Starting Early — Setting Up for Success

On vacation last week, I had to start early in the day to get my run in and avoid the extreme heat.   I woke at 6am and got to watch the sunrise over the ocean as I ran on the secluded beach.  Hmm, starting early certainly has benefits! 2014-07-26 06.35.15 In the quiet of the morning,  I followed my own advice (from last month’s blog entry) and did some reflection before anyone else woke up.  I read an intriguing blog about how people ask great questions in exit interviews  and how, at that point, it’s a bit too late.   The author was suggesting that managers would be more effective starting earlier …  if they conducted more “stay interviews,” they would be able to act on issues and make corrections before losing an employee. Stay interviews can help you understand what motivates employees and keeps them invested in the firm.   Don’t wait until your valued employees are out the door to ask them what’s wrong.  Seems obvious, but somehow we tend to get caught up in the urgency of the day-to-day business that we neglect our most precious resources.

I also read an article from PBS’ Next Avenue about how to recover from getting a late start in saving for retirement.  I remembered, with gratitude, the sage of advice I received  from a friend’s father about saving for retirement.  He showed us a chart (similar to this retirement fund growth calculator) illustrating how putting $500 a month starting at age 25 would grow to $1,000,000 by the time we were 65.  Another example of how starting early pays off.

As MBA’s, we all know you can’t wait to start saving until you need it… so it should be a no-brainer that career development works the same way.   Starting early in nurturing your network sets you up for opportunities down the road.   Last December, Evan Powers (MBA’09) opened a new office for Cypress Financial Planning, a business his classmate, Ben Pitts (MBA’09), started with a former Goldman Sachs colleague. Countless other stories have been shared about how staying in touch with the people you meet along the way opens unexpected opportunities and can be crucial to your ultimate business success.

The key is not to wait until you are out of a job or need a favor to engage your network.  Start early!  No matter how well you are performing in your current job, it is always beneficial to nurture your network and project your desired brand both internally and externally.   With LinkedIn as the “go to” database of professionals, people will go there to find someone they know (or don’t know) who has a particular set of skills or experience.  So, it’s important to contemplate what image you want to put out there.  Everything from the picture, to the headline, to the experiences and the skills you list will make an impression on those who look you up or who find you in a search.

Developing a powerful profile on LinkedIn isn’t difficult, but is very important.  Check out the video tutorial we have created to help you in this endeavor.  Do it now, even if you don’t think you “need” it right now, starting early could pay off…who knows who might find you or what great business deal might result!

August tends to be a month of “starting early” — why not add nurturing your network to the list and set yourself up for success!?!

Connie Dato English (MBA ’91), director of the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

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