By Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO.

My oldest daughter is in her final year at the University of Alabama – ROLL TIDE! She flew home this past weekend to attend a wedding as a bridesmaid and a few things struck me. Although she asked me to pick her up at the airport and to drive her back to the airport tonight, she said nothing about the flight in advance. No questions she needed to ask. She opted to stay at a hotel Saturday night vs. coming back home, probably a wise decision. We also recently moved our family home so this was her first time back “home” since the move and she was quite unemotional about it, very content in fact. It’s always great talking to her and gaining an understanding of her outlook on life and we talked a little bit about her future. Actually, I mostly listened. She was talking about graduating and where she might live, what’s important to her, criteria she’ll use to make her decision. It was all quite reasonable and made sense. She is a competent young woman fully prepared to develop strategies, narrow down decisions, take action, and continue to evaluate what is best for her in general. I feel like I’ve done a good job raising her and now she frankly doesn’t need me in the same ways she once did. She’s out of the nest.

Ok, ok, this isn’t the first young person to go away to school, find themselves, and develop into a true adult. Caterpillars become butterflies all the time, and growing up and moving on is a rite of passage most people experience. That said, it got me thinking about the development we all go through as we navigate our careers as well as leading others. 

In leadership in macro, we develop young professionals into competent producers who need less hand-holding and ultimately grow into leaders themselves, often surpassing the trainers. You can look at this in society and professional advancements in general, where the next generation is able to accomplish more due to ongoing improvements, efficiencies, strengths, and evolutions. We see it most obviously in technologies, however it’s also rooted in individual competencies. Parents raise their kids to be competent well-adjusted adults able to be accountable for true responsibilities. 

From a career navigation perspective, we go to college with the idea that our primary field of study will determine our future career, however 4 out of 5 people work in a vocation outside of their undergraduate “major”. Why can’t a philosophy major get into investment banking or an engineering student ultimately lead sales organizations or a B student from a state college go on to be CEO of a F500? It’s really about being intelligent coupled with determination where professional skills can be learned and fine tuned into excellence and progression. It takes grit. Fast forward to your current professional outlook. You’re already “experienced”, you’ve already had some real wins in your career, made some money (maybe a lot!), and yet you might still be wondering if there’s something more, something different for you to pursue. Something intellectually stimulating, something even more lucrative or altruistic, or maybe something to add to or bolster what you’ve been doing for a long time. So what is it? What does that look like? How can you do it? Why can’t you do it? What is holding you back? Are there viable challenges that truly can’t be overcome or is it really just doubt and negative self-talk rationalizing why you can’t pursue it? I can’t dunk a basketball on a 10 foot rim so that objective isn’t viable, but why can’t I leverage my professional skills in tangential or altogether different capacities? At age 24, an entrepreneurial friend of mine evangelized a PR company into a successful services company and at age 44 transformed that same agency into a legitimate B2B software company. I’m sure it was incredibly difficult and takes a lot of guts to transition away from something one knows works. It takes grit. Remember when Tom Hanks left the island on his makeshift raft in Castaway? Ok, I know, a little dramatic, but he left something familiar and safe to pursue more than just surviving. I think that’s a lesson we can all appreciate at different points in our lives. 

I’m not sure where you are in your life and career as you read this stream of consciousness ramble of mine, but if a student can ultimately become CEO of a wildly successful company, then why can’t you take what you know right now and leverage that into something amazing too? Don’t say “I can’t make this happen”, rather ask “how can I make this happen?”. You already have the knowledge as a senior professional so why not use that for the basis of something additive or altogether new. 

Why not now? Why not you?