A Must Do! Career Due Diligence |Your Life Is Your Business

We spend hours pouring over newspaper inserts to find the best clothing buys and grocery store coupons. We spend hours Googling information about vacation spots and fitness regimens. All, before we commit.

Shouldn’t we do this for our career choices too? 

Ask any high school student facing college what s/he plans to major in and you’ll hear: English, econ, accounting, pysch. 

Then ask, “Why?” Typical answers:

  • “It’s my favorite subject.”
  • “I get good grades in that subject.”
  • “I want to be an accountant [doctor, teacher, marketer]….”
  • “My parents said that would be a good major for me.”

The problem isn’t these answers: It’s the questions left unanswered like:

  • What careers paths/jobs will that major open for you?
  • Do those paths match what you want from your life? 

A college education today is still believed to be a “leg up” to better jobs, mainly  higher pay and promotions. It doesn’t necessarily mean better for your happiness, satisfaction, or health. So a lot is riding on your major and the jobs attached to it.

Why due diligence? Because it’s your life! 

Students pick majors with romanticized notions about the great jobs they’ll get by being accomplished students. They never talk to anyone currently doing those entry level or supervisory jobs to get a behind-the-scenes look.

I once coached a graduate from a prestigious university whose major was criminal justice. Just before graduation, she realized that starting jobs in her field meant street assignments. No way! So she stayed on, switching to journalism until she realized that starting reporter jobs meant evenings and weekends chasing stories. She switched again to English lit and graduated with no direction, huge tuition bills, and no viable career path.

Hard to believe she didn’t investigate  those job realities the second and third time? It just didn’t occur to her and she’s not alone.

I’ve also worked with many, career-weary adults who took a long time to admit that they had invested years in a career that never fit them. Each one had to either reinvent him/herself or start over. Even with their own experiences behind them, they don’t teach their children how to avoid the same mistakes. Why? Because no one showed them how.

Don’t get me wrong. Every career is an adventure. That’s good. What isn’t good is committing to a career path blindly. Due diligence helps minimize painful disappointment or reasons to start over. You can’t control for everything, but you can avoid lot of missteps.

You need to do this! 

Whether you are a student, an entry level or veteran employee, each time you say to yourself: “I want to be a [job title]:”

  • Write down the name(s) of 5 people in your family, community or among your friends, who are doing that job or one like it
  • Ask them to spend 15 minutes explaining to you what they do on a daily basis
  • Ask what they like best or least, what skills or education they needed, what it takes to get promoted, and who else you can talk to
  • See whether or not their work environment fits you
  • Ask yourself: Can I see myself in that line of work for a long time? 

(This is called information interviewing, a technique credited to Richard N. Bolles, who’s book, What Color Is Your Parachute?, gives the details. Find more on line. See, it’s all out there for the Googling!)

CBS contributor, Ben Stein, says, “The giants I have worked with in my life… found the thing that they were very, very good at, and did that with extraordinary focus.” Then he adds: “…harmonize your goals with your talents.”

That’s big! If your goals aren’t rooted in a realistic understanding of what the job market is all about, harmony is harder to come by. When you’re business fit, you’ve achieved the understanding and insights you need to build your best career. Let the explorations begin!

Have a story about a student who isn’t making the connection between his/her studies and the job market? Any ideas why students don’t explore the real story behind the kinds of jobs they’re after? Your insights can make a big difference!

Are You Worth the Risk? | Your Life Is Your Business

Any idea about who has a stake in you? I mean a real money stake based on your risk-reward value. Seem like a weird question? 

When you’re the investment, you’re expected to deliver a return. 

That’s right. Every time we borrow or accept money from an outside source, we are their investment. So we have an obligation to reward the investor. 

Here’s how this works. Let’s say, you’re a college student. Your parents pay part of your tuition and a lending institution pays the rest. Both are investors. You work to satisfy the terms of their investment. 

Parent-investors expect you to: 

  • Select a course of study that leads to a career that will support you
  • Complete all courses with passing or better grades
  • Meet all graduation requirements
  • Adhere to the rules and standards of the institution
  • Take advantage of placement opportunities
  • Successfully complete relevant internships
  • Graduate with an employment offer 

The return on investment for your parents is the knowledge that they have positioned you to be a productive, self-reliant citizen. It also brings to closure their expenses for your schooling. 

Lending institutions expect you to: 

  • Pay back their loan with interest according to the payment schedule

That’s all they care about. It doesn’t matter to them if you went to class, took courses that added up to anything, or got a job. They simply want their investment back with interest. How you do that is your business. Institutional investor’s aren’t fussy. They just want their return. 

Investing is about growth. Growth is about your future. 

Most of us have investors throughout our lives. The bank gives us a mortgage, a credit card, a car or home equity loan. They have a stake in us, want their money back with interest, and aren’t concerned if what we borrowed their money for is a good idea or not. 

We are the most important investors in ourselves because we have the biggest stake. 

I mean that. We’ve got to be smart with the money that we make or take. We need to use it in ways that position us for growth, increase our options, and provide us with the quality of life that makes sense for us. 

If we aren’t smart about the way we use the money others invest in us, then we are missing the boat. Each time we want to cry about our financial woes, we need to take a hard look at how we’ve used the money we’ve earned and the money we’ve borrowed. Our life is our business, right? 

I’m not talking about a time when the employment rug got pulled out from under you, although it is a reminder about having enough money saved to pay the bills for six months. I’m talking about the failure to have a real budget and financial strategy for your life. 

Robert T. Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, is a must-read for everyone, no matter where you are in life. It’s a readable, straight-forward, and practical explanation of the right way to look at and handle your money. 

When I was eight, my parents bought me five shares of Sperry Rand Corporation. They thought I should understand about investing in the stock market. 

My dad told me that Sperry had invented a computer (Univac) that could do mathematical calculations faster than any human being. I had no idea why that mattered. 

“That machine is going to have a big impact on the future,” he predicted. 

“You betcha, Pop!” Thanks for showing me what it felt like to be an investor with just a small stake in what may lie ahead.

Like it or not, we are all the chief financial officers of our own lives.  

No business thrives if it isn’t fiscally sound. That includes the business of our own lives. Stay focused on the expectations of your investors, engage them strategically, meet your obligations to them, and enjoy being business fit as you move your life forward. 

What has been your experience dealing with those invested in you? Any advice to share?