Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak to a class of soon-to-be-graduating engineers on business basics – corporate forms, organizational structures, basic debt & equity financing, etc. – to help them get on their feet more quickly in their new jobs. After walking through the important but somewhat mundane technical aspects of the subject – what is EBITDA, what do C-level types do, what is a product lifecycle, etc. – we talked about current trends in the market: Sustainability, Leapfrogging, Social Entrepreneurship, and the great opportunities that are now being generated.
These students, whether as practicing engineers or in other professional roles, can very soon after graduation play significant parts in shaping these opportunities into products, companies, and markets. A very exciting time indeed for these young people! However, as with any significant life transition, contemplating this journey also surfaced some trepidation among the students, as they realized how much practical knowledge they yet have to learn.
Ultimately, wisdom will come to them over time like it does to all of us – through trial & error – so the best I could do was to offer some behavioral guidance. I presented these tips & tricks in contrasting themes, as it highlights the balancing act we all undergo in making our daily choices:
• Be a Team Player/Advance Your Interests
• Aggressively Pursue Your Goals/Be Professional
• Be Confident & Assertive/Know Your Limits and Seek Knowledge & Wisdom
• Work Hard/Take Care of Yourself
• Be Passionate/Maintain Control of Your Emotions
• Use Your Time Wisely/Expand Your Network & Explore New Ideas
• Keep Your Options Open/Become an Authority
• Maintain a Work-Life Balance/Use Your Platform for Good
The last one, of course, is my favorite. One of the best (and most overlooked) aspects of a job is that it gives you a platform. Each day, in addition to completing your assigned tasks, you have opportunities to use the resources you have at hand, the work you are performing, and the connections you are making with others to do some good. At the end of your career, the time you spent grinding on the Next Big Deal, climbing the next rung on the corporate ladder, navigating the petty office politics, etc., won’t matter (hopefully it won’t even register in your memory).
Rather, the efforts you made for the betterment of your teammates, your employees, your company, your market, your community, and the world at large should stand out. Regardless of your level of authority and responsibility, you have a platform. Use what you have, contribute what you can, and participate in the relentless advancement of society in an engaged, positive way.
Thanks as always for reading. Take care.