Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Serendipity of Career Choice

Serendipity is the answer I give when young people ask me how I found my way into my passionate now-concluded nearly-four-decade-long career in community/destination marketing organizations (DMOs.)

My career serendipitously began while standing in a hallway in January 1970.  I had just begun a job as conference coordinator in what was then the fledgling BYU Office of Tours and Conferences and I planned to work my way through my last two and a half years of college by doing things like coordinating the President’s Box at Cougar Stadium, organizing campus tours for dignitaries and parents, and facilitating summer youth conferences etc.

Today these are now major activities at many universities but they were just starting to percolate back then.  As if that first job in destination marketing wasn’t serendipitous enough for a history/political science/pre-law major, while in that hallway I listened in on a class that I would go on to informally audit.

It was a course by Dr. Bill Dyer in his just-inaugurated Department of Organizational Behavior then in the business college and now integrated into the Marriott School of Management.

One of Dr. Dyer’s first instructors at the time was the now legendary Stephen R. Covey, who two decades later went on to author what has been rated the #1 most influential business book of the twentieth century, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, published just as I arrived in Durham to begin the third and final leg of my career by jump-start the community DMO here.

Dyer was one of a handful of pioneers then integrating social psychology and quantitative research and other disciplines into the study of organizational development, evolution, culture and management.  Besides Covey, other progeny of Dyer include the authors of best-sellers such as Crucial Confrontations, Crucial Conversations, Influencer and most recently Change Anything.

His program at BYU, as well as the ones at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon, proved to be a quantum leap from the late 17th century Tayorism which still entraps the vast majority of workplaces as well as public education today.  The leap was a tribute to Lillian Moller Gilbreth, the nation’s first true industrial/organizational psychologist, who passed away two years to the month after I stood outside one of Dyer’s classrooms.

It would be another four or five years before I would move from a study of the law to a life-long career in community/destination marketing management in which I would become one of the very first DMO execs to fully embrace organizational behavior and specialists such as those I saw being trained in Dyer’s fledgling program.

Very early in my career, already aware of both my deficits and strengths as an executive, I began to supplement both my evolution as an organizational leader and manager and the various teams and organizations I led by enlisting analysis and insight over the years from RHR International (Rohrer, Hibler and Replogle,) the late Dr. Donald Clifton (now known as the Clifton Strengths School,)  occupational consultants from Duke University and Performance Management Inc.

While I can trace my eventual career to when I just happened to be standing outside that classroom, organizational development is just one of several, huge, game-changing developments and innovations that evolved during my career including:

  • Office equipment such as copiers, scanners, fax machines, word processors, computers, cellular telephony, image banks, VHS, CD/DVD, paperless offices etc.
  • Software from computers to networks and now tens of thousands of apps etc.
  • The Internet including websites, search engines, digital maps, GPS, GIS etc.

For a window into the workplace of the future, I recommend reading:

If I were to name one book I wish had been available during my career and that will fuel the success of anyone now beginning a career in any field as well as anyone who wants to improve parenting skills, it would be Crucial Confrontations – Tools For Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations and Bad Behavior by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Al Switzler, Ron McMillan and David Maxwell.

As for career advice, you can’t beat serendipity!  So start as early as possible to pay attention to what intrinsically intrigues you and gives you a sense of purpose and contribution.

No comments: