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Careers Do Not Belong in a Box

January 2, 2011 37 comments

The best ideas are those that lie ‘outside the box’. The top thinkers, innovators, and visionairies have all been considered ‘out of the box’. Similarly, those that have the appearingly ‘best’ careers are the ones who have taken the concept of ‘career’ OUT of the box.

Don’t wrap your career in a box. Don’t look at your career in a vacuum. It’s not static and if your idea of a career is static, you will become static as well.

Here’s the truth; if you’re looking for a career, you’re looking for the wrong thing.

What you should be looking for is something that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning.

What you should be looking for is a way to continuously better yourself, continuously learn, continuously grow.

What you should always be seeking out – is your next adventure.

Certainly, that may take the form of something that turns into a career; or it may not.

Maybe what you’re looking for is to start your own business, maybe what you’re looking for is a contract – for a project that excites you, maybe you are good at several functional areas and it’s time to CHANGE what you thought was your ‘career’ path because all of the sudden, you’ve realized you’re a General Manager, but CERTAINLY you do not want to FORCE a career.

If you ignore this advice and continue to seek out a career, you will become part of the statistic that has changed so dramatically over the past decade. You will become one of the people who changes jobs an average of every year and a half, without promotion, but more importantly, without being happy.

By tying yourself into a career, you’re missing out on the most important part of your learnings; the different journey you take. The people you meet along that journey. Most importantly, your closing your mind to opportunities that may arise.

There’s probably a lot of people who will read this and think, “sounds good in theory, but I need to bring in some cash!” Of course you do – we all do. But bringing in cash and tying yourself to ONE career is NOT the same thing. Get a day job if you need the cash; but look for a day job that at least ties into something you love OR one that gives you enough free time at that “job” to work on your REAL passion – whatever that may be. A great example is Gary Vaynerchuck. He worked 12 hours / day at his retail wine shop and then built his own business at night – he worked almost every night from 8 PM – midnight. It took 2 years – but he did it. He launched his own business.

Another example is how I’ve designed my life. People ask why I consult and own my own businesses; and the reasons are very simple: 1) I don’t believe in a “career” as currently described in the marketplace 2) I haven’t yet found a job or group of individuals that meet the criteria set above; So, I take on projects and clients – I actually turn down more than I take on…and then I work on my own projects for free a couple hours / day. I have not “settled” for a job. I have figured out how to use my current skill set to continue making money. And I’ve ensured everyday is an adventure, every project is a learning opportunity, I only work for people who intrigue me, and most importantly, I enjoy my journey.

Your “career” can be anything you want it to be. Throw out the preconceived definition that so many cling to as a security blanket (definition of career) and define what a career is TO YOU!

Why START UP companies are KEY to Work For!

April 13, 2010 8 comments

Two things I look for in every company I work with:

1. Do they executives believe in continuous learning as well as personal / professional growth AND will they aide you in your journey…
2. Is their business model, or product, something new, innovative, and / or something that the market has not seen before.

If the answer to these two questions is not “YES”, than I know this start up business is not for me. However, if the answer IS “yes”, I know that I will do anything in my power to work with, and learn from, these individuals. Even if it means working for free for a while; just to prove myself.

When I was 22 yrs old, I began working at Kaplan University, online higher education giant. However when I entered the working world, Kaplan University was called “Kaplan College”; they only offered 4 degree programs (now offer over 100 if we include specializations); and more importantly, only had 60 admissions advisors or ‘sales reps’. While it wasn’t a “pure” start up in the sense of the word, it did grow immensely over the next two years and when I moved to a ‘real’ start up, had over 1500 admissions advisors, and had grown the student base over 1000%. It was a rush to be a part of. We purchased new buildings, there was a lot of room for advancement and learning. We had access to the C level business executives, ideas were listened to; and while sure – there were bumps along the road, it was still fun to come to work everyday. Not only were we doing jobs we believed in, but there was always something “new” and “innovative” to look forward to.

About five years ago, original owner and SVP of Sales and Marketing for Kaplan University, Richard Capezzali, developed a business concept with a young man named Todd Zipper. They wanted to prove that they could execute on numerous strategies that had never been ‘done’ before. The two innovators founded Education Connection, which was at first a lead generation company, and became the first lead generation company to 1) Be agnostic 2) Develop commercials – not school specific, for themselves, 3) Develop a lead that converts at over 10% 4) Build out an advising call center. I basically stalked Richard and Todd until they brought me on as their ‘first’ employee. I was in heaven. I was working with two men; one – an expert in education sales and marketing and the other – an Ivy league MBA who taught me operations, finance, etc. and both believed that it was POSSIBLE to make the impossible possible. I learned more over the four years with these men than I could have in any MBA program.

After four years with Education Connection, my husband and I were recruited to another start up higher education company out in Dallas. While the answers to the questions above were “Yes” and the interviews were fantastic, there was a difference in this company, yet I couldn’t put my finger on it. As soon as I came aboard, I was back in the “start up” mode; building and executing quickly, driving revenue, and having fun doing what I love to do: build businesses. What I realized while I was working for this company was that although they were a ‘start up’ company in that the idea was new, we were just reaching profitability, etc. all of the C level executives or business partners had worked together for 15 years. And in that 15 years, they had already developed a culture; one that was unlike a “typical” start up business; it was more like a 10 year old corporation. Not for me. That being said, because I believed (and still do) strongly believe in the mission, I stayed onboard and did what I do best: drive revenue and cut costs…

Until a few months ago.

For the past few months, I’ve been consulting with numerous marketing and education companies. Some are start ups, some are trying to devise new revenue streams, some I’m working with to build out new products…but here is what I know. I love consulting. Every ‘project’ is basically a small start up company AND I get to choose who I work with. If I don’t like a project, I “just say no” and move to the next. I’m only working with companies I believe in, working with people who are innovators and allow me to be innovative, and I’m building my skill set with every project I take on.

The first three companies I worked for, while only over a seven year time span, all played integral parts in allowing me to do what I’m doing now.

So, for those of you who are going to be out of college soon, looking for internships, a career path, a job, etc. my advice to you is to look for a start up company. You will learn and blossom quickly and it will give you the skills you need to go anywhere. You will be adaptable, wear many different hats, and know what a true “team” environment is. There are several solid sites you can check out, a great one being Start Up Digest, that will send you jobs from all over the world with start ups.

Be innovative. Work for a start up.

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