Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Career Advice

The first time I was unemployed, Gumpy advised me to go right down to General Motors headquarters and apply for a job because they are always hiring college educated people.  Mind you, this was in 1999 where only an advanced degree in engineering or business would get you in the door.  My degree in Political Science just did not seem to prepare me for anything.  He was pretty insistent on this, which perplexed me until I realized that when he was my age, his advise would have been very accurate.

Although his answer to my dilemma seemed out of touch, his intent was pure.  He just wanted to see me succeed in whatever I chose to do with my career.  In fact, he wanted that for all of his kids and grandkids.  That is why he was so insistent on me learning to play golf.  When he was the General Secretary Treasurer for the Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks; this is how he saw business executives get ahead and he wanted to give me the best opportunity.  In the economy we now face, this piece of advise seems a bit dated too.

What he did not realize was that he had been teaching me all along one of the most important tools for succeeding in life.  Getting along with all types of people from all types of backgrounds was a strength of his.  He excelled at making the people he talked with feel like they were the most important person in the room.  It was this advise, received because of his unconscious competence in this area, that I heard loud and clear.  I have tried to emulate his success and it has served me very well.

I think the best example of his ability came after his memorial service.  A few weeks after the service, Ema started giving his clothing away.  His fight with cancer had been an ugly three year ordeal and I am sure she wanted to distance herself from the ugliness as quickly as possible.  After the family had the opportunity to take a few articles of clothing we selected, she started giving things to friends of his around Vermontville.

One gentleman in particular was very grateful.  He is a very proud man, worked very hard and lived a rather hard life.  He did not have a good relationship with his kids.  His wife was not doing well in her fight with cancer either.  Yet, he showed an uncharacteristic amount of generosity toward my grandparents.  Especially after Gumpy's cancer diagnosis.

Ema decided to take a few of Gumpy's neckties to him even though she was not sure if he would ever wear one.  He became pretty emotional while she was there and talked for quite a while about Gumpy.  It seems that he never felt like many people in town really liked him but Gumpy always had time to talk with him.  Gumpy made him feel important, so he felt like he needed to help when the chips were down for Gumpy.  He was truly grateful for Ema's gesture and grateful for Gumpy's friendship.

I titled this post career advise because all the advise Gumpy gave me for my career were usually a generation or two old for the job marketplace I was facing.  The advise he gave unconsciously through his actions spoke the loudest and has been the key to the modicum of success I have achieved.