In "The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life," Ivanka Trump describes her childhood as the daughter of Donald and Ivana Trump, and her rise in the business world to become a vice president in the Trump Organization.
Trump tells young women how to thrive in uncertainty, focus at work and negotiate with gumption. She also shares advice from today's top female leaders: Arianna Huffington, Cathie Black and Tory Burch.
After reading the excerpt below, head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
Chapter 6 Excerpt
Six Recipes for Success
You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take.
-- Michael Jordan
My experiences coming out of college and entering the workforce were not exactly typical, but they did provide some useful lessons. As a college senior, I remember feeling that I could do no wrong. I was on top of my schoolwork and I had a great setup in a choice apartment. I was finally old enough to go to the best bars in town—and to know the bouncers, thus ensuring entry! Like most of my classmates, I was anxious to get started on the next phase of my life and career, but at the same time I wasn't so sure I wanted this phase to end.
I was firmly committed to the idea of working in the family business, so there wasn't a whole lot for me to think about or worry about as graduation loomed—that is, until my professor sat me down for that all-important career strategy session. Up to that point, I'd just been counting the days until I could begin at the Trump organization. Yet even though I was wired to work and anxious to get started, I don't think I was entirely ready to give up on being a kid. It was an appealing pause point: my school work was essentially done, my next steps were unfolding in front of me, and I was content to soak it all in. For a lot of us, there's a weird stretch of time between college and career when our head is focused in one area and our feet are planted firmly in another, with our heart torn right down the middle. I wasn't alone in this, and I believe you'll find a similar tug-and-pull in place among today's graduating students. A lot of my Wharton pals had great jobs lined up, but quite a few of them didn't, so there was tension and resentment all around. By the spring of my senior year, I had my Forest City Ratner position all set, but I didn't have it in me to breathe any sighs of relief just yet. There were still all those doubts over whether I'd be up to the job.
RECOGNIZE YOUR PASSION
Then, I got an unexpected phone call. It was early in the morning— about eight o'clock, which to a college student is just about the crack of dawn. I'd been up all night studying for my final final exam and had drifted off for an hour or two of much-needed sleep when the phone rang. My first thought was to just let it ring. I didn't feel like talking to anyone just then. I could hardly lift my head off the pillow— it was heavy with sleep and overstuffed with data and insights for my course in advanced real estate investments. But then I realized it might be important, because no one would call a student at eight o'clock in the morning unless it was important.
"Hello," I said, probably sounding groggy and out of it.
"Ivanka, is that you?" said the voice on the other end, a voice I vaguely recognized.
"It is," I said. "Who is this?"
"I'm sorry if I've woken you, Ivanka," the voice said. "It's Anna Wintour. Do you have a few minutes to chat?"
Anna Wintour. The editor of Vogue. An icon to millions of women—and quite a few men, too. Someone I'd known for years through my parents—and, later on, through my work as a model. I thought, why on earth is she calling?
"Of course," I said, trying to shake the tiredness from my voice. "How are you, Anna? It's so nice to hear from you."
Anna explained that she'd heard I was about to graduate but she wasn't calling to offer her congratulations. She was calling to offer me a job. Just like that. She didn't know my plans, but she knew all about my interest in modeling and fashion. "I could only offer you an entry-level position to start," she said, "but if you're serious about fashion it would be a great way to launch your career."
It was an amazing opportunity and an amazing call—a real pinch me! Sort of moment. Even then, I knew full well I would never have gotten such a fantastic offer if my last name hadn't been Trump, but that didn't make it any less thrilling. Anna Wintour had always been one of my heroes—an intelligent, dynamic, sophisticated woman, a true giant in both fashion and publishing. As an aspiring female entrepreneur, I couldn't imagine a better mentor than Anna. She could teach me a lot, no question. There was even a lesson in the fact that she was reaching out to me with the offer of a job. As an executive, I'd soon learn, you're constantly on the lookout for good young talent. you can't sit and wait for interested applicants to come to you looking for work; you have to go looking for them, and Anna must have seen some potential in me during our previous meetings—so it was flattering and illuminating, all at once.
But I'd already accepted the job at Forest City Ratner, and I wasn't about to give up on my lifelong passion of building a career in real estate. It was nice to be wanted, and I suppose there was a time in my life when it would have been a nice prospect to consider, but it wasn't for me.
