I was sitting in the Peavine parking lot at Emory University looking through the talking points I prepared for undergrad students in a sociology class. As a corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company, I was invited to speak and offer career advice.
Reminiscing on my own collegiate experiences, I remembered the panic I felt my senior year and the rude awakening that, pretty soon, I was going to be on my own. I did not want to move back home to South Carolina and live with my family – that, to me, was failure and thousands of dollars on tuition wasted. But, I also did not want to immediately apply to graduate school either. My only option was to get a job, even though I wasn’t 100% sure of what exactly I was good at doing or what I wanted to do.
Was I prepared? Will I make enough money to pay off these student loans? Is my resume strong enough to compete? Where do I go? Like many college students, these nagging, unholy whispers of fear constantly lingered in my head.
Looking back over the last 20 years since my college graduation, I was afforded numerous opportunities to speak and travel around the world, be entrusted to lead projects and people, and consult to multi-million dollar businesses. I experienced both successes and failures, both of which are necessary to grow our human capital, sharpen our judgment, and build our character.
In the process, I learned to develop a mindset that guided my decisions and attracted new opportunities.
And, the mindset is simply this: Be intentional.
This one point is what I shared with the Emory University students, and here’s how I applied that mindset:
I arrived to this decision after working in an environment that made my chest tighten every time I drove into the company parking lot. Money is replaceable. Time is not. Understanding this truth motivated me to find other opportunities that would propel my career and achieve a work/life balance appropriate for me.
2. I decided to pursue my interests.
While keeping my day job, in my spare time I found, tried and discovered new interests that gave me energy, things I enjoyed, like speaking on a stage. I started with community theatre. I gave it a try, which led to joining an acting agency. I then began auditioning and acting in a few small film roles in Atlanta, and from there, leading the drama ministry at a church. All of this laid the foundation for my writing, directing and performing in two stage plays in Atlanta. These interests I pursued outside the company, and the skills I developed and sharpened as a result, actually influenced new opportunities for me to lead and speak on large stages nationally and internationally inside the company.
3. I decided to work for a company that would also work for me .
Before I became self-employed, I had only worked for two Fortune 500 companies. The first one was the only company that offered me an entry-level management job after college. At the time, I had applied to as many places I could with no direction of what I wanted to gain from the experience other than a paycheck. I left the first company after three years because I knew I could not thrive in its culture. I became disengaged.
The second Fortune 500 company I worked for was a jewel of an opportunity. The difference was my intentionality. I carefully researched and applied to an organization that was a good fit for me rather than apply to multiple companies randomly and out of desperation.
In my research, I considered non-negotiable factors important to me and created a rubric – something I call the Three Ps:
- Principles: Are the values of the company consistent with mine?
- People: How well does the company treat and invest in its employees?
- Products: Do I care about the goods or services the company produces?
As a result of my intentionality, I was happy, loyal and engaged, overall, with the second company that employed me. After 17 years, I left that wonderful organization to start my own business.
To learn more about the Three Ps, read the next blog post, “Be Intentional – Part Two.”
Juliet Hall is available to speak and present to your organization on OWN YOUR OPPORTUNITIES™. Click here to request Juliet.