Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Think about your college education... what do you remember most?  Was it a formula used to calculate current or quick cash flow ratios?  How about calculating the net present value of an annuity, or what the "rewind command" means in Fortran 77, or what a z-test is used for?  Or was it the research paper that frustrated you because it was loosely defined, and you had to actually think for yourself?

I want to be brutally honest... college is about BUILDING FOUNDATIONS. Learning is not a point it time accomplishment, it needs to continually evolve.  If you believe that by spending two, four, six, or eight years in an institution of higher education, you've written your ticket for lifelong earning... you're sadly mistaken... you OWN your career... not your employer.

You are paid based on the value you provide to an organization, sometimes measured by improved efficiency, increased sales, improved profits, by building more widgets, or possibly.... you have the same last name as the owner, and it's easier to pay you than just give you money.  When you fail to contribute in a positive manner, you are no longer of value to the organization.  You own this responsibility, not the organization.

I'm amazed as we interview people how few really take ownership for their career.  They believe college initially prepares them, and that each of their future employers should train them in new processes, techniques, and ensure that they remain marketable and competitive.  When their skills aren't sharp, it's someone else's fault.  What would happen if nobody innovated, learned new methods, new manufacturing techniques, new design processes, etc.?  The company would disappear, and there would be many staff that could not easily find a new job with their skills... and that complain that the "old company" failed them because it was unable to keep up and that their careers were short changed.

There are situations where this occur... and that's sad, these are short sighted companies that normally don't last long.  If there were a few people willing to take risks, and invest some of their personal time... the story could change dramatically. The organization could move from a company that lacks focus and vision, to one that looks for continuous improvement and takes calculated risks in order to continually improve and grow.

So, next time someone asks you what you've learned recently... think hard... and be honest with yourself. Seek opportunities to learn, engage your employer... find funding... find small projects to test your ideas and succeed... and really listen. 

I've found that the best ideas often come from line staff that nobody will ask.  These are the blue collar workers on the assembly line... they carrying the burden and blame when quality suffers, or productivity drops... yet they are not often asked directly what can be done to improve their processes or the products they create. Out of necessity, these people usually have broad "hands-on" skills that they can leverage, or knowledge from another area they can apply.  These staff can be extremely innovative people that have learned to build houses, repair cars, and continually learn in order to be able to afford every day life.  They don't have the option of calling someone and saying when can you get this done?

So, take control of your education, and ownership of your job... stretch... and reach outside your comfort zone... innovate... share... learn... and grow.  College didn't teach you to be lazy, life is a moving target, and sometimes it's tough.  Put on a helmet, focus, and become engaged!