I enjoy listening to Josh Groban and one of the songs he sings is entitled “Don’t Give Up.” To me, this song is uplifting. In this economic climate it would seem like a good mantra to chant and, in fact, I sing this song in my head when the pressures of the world mount. And for many of us, those pressures can come from being in transition, the uncertainty of whether your current job or career will be eliminated or downgraded, or the uncertainty of the new contract or consulting assignment that you were expecting. Don’t despair.
I was thinking a lot about my friends and colleagues in transition (or soon to be in transition) this weekend and therefore dedicate this blog to them, especially those who are 55 and older. I have a new hero. His name is Michael Mancuso and he is the CFO for Computer Science Corporation. I don’t know Michael at all yet through his efforts and hard work, he was able to help CSC beat the analyst views ….. by 34 cents!!!! That is nearly a 60% betterment of what the analysts expected.
Several things strike me. First, he is an excellent leader that was able to get these results by discipline and hard work. He is humble, giving credit to his team that was in place prior to his joining CSC late last year, right after the economy tanked. Third, he is 66 years young. And this combination of things makes Michael my hero. You can read his Q&A with IBD in Investor’s Business Daily at http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=502848.
What kind of lessons can we learn from Michael and CSC and which can be applied to business in general and to executives in transition specifically. First, no matter how many people say that age discrimination should not exist in today’s market and 60 is the new 40, don’t believe it. Age discrimination exists, right or wrong. So to ensure you don’t ensnared by this, network with people and take the age factor off the table. Just remember, Michael Mancuso got his job because he knew the CEO and the CEO knew what Michael could do for CSC. To make sure you network well, go to functions that are in your domain area as well as others that are tangentially related. I live in SoCal and spend a lot of time in San Diego. Some of my friends from TechCoastAngels in San Diego feel I spend more time down there than in Orange County because they have so many great events in San Diego for a techie. In the next month there will be meetings with the San Diego Venture Group and soon after that will be meetings at the West Institute which focuses on wireless and healthcare. That supplements some of the meetings in LA and in Orange County such as Tech Biz Connection, Octane and AEA. The point is, you have to get out and talk with people and make yourself known. And through this process you can establish trust and build a relationship.
The second thing that is probably not as well known but can be useful in meeting new people but also giving back is under the general category of “mentoring.” There are formal mentoring programs through the universities that would love to have experienced executives work with the younger and next generation of business leaders. I, for one, am involved with the UC Irvine Paul Merage Graduate School of Business mentoring program and am enjoying mentoring an IT manager. Not only is it a great way to help others, but I feel great by participating because I know that I can contribute and my advice and counsel are well received. During times of transition, it is nice to have the ability to look at yourself and feel that you are important and believe you have lots to offer. When you feel good about contributing to helping others, you feel better about yourself and I can guarantee that there will be an extra spring in your step – so to speak.
And if you cannot or don’t want to mentor 1:1, you can always join a charity or volunteer group to help out as part of a committee or on the board. Volunteer groups are always looking for results oriented people that can make a difference. Consider groups such as Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Club or Big Brothers and Big Sisters, or the local zoo, or the animal shelter, or hundreds of other groups that need help. The sense of pride and accomplishment and knowing you make a difference gives you positive energy and people want to be around those that exude such energy. And you may find your next opportunity comes from one of these affiliations.
What is the great take away from this? You have an opportunity to control your own personal destiny. You can give back and that positive energy will be infectious and people will feel that energy. There are things that you control and things outside your control. Giving back through mentoring and volunteering enables you to take control of this part of your life. Add to volunteering, and active networking plan to build relationships with people for now and the future. And don’t forget the role models that are out there, like Michael Mancuso and others who through relationships built over time have been given an opportunity to make a difference regardless of age and who succeeded.