A long time friend shared with me they woke up one morning with one of the most clairvoyant thoughts they had had in quite some time: “I’ve gone stale in my career.”
I was surprised to hear this from my friend as they’re very successful at what they do. Upon further conversation I learned that my friend admittedly was recognizing that while he was and is successful in his respective career today there are two things he’s not done much of, or at all which inevitably will hurt him and his career down the road.
#1: building relationships both in and outside his circle of influence
#2: be proactive with #1
He asked me what my thoughts were on his situation and how best to re-ignite his career. My answer: NETWORKING! People who networking and do so often know two truths about business. One – many times it’s not what you know but who you know. Two – being proactive in building relationships and helping others means you stay ahead of the ‘need game’.
The ‘need game’ is when people decide to change their habits professionally because they ‘need’ something. The most common occurrence of this is when someone finds themselves out of work and they decide to start networking, going to 5+ events a week. Their end goal isn’t really to network and help others, it’s to help themselves get another job. You can’t blame people in the situation however they’re going about it all wrong.
When we’re actively working and doing well this is the exact time we should be investing in our careers and others, not when we need something. The proactive investment of networking doesn’t pay off quickly, in fact it can take years, however some of the best opportunities have opened up to me and many others I know simply because we were in the right place and had the right connections.
Key Take Away: if you want to ignite your career and refresh yourself professionally get out of the office and get involved in your industry and or local community. The people you meet along the way will give you the opportunity to create new relationships within and outside your circle of influence. These relationships can be the key to opportunities in the future.
Action Items: Spend some time talking with other professionals inside and outside your industry to learn where they spend their time. Identify 2-3 networking or professional associations and attend their events. Just remember – if you go into it expecting to get something you’re doing it all wrong. Go into these events with the idea you are going to learn, give back and build relationships. The rest will happen over time. If you’re in the life sciences industry you can check out HERE for a list of Southern California based events.
I recently read a compelling article talking about the growth trajectory of southern California’s Aerospace industry, in particular it’s “space” segment. While people love to credit Musk’s SpaceX for much of the present day activity in this sector it’s interesting to learn that nearly ¼ of all jobs in the US having to do with guided missiles, space vehicles and related parts are located here in sunny SoCal. Given the industry spends more than $28B on goods and services for production its apparent there is a lot of opportunity to be had in this fast growing market. To cap things off, the current administration seems happy to invest in this industry, in particular in space (the final frontier) offering yet another compelling reason as to why SoCal’s aerospace industry stands to grow and dominate in the next decade to come.
With all of this opportunity to be had why is it some Aerospace companies are surging ahead while others are flatlining, just waiting to be taken out behind the big red barn to put out of their misery? Rough analog, but unfortunately it’s all to true.
Could it be a lack of funding? Inability to innovate?
Companies like SpaceX, Palmer’s Anduril, Panasonic Avionics and perhaps even Boeing do one thing and one thing exceptionally well – they remain at the cutting edge of technological development. As such, they’re poised to take advantage of all this wonderful opportunity that seems to be abounding left and right in the industry. But are they really any different than their competitors? Answer is – YES. The companies that are flatlining, holding on for dear life, have become dépassé. (French for outdated) They’re one program award away from closing shop. You’ve seen it yourself. The key difference with the companies poised to take advantage of the growth opportunities and the ones that can’t comes down to leadership. They know first hand how important it is to have people who possess both passion and execution.
The Aerospace companies that are at the cutting edge of technology almost always have leadership onboard which has a clear vision for what they want to achieve and surrounds themselves with others that believe in that vision, no matter the cost.
Key Take Away: It’s passion and execution that makes the difference in being able to grab a hold of opportunity.
Action Item: If you feel like your company is behind and missing out on opportunity, review your leadership ranks. Do you have the right people on the bus to move things forward? If the answer is ‘no’ then its time to bring in some fresh blood to chart a new course. If the answer is ‘yes’ some times all that’s needed is a slight change in corporate direction with a couple new coats of paint to liven things up.
