3 key tips I picked up from the YCF Pathways to the Top panel

This Wednesday I was fortunate enough to be invited by the Associated General Contractors of the District of Columbia (AGC of DC)(http://www.agcofdc.org) to sit on a panel discussing career paths and the career management skills and strategies that we, as industry leaders, thought were important. The annual panel, entitle “Pathways to the Top”, was convened by the AGC’s Young Constructors Forum. Phil Snyder from the LitCon Group moderated the event and joining me on the panel were:

Rob Peterson – LitCon Group, LLC
Steve Houff – Forrester Construction
Anna Torre-Smith – ATS Studios, LLC, and
Adrienne Smoot – AVSmoot, LLC

Throughout the evening there were some tremendously thoughtful suggestions given by my co-panel members and some very insightful questions from the audience. Even as a seasoned professional (is that just code for old???) I learned a lot and walked away with “3 Key Takeaways”.

  1. Always follow through. The corollary to this is to always do what you say you are going to do. With remarkable agreement, all of the panelist (myself included) felt that being reliable and dependable was paramount to a successful career. Having an internal (and industry) reputation as someone who “does what they say they will” is tremendously important. I am always amazed by the lack of this basic skill in the marketplace. Tell me what you are going to do and then go do it. It really is that simple.

Adrienne Smoot told a great story about one of her first jobs where she realized very early on that it was not going to be profitable. It was going to cost her money to finish out the project. While she could have very easily cut her losses and left the job unfinished, she chose to stick it out and finish. The client was grateful for her dedication. Recognizing that she was sticking with it even when she was losing money, the client vowed to find a way to make her whole. Beyond the financial consideration, Adrienne earned the trust and respect of this client and they have called her back multiple times for projects that were profitable.

  1. Technology is great, but face-to-face is better We all lead extremely busy lives and are inundated by emails, texts and tweets. While they each have their purpose in the business environment, if you really want to build a relationship with someone you need to pick up the phone or go see them in person. There’s nothing that you can do in an email that will come anywhere close to sitting across from someone, looking them in the eye and talking.

Along those same lines, it’s extremely difficult (read impossible) to convey emotion and tone in an email (certainly not in a text). An email is perfect for when you need to convey facts and information. When you need to convey tone, solve a problem or have an ongoing dialog you really need to pick up the phone and talk to someone directly. There’s no technology that will ever convey or duplicate the intricacies of a personal conversation.

  1. You never know where opportunity will come from Of the five panelists, none of us had experienced a “direct” career path. It was really fun to hear how we each had a moment, or moments, where a situation presented itself and our career paths took a dramatic and unexpected turn (usually for the better). Opportunity is a funny beast and will show up when you least expect it. Never be afraid to try something new or take on a different challenge, it may be the opportunity of a lifetime.

There was lots of great advice offered that night and it was difficult to boil the entire evening down to just three key tips. These were just a few of the one’s that I thought were important and resonated the overarching message from the event – there’s a direct connection between the trajectory of your career and the quality of the relationships you maintain. Technical skills can be taught or acquired over time. It’s how you treat and interact with people you encounter along way that will determine your future.

Thank you again to the Young Constructors Forum for including me in their annual “Pathways to the Top”. I know I learn a lot and hopefully the audience did as well.