"Anna," I said, "I'm so, so grateful for your call and for your generous offer, but I'm afraid I can't accept. I've already agreed to take a job with a real estate development company after I graduate. My plan is to work there for a year or so and then join my father. Real estate is my passion."
I'd bumped into a tough spot: how do you turn down a job without burning a bridge you might need at some later date? I was flattered that Anna Wintour had sought me out in this way, but I didn't want to insult her by rejecting her offer. Granted, it wasn't a job I was looking for and it wasn't a job I particularly wanted at that stage in my fledgling career. Moreover, I couldn't see myself ever being in a position where I'd want to switch careers from real estate to fashion. Still, Anna was a good person to have on my side, and I knew enough to treat her offer with respect. So I answered her the only way I could—with complete honesty.
Anna was understanding and graciously wished me luck. She said she'd heard I was leaning toward real estate but thought I might want to give the fashion industry another look. I thanked her again for the call and the thought, we exchanged another few pleasantries, and that was that.
After I hung up, I thought, I didn't see that one coming. Not by a long shot. It was exciting to have someone like Anna Wintour reach out to me about a job. It went straight to my sleepy little head, and I was bursting to tell someone about it. All my friends were asleep, so I called my dad. It was early for me, but it wasn't early for him. He dropped whatever he was doing to take my call.
"You'll never guess who I just got off the phone with," I said, but then I told him before he had a chance to even guess.
When I was finished with my story, he said, "I think you should consider it, Ivanka. Working at Vogue sounds very exciting. Anna's the best in the business. You could learn a lot from her."
For a beat or two, I thought maybe I'd dialed the wrong number. I don't know what I'd been expecting, but I certainly wasn't expecting that. Frankly, I was shocked that my father would encourage me to pursue a career other than real estate. For years, it was all we'd talked about. For years, I'd done everything I could to make sure I was ready to make a real contribution to the family business when I finally graduated and got the opportunity. For years, it had been a kind of given. His take on this out-of-nowhere, entry-level Vogue position took me thoroughly by surprise, and it certainly wasn't a surprise of the good or happy variety. I'd just spent the last two years at Wharton studying finance and real estate. What did my father think I'd been doing all that time? Wasn't he excited at the prospect of me joining his company, even if that prospect was still a few years away? Didn't he think I had what it took to make it as a developer?
I couldn't think how to respond, so I raced off the phone. I still had that final final exam coming up later that morning, and I didn't want to get too distracted by all these unanswered questions. There was enough going on in my head already, and I was determined to end my academic career on a strong note. I tried to go back to sleep, but of course I couldn't. I was too shaken by those two phone calls. Too emotional. Too confused. Too everything.
Over the next few weeks, as graduation loomed, my thoughts kept returning to my father's comment. Actually, they went all the way back to when I was at boarding school, making the argument for pursuing a modeling career. It was a way to make my mark outside my father's considerable sphere of influence, in an industry where his name wouldn't open any doors or lead directly to any opportunities. (In the ultimate irony, he ended up buying a modeling agency . . . but that prospect wasn't on the radar back then.) Any successes I managed to find would be totally on me. If I failed, it would be on me, too. That was appealing to me as a kid—and I realized it was still appealing to me as a young adult. Whatever I did next, after school, I wanted to own it. To earn it. I didn't want anything to be handed to me, and it took hearing what sounded like doubt from my father to get me to question my decision to follow in his footsteps.
At the time, I didn't particularly love the idea of working in fashion, but I was determined to make my way on my own terms, on my own strengths. I went from being completely confident and pumped about my upcoming job to being completely unsure of myself—all on the back of this otherwise positive, affirming phone call from Anna Wintour. To be sure, it wasn't the call itself that left me reeling, it was my father's reaction to it. It was the thought that my ultimate mentor might be trying (not all that subtly!) to tell me to do something else for a living.
One day, just before graduation, I finally brought it up with him again. I wanted to know what the hell he'd been thinking when he said I should consider Anna's offer.
"Please don't doubt my confidence in you, Ivanka," he explained. "I only suggested you think about that job at Vogue because I wanted to see how serious you were about going into real estate. I wanted you to see for yourself how serious you were about it."
