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Five Career lessons we could all learn from President Obama

January 24th, 2009 · No Comments

Regardless of your party affiliation and political views, I think we could all learn a few things about how to manage and grow career from President Obama.

  1. Pursue passion, instead of chasing money. Fresh out of Columbia University, Obama took a 20K-a-year job as a  community organizer at Chicago. With his Ivy pedigree, I wonder if he ever considered getting into management consulting or investment banking, the most coveted and lucrative jobs for ambitious Ivy graduates. 🙂 With his Harvard Law background, he could have a very lucrative career in corporate law. Instead, he taught at University of Chicago Law School as a lecturer. He also worked at a 12-attorney firm specializing in civil rights litigation and neighborhood economic development, where he was an associate for three years from 1993 to 1996, then of counsel from 1996 to 2004. Again, this is not the most lucrative area of practicing law. 
  2. Look for career breakthrough. When Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States On February 10, 2007, he had only two years of experiences in the Senate. The conventional wisdom is that one has to pay the dues before moving up the ladders. But, I think this is changing a little bit in today’s world. Let’s say that you work really hard, and slowly climb the corporate ladder. What will happen if one day your company suddently goes bankrupt or being bought out by a competitors? Do you think your carefully crafted career path in your company will be maintained? There are just way too much uncertainties in the corporate world today. I think the key is to develop the optimal mix of emotional intelligence, leadership skills, and functional competency. Look for the right opportunity to have a career breakthrough.
  3. Create a simple, consistent positioning that address real needs of targeted audience: Like it or not, Presidential campaign is very much a marketing campaign. Throughout the course of his campaign, it’s amazing how Obama stick to the simple positioning of "hope and change" and kept hammering it home. His message really resonated with the public — given the current state of our economy and the wars, people need hope and change. When you’re interviewing for a job, you need to clearly articulate your positioning — what makes you different and stand out from the crowed? Why should an employer hire you among a competitive pool of candidates? You need to have a simple and consist message that address potential employer’s needs.
  4. Confront crisis and turn crisis into opportunity. I think the defining moment of Obama’s campaign was his speech on race at Philadelphia. At that time, the Rev. Wright controversy started to have some negative impacts on this campaign. His campaign staffers simply didn’t know what to do. According to this Newsweek Article, Obama decided to confront the controversy head on, and wrote the speech himself. 
  5. Build a network of trusted and capable friends to help you succeed. Over the years, Obama has assembled a very talented group of friends who are willing to help him. Just look at how they executed the campaign. In today’s working world, there is no loyalty from corporation. All of us need to cultivate our own professional network — these are the people who will help you when you’re looking for a job, starting a new venture, growing your business, or seeking a business partner.

Tags: Career Fast Track

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