but I truly, genuinely, want to apply what I have learned on this trip to my life when I return home. I don’t want the wisdom and experience shared to us by the people we have met with to go wasted, or for the scribbles in my orange notebook I take to meetings to become incomprehensible upon reflection.
This trip provides a truly rare and special opportunity to pick the brains of professionals from all walks of life. They have different backgrounds, different passions, and different roles within their company. These differences led me to expect each person’s advice or beliefs about the world to contradict. This has overwhelmingly not been the case.
Here are some commonalities I have noticed:
- They didn’t start, or even picture themselves, in the career they are in currently. Their professional journey was a winding path, with small diversions and leaps of faith that took them to places they never would have guessed for themselves.
- They made themselves noticed. They got the attention of the people they worked with, worked for, and of the people they wanted to work for. They did this through being authentically themselves, and through working really hard (it was exhausting even just listening to their work routines/histories).
- They were actively seeking out new opportunities, even as they were working for someone else. This wasn’t behavior I would consider to be underhanded or sneaky, but a way for them to open themselves up to new opportunities. Sometimes stuff falls into your lap, but most often, you put yourself in positions where stuff will become available to you.
- They made sure to work well with others. Each person we have met has been extremely personable: willing to meet with us, willing to answer questions, welcomed us with a feeling of hospitality, took time to explain what their company does (instead of saying, “Didn’t you research us beforehand?”), and so on. Perhaps some of them boosted their charisma for the meeting, but I don’t think it was that much of a stretch – why would they fake being personable to a bunch of college kids from a tiny university on the other side of the country? The good-naturedness that we experienced is something that has, and will, serve them well in their profession. It makes them a good client, a good boss, and/or a good team player.
- They used every part of their personal experience to serve them in their current capacity. No knowledge or experience was too small for them. The best example I can think of is Christopher from NYC & Company. He got his start in the hospitality business (and on his LinkedIn profile, it says he went to culinary school), and has expanded that to his job of boosting tourism for the City of New York. That connection is not something I would call logical, but his background has served him well, and he still uses what he learned in the hospitality business for his current job.
It was refreshing to hear from people who have passion for their work. I think most of the time when I hear about people’s work, it’s about how happy they are it’s a Friday, and they get to go home for the weekend.* I am not naïve enough to think the people we met with don’t get tired or frustrated with their jobs, but they obviously like what they do enough to talk with enthusiasm about it for an hour with some random out-of-towner students.
*Please refer to a bit from John Mulaney’s stand-up routine, New in Town.