Graduating from college is a great life accomplishment. You’ve worked hard for years and now have the chance to finally put your knowledge to the test along with your wonderful self out there for the professional world to enjoy. As the college parties and farewells subside new college grads inevitably come face to face with a sobering reality... ...the fact that finding their first career job isn’t easy!Ideally, students should start focusing on their careers and entrance into their industry of choosing in their junior year of college, but more than likely you’ve waited till the very last day of school to think about it. Regardless of the situation you are in as you start to look for work it’s important to head into the process of finding a job armed with the right mental attitude and a winning game plan. Before you start looking for a new job it’s important to understand how these common new grad thought processes below can hurt your chances of landing a job:
$80k out the gates (sure, there are the top 1% that will actually get a salary of $80k or higher, for the rest of new grads consider yourself lucky if you make more than $55k in your first year at work; in fact NACE which tracks national data on volumes of economic data points shared that graduates of the 2015 class experienced on average a first year salary of $50,651.)
Why I need more money (I’ve heard this more than a dozen times when a new grad explains to me that the reason they are looking for ‘X’ salary (a higher salary than what the market dictates for an entry level job) is because they have to pay off student loans; I hate to break it to you but companies aren’t on the hook for paying off your student loans or compensating you more just because you have bills)
What is taught in school is the same in the work place (while school is good for many things, such as learning theoretical knowledge and discipline, often times the academic environment falls short on giving students a real dose of what life is like in the professional workplace; the main issue here is that theoretical knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate into application; in the working world if you can’t apply what you know or have learned than you are about as useful as a Ferrari without a steering wheel)
Employers will hire me for my education (it’s not completely a myth, however the majority of the time companies hire new grads based on the persons culture fit, personality, grit, polished professionalism, energy, creativity, potential, etc.; many companies employ a hiring method referred to as ‘character over competency’)
Masters’ degrees give you a leg up (if you are graduating with a Masters’ degree and you have no work experience well then you’re starting off from the same spot everyone else is, just often times you expect more money because of your advanced education; be careful here, a Masters’ degree doesn’t necessarily make you better initially in your career, however having an advanced degree years down the road will certainly bode well for you in most careers)
Now that you’ve got a good head on your shoulders and understand a bit more of how the professional workplace functions you’ll need to do the following:
Spend time researching different industries (if you graduated college and already know what industry you want to work in than you’re one step ahead of the game; when researching remember that it is just as valuable if during your efforts you learn about a career or industry that you would absolutely never want to do – you can then strike that off your list and move on to better suited opportunities)
Have a better than average resume (your resume is a written bio of who you are, if it is sloppy in formatting, has spelling or grammar mistakes than rest assure the people on the other end who are reading it are either passing you up or making poor assumptions on your behalf; take the necessary time to build a great resume and have it proofed by at least two people who are professionals in the field you want to get into)
Network with people in your field before you graduate (please don’t graduate from school and think you’re going to land the sweetest gig ever without doing work ahead of time, that’s foolhardy; the best way to accomplish landing a great job is by spending time with people in the industry beforehand so you can build relationships and get to know how things work in your local area)
Go to as many career fairs as possible (it’s another way of networking but you’re also speaking with companies that are hiring which will give you the chance to work on your interviewing skills – which hopefully will lead to you landing that coveted job; also make sure you go to your schools career center to see what help they can lend)
Get an internship or co-op (this is by far the best thing you can do for yourself to land a good job; companies use internships to allow new grads to come in and learn a skill while also giving the company a chance to check out the freshest talent in the market; don’t be fooled, even if they tell you the internship isn’t designed to become a full time job you should still treat it like it as such)
Build a relationshipwith a recruiter (finding a recruiter who specializes in your field is a great way to add additional fire power to your job search as they know which companies are hiring, which companies are worth working for and can often assist you through the interview process)
Practice Interviewing (it doesn’t matter if you practice in front of a mirror or with your best friend, spending time practicing your answers to typical interview questions, along with body language and other mannerisms)
Landing your first job out of school is a matter of constant focus and discipline. Take the time to prepare and make sure every interaction you have with someone in your field of work leaves that person thinking “I need her on my team!”
