Principle-Centered Careers: Is it Still Possible?

By Philip J. Matisak, ABC, Past President, IABC Nashville

IMG_0054-001During a recent visit to Western Kentucky University, several members of the IABC Nashville Board of Directors visited with students to talk about what they could do with their degrees.  Many of the questions were about what a typical day is like in a variety of different jobs or professions—how can you find a job that is satisfying and offers growth, both personally and for careers? What would we do differently? Great questions.

There seemed to be a theme that surfaced regarding the advice that these seasoned professionals were giving. Whether it was from some of us who had been in several jobs over the years, or someone like me, who had been at one company for a career, we all seemed to agree—find a company or field of work that is in sync with your values and principles.

It’s no secret that not everyone can fit comfortably into any given company’s culture. Hiring and recruiting would be snap if that were the case. The challenge is finding your “right fit.” How do you do that? Sometimes it’s trial and error. But that can waste value career time at the wrong company or the wrong job. You could even be in the right company but the wrong job.

A starting place is understanding or discovering exactly what are your primary values. That might take some soul searching, some honesty and some work to really analyze what’s important in your life. And perhaps, as important is what makes those things important?

*Stan Slap, business management guru, would ask, “What was the Moment of Truth” when you knew this was an important value? A life-changing incident? Some call it an “ah-ha” moment. Does that mean some tragedy or near-death experience? Not necessarily. It’s simply an experience, observation or event when it struck you—Wow, this is real important to me!

You may not realize what that moment is at the time, but on reflection—when trying to figure out what drives your decision-making—you can see why a certain value or principle seems to impact your decisions. You realize, “ah-ha, yes!” this observation or experience is important—when I saw my new born baby or grandbaby, I knew family would be first in my life. Or, when I saw a lack of integrity which some people displayed, and how hurtful or counter-productive that could be to people and business— integrity would direct my life and decisions.

So, you’ve figured out what’s important. Now, in this world of “evil corporations,” is it possible to work for a company or clients that accepts and supports people who don’t leave their values at the front door and who speak up for what is right—and more importantly perhaps, one who listens, beyond rank and regardless of level of responsibility?

You may be surprised at the number of companies who do. In fact, most successful companies understand that principled employee engagement is critical to the success of the hundreds or thousands of people who come together for a common cause—a corporation—for the “good” of employees, communities, and environment.

David Koch, founder of Koch Industries, calls it “Good Profit,” the title of his recent book. It outlines how their company’s success is driven by a governing principle that not only rewards principled-centered people within their company, “people who help themselves by helping others improve their lives,” but actively recruits people based on values and principles first, skills second. He says people create “good profit” by “…creating superior value to customers while consuming fewer resources and always acting lawfully and with integrity…Good profit comes from making a contribution in society.” I was privileged to work at a company with similar values.

Is it possible to find a principle-centered career? Yes. How can you find these companies and careers? Talk to people work at potential employers and in those potential jobs – aka, network. A few weeks ago, I reviewed a resume for someone I met at an IABC luncheon. She recently introduced me to another person recently moved to Nashville, with whom I met, and we talked about many other people she should meet as she explores job and career opportunities in the area.

You never know which person will connect you to just the right person that will connect you to your dream job and career. They say we all know each other within six degrees. I’ve found that to be true at many times throughout the years. But you’ll never know that unless you really talk to people – and work your network.

We say, IABC is the only place to connect with communcators globally. We believe IABC Nashville is your passport! IABC is one great way to work your network. Over the nearly 35 years I’ve been a member, I’ve received a hundredfold return on my investment. I hope you have the opportunity to do the same. I’d be glad to help.

*Stan Slap is founder of SLAP.  I participated in a workshop facilitated by Stan called: I Left My Heart in Conference Room B. It was life-changing for me and how I lived and managed henceforth. I highly recommend his book by the same name. The fact that the workshop was provided by my company as management development spoke volumes to me about the company’s values and principles, and solidified in mind that they were in sync with mine.

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