Here I sit in my hotel room trying to catch-up on work, while 23 of my first year Supply Chain and Global Management Academy students are busy finalizing work on weeklong intensive projects to be delivered to various groups across Fedex. One of the things I’ve been trying desperately to do during this week away from the office is come up with a meaningful blog post aimed at the career discovery process. Then it hit me when one of the key senior managers for FedEx kicked off our week in this way – he said something like: I’m going to keep my remarks short this morning, so you can get to the projects… I want you to take advantage of this opportunity, not just for the technical project learning, but also the learning you'll get from observing others. You have an opportunity to see people in action and make a decision: I want to be like them or I don’t; no matter which decision you make, you’ve learned something about yourself.
I’m going to follow suit and keep my remarks short.
Partnering with my student team and watching other teams work, it occurred to me that a big part of what gets in the way of successful career management is our inherent ability to focus deeply on a task. I saw individuals and teams focus intently on identifying the specifics of the project – the ROI, KPIs, NPV, and more – yet many missed a great opportunity to get to know the company, FedEx, who was just named Fortune’s 8th most admired company. The students were so focused on getting the work done, that there was little to no opportunity to take in the FedEx culture. I use this example not to criticize the students, rather to illustrate a point – we can each get so wrapped up in the task or event of our focus, whether it is a company project, a class, or an unrelenting interest in a particular company, that we miss what is right in front of us. Like that time you opened your laptop when it wasn't your "turn" in the big meeting or when you focused on your studies at the peril of your networking opportunities. When we focus only on our current objective, we often miss the opportunity to open our minds to the possibilities that often present when we are least expecting them.
I put forth a challenge – take advantage of each opportunity not just for what you signed-up for – a class, a trip, a project – but take each as a way to explore you likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. Then, use this information to help shape your decisions in the future. Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to not only work with my students, but also get to know a great company. While I'm sure I didn't take advantage of every opportunity, I definitely learned from those around me...