The Soft Skill that Saved My Career
You ever wake up with a memory so crystal clear that it rocks the foundation of your soul? That happened to me this morning. The memory was of my late father and I’d like to share it with you now.
I miss my Dad. He was my parent, mentor and friend. He passed away over eight years ago. The cool thing about having a Dad like my Dad was that even though he is no longer with me, all of his teachings are still a massive part of me. And the crazy thing… he’s even still teaching me today.
About ten years or so, I’m talking with my Dad on the phone. I hate to admit this, but I usually called him when things were tough and I needed his advice. My Dad was the smartest guy I’ve ever met and he just had this way of putting things that made everything clear and simple and meaningful. I can’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but what resonates so deeply with me was the problem. I felt like my career had no meaning. I felt empty. I felt like I had gotten into the wrong business as Human Resources felt like all problems and no solutions. I was going on and on about my problems, who knows how long, and out of nowhere, my Dad begins to laugh. I asked him really angrily, “What’s so funny?”
He says really calmly, “Ah son, this business of people we got in… it would be a lot easier without the people!” Then I started to laugh. But then like clockwork, I went back to whining. He let me whine for a while, and when he felt a pause, he asked, “Mark, what’s really bugging you?”
I began to well up a bit. “I just feel like I’m not making a difference. I work in this world of advice and consultation and ideas… I just feel like I’m spinning my wheels.”
My Dad took a dramatic pause. (He liked to do this to collect his thoughts, but looking back now, I think he did this because secretly he wanted to be an actor.) Then he said, “The next time you help someone, right before they leave, ask them if you helped them. Ask them if they got what they needed from you. You’ll be surprised at what they say, and just as importantly, how you feel.”
I wanted to strangle him. He was usually so matter of fact and now he gives me some airy fairy advice that I was used to getting from my HR world. But the next day, reluctantly, I tried it. The first person answered this way, “Yeah, Mark, You always help me. Thanks.” It felt weird.
I decided to try it again. The next person said, “Yes. You’re a great help. Thanks.” Still weird, but starting to feel better.
I kept asking if I was providing good help, and to my surprise, most people were actually telling me I was! The people who said I didn’t- which bruised the ego, I’m not going to lie- well, it gave me a chance to help again and give them what they needed. In a crazy way, I so wanted to prove my Dad wrong, but in a twist, when you really think about it, he proved me right.
I never got a chance to tell my Dad, but he saved my career that day. You gave me a simple, but so very powerful question to use to make sure I was doing my job; and the answers that came back filled my emptiness. I think people who work in the business of people need that. We need to feel like our words matter and give meaning and provide comfort and results.
I guess the lesson, a lesson that stands the test of time… is this… ask and you shall receive.
Best wishes and may your soft skills shine,
Founder of Write My Resume