Starting one’s career in the mailroom may sound daunting to a young university graduate, but it is the foundation upon which great empires can and have been built.
With such strong emphasis on the importance of a university education, many young people today are under the impression that a degree will land them in a position a little closer to the top. I can’t blame them! After all, he or she has obtained tremendous skills, such as discipline, research and critical thinking but that’s only the beginning!
Any successful executive will tell you that the workplace provides its own education, where you discover things don’t always go as they do in textbooks and you must learn how to maneuver through an ever-changing, imperfect world to achieve results. This takes street smarts, emotional intelligence, instinct, and passion; all the stuff that can’t be learned in a classroom. More importantly, I believe these abilities are necessary to move careers forward and that by starting at the bottom, you allow yourself the time needed to build these skills.
In my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many successful leaders, such as a former CEO of Coca-Cola Beverages, who began his career delivering Coke in South Africa; or former President of McIntyre and Dodd Marketing, who started out selling Weetabix door to door in the U.K. They learned from the ground up and just like so many other leaders, they followed their gut, fueled their passion and used their street smarts to make change, take action, and build a business empire. That is what set them apart.
So my advice to new graduates is to embrace the value of starting at the bottom. Trust that an entry level job can take you places you never imaged and that half the fun is getting there. Not only will you get the opportunity to contribute, you will be given the time you need to observe, learn from others, meet new people, begin to trust your gut, and find your passion.
With that and your degree – you will go far.
As for me, I’m doing it backwards – I started my career with instincts, passion, and street smarts – I will end it with my degree in hand.