Monday, June 21, 2010

Your Career and You: "Stuff Happens"...Learn from It!

After watching my neighbor set fire to his balcony yesterday and cutting my lip while shaving this morning, I have become acutely aware that "stuff happens."

Just ask BP's Tony Hayward. All he wanted was "his life back," so he decided to go play with his sailboat while the oil continued to gush into the Gulf. Kind of like Nero sitting on the hill with his fiddle basking in the warmth of the fire's glow.

There are lessons to be learned from this (Yeah, I'm a's all about "lessons."). Unfortunately, though, we're all humans, and we make mistakes. What distinguishes us from some...not all...other species is our ability to learn from those mistakes.

Part of that learning comes through our elders as well as our peers, to those with more professional experience, to those who have "been there."

One of the fun things about teaching at both Curry College (undergrad Communication... Public Relations) and Regis College (graduate Communications) is the opportunity to share my own experiences and to hear about and learn from the experiences of others.

Not a semester goes by that I don't come away with something new to add to my knowledge base. And it doesn't matter the academic level...entering Freshman or Master's candidate...someone always has experienced something that I have never encountered. I listen to his or her story, and I learn.

This doesn't guarantee that I won't royally mess up the works somewhere down the road; but it does ensure that stored away in my memory banks will be the "lesson" I learned from someone else on how to straighten out the mess I made.

The leadership of BP appear to have chosen to ignore the advice of those who know (or "sense") better how to behave in a crisis, and the result is non-stop negative coverage.

But this isn't the only recent, or relatively recent, example...can we all chant: "Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, Madoff...Exxon-Valdez"? And a gazillion others whose leaders chose to ignore advice and counsel?

Sadly, these "leaders" will always be with us. So what do you do as you prepare to set out on your journey upwards in your chosen career field?

Quoth the Teacher: "Do your homework. Stay current on industry activities...and know the history of your industry. And be willing to speak up if you see an action being taken that, based on your knowledge, has led in the past to a crisis or calamity that might have been avoided."

"Stuff happens," and there's absolutely no guarantee that your caution will be heeded. But, at the very least, you can say to yourself, "I spoke up. I gave my best advice and counsel."

And from this, you will learn.

"The chess board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But we also know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance." - Thomas Henry Huxley, "A Liberal Education" [1868]

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