My career started in academics where I was working for a law school in New York out on Long Island. I directly supported the Dean of Records– and he was not only a Dean, but he was also a Rabbi. Little did I know he would turn out to be my first career mentor. He helped me navigate the college policies and procedures as well as took time to explain the meanings and history of many Jewish holidays and customs as I was not raised in that faith.
Move forward to last month when I was working on a gratitude list — a list of people who had been part of, or had crossed my career path over the last 25 years, and a pattern began to emerge. I considered this list of people (and it’s a fairly extensive list) to be my career tribe.
Each person I consider to be a part of my career tribe has had most, if not all of the following qualities:
- A significant amount of volunteer time dedicated to serving others
- Had a hobby or interest that brought them great joy
- A history of traveling to and/or living in multiple countries
- Spoke at least one additional language
- Was interested in learning what made other people feel good about themselves
- Was interested in improving communications and work relationships — even if it made both parties uncomfortable
- Did not mince words about their concerns
- Kept in touch with colleagues that they no longer worked alongside
- Actively participated in social and business groups for personal and professional development
- Acknowledged their own career challenges
Now, I’m not in touch with the entire list on a regular basis, but I can tell you that I still have a connection at almost every single company where I have been employed. I have been diligent about keeping a contact at each employer, even if it is purely a courtesy. And my single most important work lesson from each of these persons has been key to shaping my career perspective – best phrased by The Rolling Stones.
And it’s true… I didn’t always get what I wanted, but I always got what I needed, whether it was a tough lesson, a superb review, thoughtful suggestions for improvement or a department transfer. Do you have a tribe of career teachers? Some of mine will be at #ExecSecLive in London. Can’t wait to give them a hug and tell them ‘Thank you’.