"Of course I'm serious about real estate," I said. "I've been fascinated by it since I was a child. You know that as well as anyone. I've taken every chance you've given me to work at the company. Summer jobs, whatever. I've learned everything I can learn without actually being there and living it firsthand. I've been studying it at school . . ." I would have gone on and on, but my father cut me off.
"I'm aware of everything you've done," he said, "and I'm enormously proud of your accomplishments. I just thought we should both be sure that you weren't doing all these things because you felt that was what was expected of you. If real estate isn't the right fit for you, I wanted you to know it was okay with me."
I thought, well, that's a relief. And it was. Here I'd been thinking my father didn't really believe I had what it took to make it in real estate, and all along he'd just been testing my resolve. Beneath that feeling, though, I realized I was also a little pissed that he'd put me through those doubts and worries, but the feeling of relief won out. And it was a relief for him, too, to hear how passionate I was about wanting to work as a developer. As a boss, he wouldn't want me around if I wasn't dead certain about my path. As a father, he wouldn't want me to move forward on that road for the wrong reasons. He wanted his children to have passion for whatever we chose to do. Real estate was his passion, but it didn't have to be ours. As long as we cared about what we were doing, we'd have the focus and determination to get our bearings and then thrive—in any career.
I'd heard my father speak many times about the importance of loving what you do. It was one of the great themes in our house as I was growing up. But now that I was about to graduate from college and take my first real job, his message really hit home. He didn't want to see me spin my wheels in a profession I wasn't passionate about. He believes that when you bring your heart and soul to a job, you can't lose— but when you don't, you'll always lose to someone who does. Bottom line: he believed that if I wasn't prepared to eat, drink, and sleep real estate, I shouldn't enter the field. And it took hearing it from him that one final time, in the context of the unexpected phone call from Anna Wintour, to get me to realize that I believed the very same thing.
STANDING OUT IN A CROWDED FIELD
Just before graduation, many of my classmates worried how to separate themselves from the pack. It was a two-part worry. First, they had to land a job once they got out of school; and second, they had to make an immediate splash once they got the position so that they could get off to a great start and ultimately angle themselves for promotion.
The key to both objectives, I realized then as now, is strong interviewing and interpersonal skills. I can't emphasize this enough. You'll need to call on these skills not only to land a job but to do well once you start working, because the way you carry yourself in meetings, the way you interact with your bosses, the way you collaborate with your new peers will have everything to do with how you're viewed at your place of employment. It's all interviewing, of a kind. It's basic communication. As a (relatively) young woman who now works in upper management, I have a unique, twentysomething perspective on the ways young people go through these particular motions. I'm young enough to remember how tough the interviewing process was for me and for a lot of my friends back in school and fortunate enough to occupy a post where I get to see from a management perspective how recent graduates handle the transition. A lot of candidates don't do such a good job of it, I'm afraid. Now that I'm on the other side of the desk, I've met many applicants who looked impressive on paper but couldn't seem to get out of their own way in an interview. In a competitive business environment where MBAs are fighting over entry-level positions, there's no longer any room to make a poor impression in an interview.
I often find myself sitting across the table from someone very close to my own age. That's a bit unusual, I suppose. I mean, a lot of my friends are still pounding the pavement looking for their dream jobs— actually, in a lousy economy, many of them would settle for any job, at least for the short term. Yet here I am, interviewing other freshly minted graduates on the prowl for dream jobs of their own. I understand how daunting the interview process can seem for a young person just starting out (I get an earful of horror stories from my unemployed girlfriends every week!), but as an executive I can't understand why these otherwise qualified candidates don't spend a little extra time on their presentation skills to give themselves the edge they certainly deserve.
A word of advice: your interview is about you. It's not about the school you went to, what you majored in, what your GPA was, or who your parents happen to be or know. Most of that stuff is right on your résumé, and it might even have gotten you into the room, but it won't get you much farther. Once you land an interview, you must light it up with your knowledge, confidence, and enthusiasm. With you.
Make an effort to surprise the person across the table—not in a shocking, what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-this-person? Sort of way but in a pleasing, gee-that's-a-wonderfully-unexpected-turn! sort of way. Tell that person something he or she might not usually hear and show why you'd be an interesting person to have around the office. Be charming, but be yourself. (That shouldn't be so hard, should it?)
