Back in the late 19th century when I was in my 20’s I learned a valuable lesson. A lesson I’ve gone on to share countless times to individuals and groups. It’s as relevant today as it was then. How many things can that be said about? Not many.
The lesson: Your 20’s are for finding out what you’re good at.
Sounds simple, maybe even common sense, but few young people seem to approach their 20’s as a decade of learning. Most seem intent on a decade of ‘doing’ or, worse, of ‘being’. Uh oh! Many become obsessed on career and not ability, on the right job and not the right skill. Don’t do that!
Maybe telling my story will help.
I entered the consumer finance field at age 23. I spent the first two years learning about lending money – from financing furniture and stereo equipment to home equity loans and mortgages. I originated loans, approved them, closed them and collected them. One big jigsaw puzzle of the three C’s: credit, capacity and collateral. I was fairly decent at it.
But by age 26, 27, I learned something that I could excel at: communicating; namely being able to convey and teach complex issues in relatively simple terms, often verbally but also in writing. My passion for the three C’s began to take a back seat to communicating – to prospects, customers and fellow staff. I began to aggregate information as a way of always keeping my communication tool well stocked and fed.
When I started Shamrock at age 29 I did so NOT because I knew mortgage lending but because I knew how to communicate (sell) and teach (train). In Shamrock’s first 17 years we hired only one person with mortgage industry experience. Instead, we hired the right kind of people, not the right resume of people. I knew I could communicate how the business worked and how they could prosper.
Interestingly, I wrote a sales letter back then that we invested a $1 MM a year sending to prospective mortgage prospects. The letter returned over $30 MM in revenue back in the late 90’s early 2000’s.
You see, I found out what I was good at in my 20’s by not assuming it had anything to do with what I was primarily being paid for. BAM! Young people today need to do the same thing.
Now, I am not encouraging job-jumping. You can find out what you’re good at often at the same company that currently employs you. Today’s business economy has most organizations doing one major thing (building widgets) while being involved and supporting departments in anything from legal to social media. There are places for you to discover, track and develop your talents.
Lock and load on this lesson and your 30’s become an express train to a great career. We’ll cover that decade next week.