Ageless Professional Development

There are two dates on every tombstone. There’s a birth date and there is a date of death, and every human being is guaranteed those two dates but that little dash that lies between those two numbers is what defines our lives so make your dash count. Live. Really live.

“What’s in your dash?”

That question was posed during a sales training I attended years ago.  The facilitator was referring to the dash between the year you were born and the year you die.

But he explained there are three points in that dash.  Point A is where you began and the dash started, Point C is where you and the dash will end. Point B lays between them and represents today.  He added there’s no need to worry about the events between A and B because it’s your past.  But what will you do with the days in B to C?

That notion has stuck with me and I have started to apply it all aspects of my life.

Take, for instance, professional development.  Point A may have been when you entered college, landed your first job, or declared what you wanted to be when you grow up. Point C, in this application,  will more than likely be the day you retire or leave the workforce.

Or is it?  Does professional development begin with your career?

For me, it started much earlier.

Work ethic is learned from my father.  I have vivid childhood memories of cooking my dad breakfast before work.  It was usually before 6am and the beginning of his long, hard work day.

The breakfast was always unintentionally scrambled eggs with leftover cheese sauce from gas station nachos of the day before, a Stacy Cassio original.

(No judgment.  I was a 10 year-old fat girl with mad nacho addiction.)

He ate it like champ and always said, “Thank you. Got to go.” and then dashed off to work with a smile.

I didn’t fully understand “work” but I knew through his actions that it was important.  He treated work like a privilege that made him jump out of bed six days a week. I realized he did important stuff there and it made him happy.  It also kept him away from the family some nights and made my mom unhappy.   His actions taught me how to feel about work.

I still treat “work” like a gift because he taught me that.

Customer service was first learned from conversations my parents had around our own dinner table.  The most prevalent topic was money. Hours were spent listening to them develop that month’s small business receivables plan – who needed to pay, how much, how badly was the customer past due.

They would then reason the cause of the delay. Sometimes it was a bad wheat harvest that devastated the whole community, but many times it was a personal event specific to that customer like a divorce, new baby, death in the family… the usual gossip that circulates in a small town.

My parents would often decide to deliberately earn a little less that month to make life easier for their customer. Their words and actions taught me empathy, kindness, and ultimately customer service.

I am not as gifted at those qualities as my parents but I try to emulate what learned every day.

Girl Scouts taught me the importance of an authentic sales pitch.  I loved being a Girl Scout.  My favorite time of year was cookie delivery.  I also loved cookies.

(Again 10 year-old fat girl who also suffered from a wicked sweet tooth.)

I remember practicing our door-to-door sales pitches with the troop leader. Each girl would have to draw a cookie and then role play the pitch.  You always wanted the Thin Mint or Samoas.  They were easy sales, popular and delicious.  You never wanted to draw the newest cookie of the year.  They were gimmicky and had zero existing customer loyalty. My most effective pitch was the Tag-Along because I loved its peanut butter, chocolatey goodness.

The ability to craft a powerful sales pitch out of pure, honest product love was taught via my days as a Brownie.

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My stories may be unique but I bet the concepts are similar to you. Our first impressions of “work” and the skills it takes are formed as children.

Who taught you how to feel about work?

How did their impression shape your own feelings about “going to work”?

The traits and experiences developed in childhood stay with us through corporate life. So what if we were more intentional about how and what we pass on to our children?  What if we made their early professional development our priority?

The Pink Mentor Network is a career awareness program for young women and teenage girls.  We expose them to professions, career paths, and aspirations that will shape their futures .  We teach  skills like mentorship, networking, and communication to carry through their own professions.  Our experiences advance their careers.  By sharing our professional stories, we give her career a head start.

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My own dash, points B to C, will be filled with accomplishments of the Pink Mentor Network.  Although I’ll never forget, and will always carry with me, what was learned between A to B.

That time taught me how to be the woman and professional I am today. Thank you, Mom & Dad.

What’s in your dash?

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