I was running late in wrapping up a meeting before my next one. I was meeting with a young IT staff member whose manager had encouraged him to get time on my calendar for career advice. We had a great half-hour chat about his future goals. I introduced him to the next person patiently waiting to meet with me — the manager for telehealth — a young man who was relatively new to his position. I figured they should know each other.
The telehealth manager walked into my office after the intro and said, “So you’re shaping young minds.” “Absolutely!” I replied.
I have adult children, and so I realize how valuable this type of access and advice can be. I saw some of the challenges my daughters faced when they graduated from college and started to navigate and grow their careers. I asked myself, “why not be available to their generation?” After all, each of us can probably remember someone who helped us early in our careers. So I concluded it was time for me to give back; I made a commitment to help develop the next generation of leaders.
Even though I have had a full schedule as a CIO, I have been willing to take short calls and meetings with anyone who wants to talk about their career and get advice from me. They may be staff members in my IT department or in other departments. They may be students who work in my organization and need to interview the CIO for a class assignment. Or they may be someone to whom a colleague has suggested that I’d be a good person to meet. Many such referrals are for young women who want to learn from me as a female executive in IT. There aren’t that many of us yet in health IT, but the numbers are definitely going in the right direction.
When we meet, I listen a lot. What is their work experience and education? What are their goals? What motivates them? What choices are they struggling with? Are they considering getting an advanced degree? Are they trying to balance family and work? I usually share a few stories of my own experience that relate to what I’ve heard.
If they are in their twenties or still in college, I remind them that they don’t have to decide the rest of their career at this point. Who knows what kind of opportunities there will be 10 years from now. Just look back 10 years; many of today’s jobs didn’t exist then. Especially in technology!
If they are in their thirties, I emphasize patience and being open to possibilities. They may not be at the level they want to be, but if they are making steady progress and demonstrating value to their organization, the next step will come in time.
I encourage them to find role models and someone who could be a mentor for them. I encourage them to develop inner self confidence and to network like crazy. And most importantly, to follow their passion. You need to love the work you do if you’re going to be happy.
As my next chapter unfolds, I hope to do a lot more coaching work with leaders to help them build their capability to achieve their goals and maximum potential. And I’ve got some ideas on how to provide a viable and affordable option for young people early in their careers. Stay tuned!