Patience is a skill I’ve struggled with my whole life. Many years ago my then boss brought to my attention that in order to get ahead in my career I would have to face my shortcomings with patience head on and make some significant changes to the way I went about things at work and at home. This is where I learned the valuable saying, ‘seek to understand before being understood’. Improve my patience? This definitely wasn’t going to be easy. The more time I spent building awareness around why I struggled with patience the more I began to realize that my issues with patience were rooted in a way of thinking which I had developed over a life time. My thought process was an unyielding focus on things always being perfect and when they were anything but perfect my issues with patience would soon coming roaring center stage. Naturally, I applied this thought process to myself constantly along with the people I worked with and who worked for me. As in life, there are always moments of challenge, let down and dealing with the unknown so my thought process on a utopian way of life where nothing ever goes wrong, everything is perfect and everyone performs to expectation and beyond, was quite absurd. My lack of patience played a key role in this thought process because I wasn’t comfortable living in the ‘gray’ and dealing with ambiguity, my thought process was always black and white. When you lack the skill of patience you seek immediate resolve, regardless if that’s the right answer or not for the given moment. Many times it isn’t. As time went on I came to realize that one of the best ways to improve patience was to simply do nothing. When I would be faced with a challenge, a tough conversation, a moment of “what the hell were you thinking”, rather than act I would simply do nothing and observe. I credit this lesson to an incredibly powerful book on the subject of patience called 4 Seconds by Peter Bregman. As you may have guessed from the title of the book, four seconds is all it takes according to Bregman to quell the need for immediate responses while giving yourself a chance to breathe and think things through. Four seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time but when you put it into practice it’s amazing how effective it can be. In fact, this book was so impactful I consider it one of my top 10 reads! Recently I had a personal experience which served as a keen reminder on how patience is vital to a balanced lifestyle; in fact it can also lead to you making more money. Our family made a decision to sell a car with the idea of getting a bigger one to accommodate the volume of stuff we tote around thanks to our little daughter. I’m continually amazed at how much crap one little kid can have, which is probably my fault, but that’s another article in itself. So we’re upgrading vehicles for the sake of making our lives easier. I’ve sold many cars in the past so this certainly wasn’t my first rodeo however I would soon find out that the experience and results would be very new to me. As my wife and I made the decision to sell our car the easy solution was to just go trade the car in at the dealership where we were going to buy the new car. As we were meeting with the dealership coming close to finalizing the deal all of a sudden I thought to myself, “wait, why sell the car now just because we can, we don’t need to sell it immediately and perhaps waiting (welcome to the stage our friend ‘patience’) will bring about a better option that pays us more of what the car is worth”. Well, let’s be honest here, my wife said that and I was sitting there saying, “why didn’t I think of that”. Here’s how things went down… Our car’s private party and Kelley Blue Book (KBB) value was about $24,500. While KBB is a useful tool it isn’t always accurate but does provide a good benchmark. As we spent more time searching our options here’s what we came across: - Dealership Trade-In: $19,600 ($4,900 below value) - CarMax: $21,000 ($3,500 below value) - Beepi (online version of CarMax, just better): $23,500 ($1,000 below value) After we carefully reviewed our options it was apparent that going with Beepi was the easy decision. We were impressed with their customer service, straightforward approach on how they value cars and business model, with the best part being they came to us. We never left our home and the car sold for a price that we were happy with. We’re all confronted with opportunities to practice patience on a daily basis. From this experience I’ve learned that when I'm considering to make a decision which could be hasty or impatient I now think of this experience selling our car and think to myself how much money could I be leaving on the table by acting now? Do you struggle with patience sometimes? If so, test it out. Go through this week and take four seconds before you respond or make up your mind on something. What you may find out is that the four seconds you take to think something through could result in you making more money down the road, or just simply being happier with the outcome of whatever it is you’re faced with. “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” ― Aristotle
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.
Travis also serves as Chairman, Board of Directors for DeviceAlliance, the only Southern California based medical device non-profit professionals organization and member of the University of California Irvine's Division of Continuing Education Advisory Board for Medical Product Development. He holds a business management degree from California State University Long Beach and is a graduate of the Southern California Entrepreneur Academy.