Best Career Advice, I Received in my Early Years: Beyond Content

05/14/2015 05:04 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2016

Dissolving Perimeters

My early days after graduation were a struggle of a different kind - not subject matter expertise but having deep meaningful conversations on technical subjects. My work centered on core analytics- statistics and related technical subjects. The perimeter of people within the corporate workspace was limited compared to core management areas - these areas had a larger following and communication was more broadly understood. Indeed, I was in a specialized field.

Over lunch with a colleague, few years my senior, I shared my professional predicament. He listened very patiently and then he said, "Is it possible, you are looking at it differently?" He pushed his eye glasses up, to hold them better and said "the key to any conversation is to make the other person feel good and smart about themselves." He paused to let the words register and looked deep into my eye. If there was a word I understood the true meaning that day - it was empathy. I could feel the following words of his, none were spoken - "I have been there, felt that, here is my salvation that I am sharing." I slowly smiled. His advice made tremendous sense. I was looking for an audience to share in a deep way, the common technical expertise. He was suggesting the alternate - use your domain skills for a higher calling - share in ways that is meaningful to them.

If there is an event that created a propulsion in my career in my early years, his look into my eyes would be among the top. I had reached out to him to seek ways to expand the perimeter, he simply opened my eyes to dissolve it. He showed me a way to relate with more people, with same content, more meaningfully. For that, I am truly grateful to him.

Story of the nostrils

From that day, I have observed many people with tremendous know how. Some "command" a room with content, they have some of the best insights, and sage advice in the best interest of the organization at large. Yet, few times the stellar content gets lost in the small, important details that the human eye subconsciously processes - they deliver it with their chin up with the inside of their nostrils clearly visible to the audience. Great content lost to self-importance.

When somebody is presenting - if I see jargons, complexity and most importantly inner nostrils, I look around. Most times, I can feel that a tipping point has occurred- the message is lost and feelings remain. It truly validates the importance of my friend's advice- "make the other person feel good about themselves." Indeed, earnestness and sincerity triumph content.

Borrowing immortal words from Spiderman, slightly modified - "With great content comes great responsibility." A responsibility to the audience - not self, not content.

Career and Life

If you step back a moment, and observe my friend's career defining advice, it is a great application of life's essence of giving - what is of great value to others but less cost to you. Feelings matter, taking the time to focus on feelings of others makes your great content phenomenally valuable.