  She says you’re not going to love everything about any position but knowing that it’s not going to be perfect helps you deal with some of the things that aren’t ideal. 


Barbara said there are situations where it really is not the right environment for you or it can be the right environment and still there can be things about the job or situation that aren’t ideal.  She says: “Early on in my career, I was always looking for that perfect job and sometimes, for me, if there was something I didn’t like about my job, I would think about moving and maybe with the move I found myself in a worse situation.  I think it’s really important to look at and take advantage of different opportunities, although I’ve seen people who’ve stayed in one job and never moved and had career success.  I don’t think that’s the best strategy but I think there’s some kind of balance between the two approaches. I think recognizing that it’s never going to be perfect is important and if it’s not, making certain you’re going at it with your eyes open and not just satisfying a desire to do something different.  It’s a lot like relationships because with any new job there is an infatuation period and once you get through it you discover what it’s really like.  It’s important to assess not only the actual position but the whole environment because the job itself could be rewarding but if don’t like the environment, there’s no point in going into it.  One of the things I’ve realized over the years is that you have to do a lot of due diligence to try and really understand whether the job as a whole is the right fit for you.”


What Strikes Me?


Never give up.


Be patient.


Titles and money don’t matter. It’s the work and the experience and the opportunities you have to be involved in the business. These things are much more important than titles or money.


Many opportunities come from the people you meet.


The time to network is not when you need to find a job.


Keep up with your network throughout your career because it makes it a lot easier if you do find yourself looking for a job.


A combination of volunteer positions, educational pursuits and attendance at industry functions works well in terms of building your network.


There is no such thing as the perfect job.


Don’t jump from one bad situation to another — be patient.


A lot of due diligence is required to really understand whether a job as a whole is the right fit for you.


What Strikes You?


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