by Lou Russell

October 15, 2011

Sage Advice from My Brother Chris

My brother is an executive, father, serious runner, and the writer in the family. You can follow him at:
This is good advice for new hires of any kind, and old hires who really would like to keep their jobs:
Here are his words:

Advice to graduates

When I was speaking with my student-helper-editor Sabrina she turned the tables on me and asked me what my top three recommendations would be for new graduates.

The first thing I’ve noticed is that companies tend to have the same personality as their chief executives. If the guy or lady in charge is someone you could respect, who you could trust then the company culture is probably something you can thrive in.

That being said, most of the folks who start new companies are kind of crazy. If you choose to work for a start-up you’re going to have to gauge your own tolerance for ‘crazy’. Sometimes crazy can be good. At risk, there is a great opportunity – but you have to go in with your eyes open.

The second thing I would say is it’s always better to work for a company that is doing well in an industry that is growing. There’s more opportunity and more money in healthy industries. There’s no money or future in buggy whips. Also look for industries that have decent profit margins – people who have to argue over pennies are always in a bad mood.

The third thing I would say is to approach your career as if you are training for the CEO’s job. What are the skill sets that the owner of the company has to have? Make a list of these. You’ll find that they aren’t the specific technical skills. They are things like sales, marketing, hiring, personnel development, presentation skills, communication skills, etc.

You should approach your career in such a way that you can gain these skills. These are the skills that will keep you from becoming a commodity. These are the transferrable, transportable skills. Don’t get stuck in a technical skillset because eventually, unless it is incredibly esoteric, you will be at risk.

Finally, overall, have a good sense of humor about all this stuff. Approach the process with a smile and ask good questions. Being able to stay positive and happy is your choice. As hard as it is to believe your personal value, your mental well-being is what you decide it should be and is not contingent on what you do for work. Most people have a hard time decoupling their selves from their careers. That’s a bedrock skill.

Lou Russell

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