This is the 2nd of 3 installments from a great conversation I had with Jimmy, I appreciate him and his wisdom. I encourage you to read this series but more importantly  visit his website, buy his  books, Creative Followership and Jimmy’s Stories  and get to know Creative Followership!

In this installment, Jimmy shares practical advice for job seekers, parents and students. He lays the foundation for a successful career and fulfilling work life, making the case for acquiring practical  experience and real world networking. 

When people get the vision of what Followership is, they get turned on.

When I get the opportunity to speak to young people (and understand I’m 81 years old and anyone 15 years younger than me is a young person), about Creative Followership and I explain it they get excited. “I understand this!” “I can do this!” “I can make this work!” “This will work in my job!”

That’s not to say that everybody does, I’ll give you an example:

I have a family friend. We will call her “Mary”. Mary is no spring chicken and Mary has difficulty keeping a job and she told me one day “I got a new job, it’s really great and I really like this job”. I was happy because Mary needed a job and she needed something she could stick with. I saw her a few months later and I asked, “Mary how’s that job going?” She responded “Oh I quit that job, they were asking me to do things that were not in my job description! They aren’t paying me to do things that are not on my job description! I refused! You can’t make me do anything not on my job description!”

I thought – What a disaster! What if they were putting Mary to the test to see if she could handle more responsibility than she had? Maybe they were considering her for a transfer to another role where she would have more money and more responsibility! She didn’t get it!  But most people DO get it. If I want to be more valuable here, I must add value! That’s the way you do it.

In your book, you advocate knowing your boss’s likes, dislikes, talents and shortfalls. Is this something a candidate can discover in the job interview process? How can one do this, outside of observation, without being perceived as obtrusive or nosy especially if it’s not someone you have a close rapport with?

Well if you don’t know the person you are going to be working for very well, it is much more difficult. What happens to many folks when they start looking for a job- they start mailing or emailing out resumes and applications- they never even speak to the person they’d be working for. That’s not the way to find a job! I tell young people “You are wasting your time! Go out and get to know people!  Find some people and talk to them about what they are doing on the job!  Find someone who is a good boss and talk to them.” Good bosses are always looking for good people to work with them. ALWAYS! If you are looking for a job and you are a good employee, you have a lot in common. Too many people don’t get the picture of that.

This is a critical issue in our country today. We have students who are completing high school and graduating college and they have never done any real-life work. Many of them don’t even do chores at home, much less work in a place where they get experience. I’ve seen young people arrive in the workplace, Ed. They have a beautiful diploma on the wall, but they don’t have a clue in their mind about how to satisfy a customer, how to please the boss or even how to get along with their fellow workers!

The Pew Center did a study on the cost of a college education. The thing that caught my eye- They asked recent college graduates, what they regretted most about their college experience. 50% of them said what they regretted most was they had no real work experience before they graduated. Think about that. They are graduating, they are making a career choice and they have no idea what it would be like to work in that field. Amazing, but that’s what’s happening. I speak to parents. I tell them they should encourage their youngsters to get part time jobs and internships. I’ve had parents tell me “That’s a lot of trouble! They don’t need the money; I can give them all the money they want. Besides I don’t want to haul them off to work, it complicates picking them up from school, interferes with family activities and vacations”. When we talk about a career, this is something they are going to do for the rest of their life.

I encourage young people to find internships because when you find internships, you meet people in that work place, you get experience in that field – you get to know people. There are bosses there, good bosses and bad bosses- the good bosses are always looking for sharp people who want to work for them. That’s how you get lined up in the right kind of job. But I’ve had young people tell me “Hey I’ve got a college degree, I’m going to be in Leadership, I’m not working cheap and I’m certainly not going to take an internship where you work for free!” It’s a cultural thing that is having a serious negative impact on our young people and their entry into the career field.

Let me give you a real-life example here. I like to speak to senior citizens, not because they are in the workplace but when I speak to seniors they buy my books by the handful and they send them to their grandchildren. A few years ago, I was invited by a Church to speak to a seniors group in North Georgia in the early Spring (March or April). In July, I received a telephone call from the lady who had invited me up to speak. She said, “I want to tell you about one of the ladies who bought your book” She had a granddaughter who was graduating from college in May. The girl had landed what she thought was her dream job. She was doing exactly what she wanted to do, for the company she wanted to work for, and she was really excited about it. But after she worked a couple of weeks, she called her grandmother crying on the phone: “Granny, I hate my job! I don’t like my boss; I don’t like the people I work with. Granny, this is awful! I don’t know what to do. I hate this job” The grandmother said “I’m gonna send you a book I bought, you read the book and call me back and let me know what you think.” Three weeks later, she called her grandmother back and she said “Granny, I’m only halfway through the book, but this works” and then she said “Granny, let me tell you about my job! You know, I’m beginning to like my boss and these people I’m working with are not that bad! Granny, I believe this job is going to work out very well for me!”

So, what was different?

Her attitude.

Her attitude and approach to the workplace. She never had any real workplace experience and she did not know what to expect, she didn’t know how to adjust to it.

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