Keep in mind that in addition to evaluating whether you possess the skills and experience needed for the position, interviewers are also assessing whether you are someone they could work with.
Are you agreeable, affable, fun, interesting?
Do you come across as confident, intelligent, capable, curious?
The interview is not just about whether you can do the job but how you might approach it. At some level, you have to think the whether is a foregone conclusion. You wouldn't be having the conversation if you weren't perceived to be qualified. But are you a person this company wants to represent it in a boardroom or in interactions with clients? Will other employees look forward to meeting you in an elevator or by the water cooler? Or will you be a constant drag on their time and energy and patience?
Remember, the person across the table is sizing you up and measuring all these intangibles, so you'd do well to bring the very best aspects of your personality into the room.
Another few words, as long as I'm on it:
Don't be late. This probably falls into the "duh!" category, but you'd be surprised how many people show up five, ten, even thirty minutes late to a job interview. It's unforgivable, really. I've heard all sorts of excuses, and they're just that—excuses. It goes back to the Labor Day dry run I made to the Forest City Ratner offices in Brooklyn. If your interview is at three in the afternoon and you think it will take you a little over an hour to get to the location, leave at one. Give yourself a cushion. You don't want to be stuck in traffic or sitting on a stalled train fifteen minutes before your interview. If you manage to arrive just under the wire, you'll look frazzled—not the best way to start such an important meeting. A nice fringe benefit to this strategy is that arriving early sends a powerful signal that you're organized and grateful for the opportunity, traits every employer seeks in a young hire. Plus, you can use the extra time to get settled. Use the restroom and make sure your hair is combed and your shirt hasn't come untucked. Text a friend. Take a walk around the block and listen to some mellow music on your iPod. Do whatever you can to steady your nerves without drawing any unwanted attention to yourself from potential coworkers.
Keep your résumé handy. It's not enough to have it in your bag or tucked away in a folder. I not-so-secretly hate it when I ask a candidate for a résumé and then have to wait thirty seconds while he or she rummages around in a bag for it. I always think, come on, it can't be a surprise to you that I'm asking for your résumé. It's the one certainty in this whole transaction. If you have only five minutes of someone's time, don't waste one-tenth of it on an unnecessary search. If your bag is a mess and you think there's a chance you might have trouble locating your résumé, place it in a separate 9-×-12-inch envelope beforehand— that way, when you're asked, you'll be able to produce the document in a smooth, confident manner. And whatever you do, don't fold your résumé or crinkle it in any way. Long after your interview has concluded, it'll be the one prompt your interviewer has to remind her of your meeting. Make sure it's a crisp, clean, professional-looking copy that nicely supports the positive impression you hoped to make.
Cover your shortcomings. If your hands are clammy, don't shake hands. If you're worried about your breath, don't stand too close—or, even better, suck on a breath mint before you start the meeting. If you tend to stammer when you get nervous and can't think what to say, write out a few simple declarative sentences about your goals or experiences and commit them to memory. Some people are natural interviewees, while others are overwhelmed and intimidated. If you fall into the latter group, find some ways to bolster your confidence before the interview. Once you get going, it's difficult to regroup from an awkward start. One good way to do this is to actually stage a mock interview with one of your friends, to help you get comfortable. It might seem goofy, but it's just another version of the trial run I wrote about earlier. Also, tell yourself that the person interviewing you was not up at two the night before worrying about this meeting. She didn't leave early to make sure she would be on time. She probably wasn't even thinking about the interview at all until a few minutes before it started. At the same time, remember that she is interested in what you have to say, and concluding that you are indeed the perfect candidate for the job would certainly make her life at work a little easier. Knowing these things should help you to relax and keep the interview in perspective. You might have all the potential in the world, but if you're unable to communicate your abilities confidently and coherently in the alloted time, you won't give the interviewer a reason to hire you.
