To the Future Business Leaders and Talent of Tomorrow
Yesterday, I had the privilege and the pleasure to sit down with a group of business majors from George Mason University. As part for a group project, they were to interview some seasoned business leaders and thought leaders and they were gracious enough to select me as their subject.
Many of their questions had been scripted to meet the course objectives, but we had time for some adlib questions as well. These are the questions that had the greatest relevance to me and I believe let me deliver the wisest response to them that I had. They wanted to know what the greatest challenges our firm experienced both internally and with our clients. That was too easy. Talent!! Recruiting, onboarding, and retaining talent is the greatest challenge we have seen, particularly since the start of the pandemic. Since the students were second- and third-year undergraduates, they have some time ahead before they must commit to their future endeavors.
My advice to them was to seek employment or business opportunities that speak to them. Do what makes sense to you, what makes you happy and feel fulfilled. Salary is NOT the answer. Today, due to the Great Resignation and the Great Rethink have made talent acquisition a tremendous and costly challenge for businesses and employers of all sizes. Many have increased salaries, further driving inflationary pressures upon the labor market, to ridiculous levels. As the students and I discussed, salary should never be the primary reason why one agrees to an employment offer. I keep getting employment offers for positions that I don’t even feel qualified for, not due to lack of skills or training, but due to lack of passion for the company or the job description being sought. These students are in a unique position. A position to be highly selective in their first positions fresh out of college. Employ decision making strategies that will place you within an organization that has developed an outstanding culture. One that practices what they preach regarding organizational values. The same values to which these students adhere.
Work life balance as a corporate or organizational mission is important. The days of working 60 plus hours a week to impress the boss are no longer of value as they once were with the Baby-Boomers and Gen-Xers. From personal experience, that ideal is no longer regarded today. Hard work and dedication have given way to office politics and compromise of principles. Having and possessing a growth mindset can be key to deciding upon a career that brings more than a paycheck, one that brings personal fulfillment, contentment and self-worth.
Leadership is also an important aspect for these students to evaluate when preparing for those new positions. Ask to converse with your potential peers before accepting an employment offer. Talk with those peers about the type of boss they may be signing up for, before making a decision that could prove wasteful to your future. If any job decision maker that balks at this request, consider yourself lucky and move on to the next opportunity. One asked how they could beef up and improve their own leadership skills, to which I replied, read, read, and read. There are numerous books about leadership out there in the marketplace. Find those written by actual leaders that have true experiences and not those written by academics who are all too often immersed in the theoretical or case studies. I also suggested they volunteer to get involved with as many leadership experiences as they may have available. For example, help with the local soccer youth soccer teams as an assistant coach or equipment manager. Perhaps you have a younger sibling in the scouts or choir that can use your voluntary time to serve the group. There are many opportunities of this type to help you gain even minor leadership opportunities, besides those available in college and university group work.
Our interview discussion was rewarding, as I stated earlier, and based upon feedback that I received, it was equally rewarding for the students as well. “Thank you once again for the interview and for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. We spend so much time in our textbooks, so it is always eye-opening to hear what really goes on in the corporate world. What really stood out to me was your mindset and advice.”