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A few pieces of career advice from my grandfather

My grandfather, “Win” (short for Winstanley), was a remarkable man.

Not for what he did in his career, especially. He didn’t build a multinational corporation. He wasn’t a US Senator. He was remarkable for the impact he made in the lives of so many.

In the last decade of his life, my grandfather had serious health issues. Having lost a kidney to cancer near the time of my birth, he began to have total kidney failure (as well as a serious heart condition) about 10 years later. He spent the last decade of his life managing through often life-threatening health episodes. Throughout all of this, he maintained an extraordinarily positive attitude which never failed to amaze everyone around him.

How did he do that? And how does it relate to career search?

  • Always have a project you’re working on–and be planning your next. Whether it was rebuilding the brakes on his 1929 Model A Ford, or researching a new material to use in remodeling my grandmother’s greenhouse, my grandfather always had a project on which he was working. Having a project on which you are working gives you focus–and planning the next one gives you purpose. In my grandfather’s case, that purpose drove him to get well when he experienced a major health issue.
  • Always be learning something new. This can go along with the current/future projects–my grandfather was always learning something new. This helped keep him mentally alert and engaged.
  • Stay connected with your network–and leverage them when you need to…My grandfather had built an immense network through his professional career as well as the many charity-based and hobby-based organizations to which they belonged. He leveraged many of these people in the projects he undertook.
  • …but always be looking for ways you can help people in your network. One of the reasons people would jump at the chance to help out whenever my grandfather asked was the fact that he had invested so deeply in the people in his network. He would always ask, “What can I do for you?” and then follow through on what was asked of him. This built him an immense amount of goodwill among the huge amount of people he had in his personal network.

My grandfather passed away in 1991. He had an immense impact in my life as well as the life of many others. Hundreds of people attended his funeral and the wake thereafter, where people shared stories about how he made a significant impact in their life.

I try to put the lessons he taught me to use every day–and perhaps they could prove useful to you as well.

August 2013
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