Dress the part. What you wear will have "first impression" written all over it, so choose wisely and sell the image you want. Personally, I think less of a candidate when he or she is dressed too casually. An interview is a formal process, so dress accordingly. Guys must understand that unless they are applying for a job in professional sports, they should not wear sneakers. For women, it's a mistake to wear flip-flops, tank tops, or short skirts. It doesn't matter how hot it is outside; those pieces are never part of an appropriate interview ensemble. Like it or not, your physical appearance will say an awful lot about you—and you don't want it to say anything awful. Some guidelines:
• For women, I'd recommend a nice dress or suit, with heels or fancy flats. Basic black is always appropriate. Stay away from short hemlines and exposed cleavage. Also, make sure your hair is presentable (no sloppy ponytails!) but not too done up. Any makeup should be light and professional.
• For men, be clean-shaven and well groomed. Wear a suit. A classic charcoal gray, navy blue, or black suit is always a smart choice. Don't try to stand out with noisy pinstripes or wonky colors. Your goal should be to appear subtle and sophisticated, not loud or flashy. In the it-goes-without-saying department, make sure there are no holes in your socks, buttons missing from your shirt, or anything to suggest an unkempt, unpressed appearance. And leave your jewelry at home, other than watches or wedding bands.
• For men and women, your outfit should be appropriate to the setting. Traditional business environments, such as financial institutions, law firms, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies, call for traditional business attire. But if you're interviewing at a public relations firm with a client roster made up of rappers and artists, a sports jacket and a skinny tie might be more fitting. Lean toward formal. You might feel uncomfortable wearing a suit while you're being interviewed by some guy in jeans and sneakers, but at least he'll know that you're serious about the job.
Turn your nose "off." another "duh!" piece of advice, as long as we're paying attention to looks, but candidates need to think about every aspect of their appearance, including their fragrance. I never like it when someone comes into my office smelling like the perfume aisle at the department store. Smell is subjective, and you don't want your perfume or cologne to overwhelm the person across the table. Avoid it. This caution runs to ambient smells as well. our offices are in midtown Manhattan, and I can't tell you how many times a candidate has come into my office reeking of hot dogs, kebobs, onions, or any of the other grease-inspired smells of New York City street vendors. Steer clear.
Do your homework. Learn everything you can about the company before you sit down for your interview. Know its history, its mission, and its competitors, as well as the names of its CEO and top executives. Be able to recognize the company's top products, services, and accomplishments, as well as its disappointments and missteps. If it's a publicly held company, know where its stock closed the night before your interview. Here again, there are no excuses for being ill prepared. These days, almost every company has a web site, and a Google search will turn up dozens of articles about the business. Read them. Learn how the company is structured, so you can talk knowledgeably about where you might fit into the corporate structure.
Have your answers ready. There are several questions that are asked in the majority of interviews. By preparing for these questions in advance, you will be able to provide the answers that best reflect you, rather than grabbing at the first thing that pops into your mind.
• What skills can you bring to this organization?
• What inspires you about this field/profession?
• What are your short-term and long-term aspirations?
• Can you share a time when you were confronted with a personal or professional crisis and how you handled it?
• What was the last book you read?
• What newspapers or magazines do you read? What web sites do you visit frequently?
• What kinds of things do you like to do when you're not working?
• Can you give an example of a time when you assumed a leadership role?
Have your questions ready, too. Just before the end of your meeting, you'll be asked if you have any questions about the job or the company. Count on this. It comes up at the end of virtually every job interview, yet I'm stunned by the number of times I've gotten a feeble response like "no, I can't think of anything." I almost always scratch that person off my list immediately, because I can't imagine how a person would let such a no-brainer opportunity slip away. They know the question is coming, right? That's why I tell people to be armed with at least one thoughtful question going into each interview, even if she or he already knows the answer. The question doesn't have to be too complex or revealing, but it should demonstrate that you have a basic understanding of the dynamics of the firm. That said, be sure to avoid asking questions relating to the company's retirement plan, vacation policy, or dress code. Asking about these things in a preliminary interview will make it appear that you're more interested in the benefits than the job itself. Wait until you get the job to pursue this line.
Some additional pointers:
• Decline any offers for tea or coffee before your interview. You don't want to be juggling hot liquid, a purse, and a résumé when your prospective boss reaches out to shake your hand. (Plus, if you drink too much coffee, you might have to suffer through the interview in discomfort, or excuse yourself midmeeting to use the restroom—not the best move if you can avoid it.)
• Leave your coat and any excess baggage with the receptionist, if possible. Carrying all that stuff with you into the meeting will make you appear disorganized.
• Avoid using qualifiers such as like, maybe, you know . . . and ugh! They tend to make employers cringe. (At least, they tend to make me cringe.)
• Don't make the interviewer do all the work. Ideally, I like it when a candidate does about 80 percent of the talking to my 20 percent. If I have to carry any more of the conversation, I start to think I'll always have to be drawing information out of this person.
• Be mindful of the interviewer's time. Even if things are going well, don't overstay your welcome by continuing to chat. Of course, you don't want to keep looking at your watch or putting it out that you have someplace else to be, but you can often get a good read on this with a simple statement such as "you must be terribly busy. I don't want to take up too much of your afternoon."
• Be sure to thank your interviewer for the opportunity, whether or not the meeting went well. And remember, a follow-up thank-you note is always appropriate.
Make a good final impression. If you ace your interview and you're offered the job on the spot (yes, it happens!), don't feel pressured to give an answer right away. It's okay to sleep on it. Some people worry that saying that they need time to consider an offer will signal a lack of conviction. But as an employer, when someone tells me he needs to think about an offer, it makes me think he has other options. If I'm really impressed with the candidate, I might even improve my proposal if I'm told that the uncertainty has something to do with a competing offer by another firm. If this is indeed the case, be sure to say so—and to express your excitement and appreciation. Promise to get back quickly with an answer. What I would not recommend, however, is asking for time to consult with your spouse. I'm sorry, but in my book that's a weak answer. Unless you're talking about a job that will require you to relocate and uproot your family, don't let it appear that you're putting the decision on someone else. If you just want some time to think about it, just say so. But never give the impression that you don't make your own decisions.
FINDING A FIT
I was lucky when I graduated from college, enormously so. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do and how to accomplish it. I also had an edge: there's no denying that my family name, first-class education, and top-tier contacts gave me a bit of a leg up—a "Trump" card, if you will—but I'm also a firm believer in making your own luck and making the most of your opportunities. Remember, that card will get you somewhere only if you play it to your advantage.
These days, I know a lot of newly minted college graduates and recently unemployed young professionals who feel compelled to go out on as many job interviews as possible, even for jobs outside their areas of expertise. (This can sometimes work, provided the jobs are within an area of interest—because if you don't quite know what you're doing and you don't quite love what you're doing, you won't get very far.) In any case, they're doing what they can to make their own luck or maybe to turn a string of misfortunes in a more positive direction. I applaud their initiative. After all, if you need a job, you're smart to go where they're hiring. However, if you're looking for a position that might not seem like an obvious fit, it's up to you to explain how you can match your skills to the job at hand. Don't expect the interviewer to make the connection or the extra effort.
Most of us never get to be on the receiving end of the kind of call I received from Anna Wintour back in college.
There, the tables were turned a little. Anna was asking me to consider a position that was a bit outside my wheelhouse, so I didn't have to sell myself or make her see how I might adapt to a new situation. She was coming to me because she already believed in my abilities. But that's not how it usually goes, and it's unrealistic to expect an unlikely job to come looking for you. It might happen from time to time, but you can't expect time to time to come around on your calendar when you really need it to.
For the most part, it'll fall to you to go looking for that unlikely job—which just might turn out to be the career you were meant to have all along. But you'll never know it unless you're able to build a persuasive argument in favor of your being hired. That takes some doing. Over the years, I've had several opportunities to interview candidates who had been highly recommended by trusted friends and associates, who nevertheless turned up at my office with no set of qualifications matched to the position I was trying to fill. I see it more and more as the job market tightens and so many experienced people are out of work. But I take this as a positive, as far as management is concerned—an opportunity to discover a wellspring of talent from outside the usual real estate development circles. It's not a deal breaker for me if a candidate hasn't worked in real estate, because I believe in hiring people with diverse professional backgrounds and giving them a chance to prove themselves. What will sink a candidate's chances, however, is when she doesn't make any effort to create a bridge between what she's done and how that experience might benefit the Trump organization. If she leaves it up to me to connect the dots for her, she's a nonstarter.
