Quick Navigation


College of Business Alumni

Career Success for Alumni -
Discovering Yourself is Key and Music May be the Path
Contributor: Cassandra Young

I sat down with Jeff Carroll, Director of Leadership Development in our Accountancy Department, to discuss Student Career Success and how alumni can benefit. Many of the things he shares with Accountancy graduate students in the classroom transfer over to anyone looking for a job. Whether it's your first job out of school or your third career change, Carroll takes a simple and unique approach to career success.

Q [Young]: What do you think the biggest problem is today in not developing career success?

A [Carroll]: I think there's a lot of career illiteracy out there. People have a tendency to "drift" into their jobs by accident with any real strategy. Job seekers who are the most successful get (re)engaged and take charge of their career. We need to radically change the way we think about our careers in the 21st century. Today, our careers need to be our business. Stated in a different way, it is "Me, Inc." and we need to invest in our careers in intentional ways so they will grow in value. The first step any job seeker needs to do is to (re)discover their brand.

Q: What do you mean?

A: First, you have to ask yourself: Who am I? What's my value proposition in the marketplace? Then, you need to be able to articulate it clearly...in plain understandable English and not a smattering of acronyms. How do you want to be perceived by others? What can you offer that people want to buy? Today, companies — regardless of their size or industry — don't buy "titles." Rather, they want to invest in people who can solve problems and/or create solutions leveraging their unique brand. As a fellow radio co-host once said, "You might have to go on a personal recognizance mission!"

For example, let's say you want to start your own photography business because of your skill to take wonderful pictures; however, you realize you have poor accounting skills and a weak business sense. You need to acknowledge that about yourself so you can make some sound career decisions. Based on this insight, you may consider opting for teaching photography or becoming a staff member in someone else's studio in the short run to learn these other aspects of running a business and then launch your own photography business. Or, given the trade-offs, maybe you are perfectly content in working for someone else. There is no right or wrong here, it just a matter of fit.

Q: How do you find out more about yourself?

A: One of the ways I help others discover themselves is through the energy and lyrics of music. Think of some of your favorite songs and jot down the lines that really speak to you. Why are the lyrics impactful? What resonates with your personality or your career journey to date? What thoughts or images come to mind as you listen and reflect? Now, write it down! Give it a try and you'll be amazed at the insights. For example, in the song "Lyin' Eyes" by The Eagles, there is a line that says, "every form of refuge has a price" which is pretty profound and relevant to all careerists in this marketplace.

Q: What about those who are changing careers?

A: Over 80% of professionals have experienced "being-in-transition" since the early 1980's. I know many have wished they could have avoided it, but for most it provided time to take a career inventory of their strengths, passions, skills and accomplishments. Once that is done, individuals are in a much better position see how they might "pivot" their career into a new area, organization or industry. The key here is to really understand the totality of your brand and how you might leverage that in different ways- both traditional and non-traditional. A career revival process with individuals wanting to change careers is: get real, get ready, get rockin', get rollin', get goin'.

Q: Once you find out "who you are," what's the next step?

A: Ask yourself the next two questions: Where do I want to go? And how do I get there? Again, not easy questions but ones you really need to answer. In many ways, this is the logical next step for you as a careerist. Just like the brand manager has to figure out what markets her new product will sell best in, you are tasked with the same challenge. Once you know your personal brand ask who in the marketplace or in your organization is going to be most attracted to it. You see, not everyone in the marketplace is going to be excited about your brand and some might be even be "turned-off" by it. But that's OK - your task is to find the right fit — so don't take it personally. Here is a quote from Dick Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? "In a job search, you will meet two types of people. Those who are interested in you and those who are not interested in you. Your challenge is that when you meet the people who are NOT interested in you; find out from them the names of people who might be interested in you." Very wise and very practical.

Q: How Do I Get There?

A: This is the toughest challenge and where many careerists of all ages make the mistake of spending most of their time (giving too little thought to the two previous questions). The result, many times, is being consumed with a lot of activity and little progress. Resumes, interviews, networking, and referrals are all important and need to be done. But, without a well thought-out career strategy (which is an outcome of the two previous questions), you probably won't find what you are looking for and will run the risk of repeating some of the same mistakes that brought you to the place you are now.

As we all know, a business that doesn't have a business strategy or plan and just focuses on the operational and transactional details will soon find itself out of business. A well thought-out business strategy — no matter how short or long — provides a compass that allows a business to grow and prosper. Most importantly, it gives the business the courage to say "No" to opportunities that are not a good fit regardless of how tempting. For us, a career strategy that effectively matches our brand with the right organization(s) will help us to know when to say "Yes" and when to say "No" to opportunities that come our way!

For more information, go to Jeff's blog at: careerrevivaltour.tumblr.com/

You can contact Jeff at: jeffcarroll16@gmail.com