I once interviewed a candidate with a strong background in telecommunications. A friend I respected had called to recommend that I meet with this person about an opening. The candidate was extremely articulate and had worked on some important projects at his old firm. His résumé was impressive. Yet as we spoke, I couldn't figure out why he was applying for a job with the Trump organization. Our core business didn't seem to match any of his experiences or his interests. I'd known as much going into our meeting, of course, but I'd thought our conversation might give this guy a chance to connect some of the dots for me and illustrate a real passion and zeal for the work being done at my company.
I finally said, "I don't doubt you're a highly intelligent, highly capable person, but how do you see yourself fitting in here?"
"Well," the candidate said, "what I'm looking for is a new opportunity more than anything else."
It might have been an honest answer, but it was vague and open-ended. And it certainly didn't do the trick. I heard the candidate's response as a lack of vision, an inability or unwillingness to articulate how his particular areas of expertise or aspects of character might turn out to be assets for our company. It signaled that he hadn't taken the time to research the opportunities at the Trump organization and indicated a general laziness on his part. Basically, he just wanted a job— any job—and ultimately the negative impression he made with that one answer outweighed all the positive ones he had made up to that point. In the end, I had to tell him that I couldn't see the correlation between his interests and the kind of work we were doing.
The lesson here is that it's okay to be bold and brave and turn your goals in an entirely new direction, but you can't simply hang out your shingle and announce that you're available and want to be hired. That kind of strategy especially doesn't cut it in a contracting job market. You have to be willing to adapt, learn, grow—and you have to demonstrate that willingness at every turn. Be bold, but be flexible. Be brave, but not in a reckless or cavalier way. And reimagine your career goals if you must, or even if you wish, but do so proactively, not reactively. Acknowledge that it might be a risk to hire you, if you have no relevant experience, but suggest how your background can be retrofitted in such a way as to accommodate a change of scenery. And promise that you'll work harder than anybody else if given the chance.
I find it so refreshing when I meet potential new hires and hear them talk about where and how they see themselves fitting in at the Trump organization. It might not be how I see them fitting in, but I like that they've taken the time to recognize a path and that they've seen something about our organization that inspires them.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about pursuing my professional opportunities was just to relax. Chill. Don't go rushing after your career, because you might look up one day and realize you've been going through the motions on a misplaced passion. Your postcollege years should be an exploratory time in your professional life. From your early twenties and on into your early thirties, you should feel free to explore your professional prospects. Keep an open mind, and don't expect to get everything right straight out of the gate. Be prepared to start over once or twice. Learn to find excitement in the new opportunities that present themselves instead of bemoaning the things that didn't quite work out for you on your previous course.
Ask yourself if you're in the right job and in the right field. And don't just ask once and set off on a blindly focused journey. Revisit the question even if things are going great. When you're starting out, the right job is the one that's going to teach you the most over the next few years, the one that will expose you to the best, most creative visionaries in your field. If it happens to pay well and offer great opportunities for advancement, so much the better.
But you might find yourself considering a low-paying gig with a glass ceiling if it meets some of your other requirements for personal growth and development. For most young professionals, the focus should be on positioning. You want your first job to set up your next one.
Keep in mind, there are no black-and-white answers here. A lot of these issues and concerns will present themselves in shades of gray. It'll be obvious to you when a job or career path isn't working out, just as it will be obvious when you find yourself in exactly the right place. It's that great gray middle zone that will give you the most trouble, in terms of both identifying your dilemma and figuring a way out of it. You don't want to be punching the clock on a career you don't love, at least not while you're young enough to do something about it. The idea is to put yourself into a position to learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can, and to be nimble enough to regroup.
There's an oft-quoted line that's seeped into the culture over the past few generations: "Focus on the journey, not the destination." It comes from an author named Greg Anderson, the founder of the American Wellness Project, and I hear versions of this sentiment all the time. I even found it in a fortune cookie—but I'm afraid there are some pieces missing in this message for aspiring young entrepreneurs. In business, I believe that if you focus only on the journey, you'll miss the whole point of the enterprise. There has to be a goal, an end game of some kind; otherwise you're just spinning your wheels. Yes, the journey is important, but the destination is important, too. For my money, it's where you're going and how you plan to get there that count. And if you're able to fit yourself in along the way, you'll have things covered on both ends.