I was lucky enough to do an informational interview this evening.  I took a slightly different approach with the person I interviewed: it was someone that I would rather get their advice and story from, rather than actually have their particular job when I “grow up.”  While this was a job that I don’t necessarily see myself wanting, I still learned so much from this individual.

This was a great experience in general.  I was able to interview someone with whom I am comfortable, which eliminated the nervousness factor, and allowed me to really get her story and advice, without having to worry about coming across as awkward or uninformed, or even worse, unprofessional.  This was a very relaxed interview, where I really learned about how this individual got to where she is, and if she could give advice to someone, what it would be.

This individual has been working for Lifetime Health Medical for almost 25 years now (her 25th anniversary with the company is approaching this December).  She is the Process Improvement Specialist, as well as involved in Project Management.  Throughout her years at her company, her title and job description has morphed to whatever her employers need, and she is always working: doing the job of about 3 employees, which is probably why when her entire department was liquidated a number of years ago, she was the only one asked to remain.  She has her black belt in Lean Six Sigma (the only one higher is Master), and is a certified Professional Coder (both of which require tons of classes, time, and effort).

I took a lot from this experience, but what I took from her story in particular is that it really is okay to set your sights high.  This woman started out and had everyone telling her she would need to be a secretary first.  This would give her experience, and basically was just how things worked at that time.  Sometimes I think that as children we are encouraged to shoot for the moon, but once we get to college, all of that has been stomped right out of us.  Having someone tell me that you don’t have to settle was really a relief.  Not to say that she told me shooting for the moon was easy…

The next thing I took from this experience was that you need to make things happen for yourself.  I believe that our generation seems to what we have not earned, worked for, or fought for.  Shooting for the moon means you need to be prepared to make that huge jump.  You need to be willing to put in the effort.  And if you do, it will be worth it, you will know it’s yours because you worked for it.

When asked what advice she had for me, or anyone my age, she said: listen and learn.  This was something her mentor taught her.  “Listen to what others have to say, and only speak when you really have something to say, that is what will make people listen to you,” she said.  And it definitely makes sense.  While she claims that her advice is probably old-fashioned, I believe that it is tried and true.

Some advice that was a little more cutting edge?  Don’t get too comfortable.  “Not that I want to scare you,” she laughed, “but it’s true.” She then explained that when you get too comfortable you get stuck in a rut.  You stop learning.  You stop advancing.  You stop progressing.  And suddenly your company that you were so comfortable at?  They no longer need you.  You need to not only be willing to change, but be on the forefront of new advances, driving them forward as you move forward.  This shows your company that you are not only an important asset, but an invaluable one, one that they could simply not do without.

This interview was certainly an invaluable experience.  Not only did I get to learn the story of someone so experienced and successful, but I was able to talk about how all of this could apply to my future.  She also helped me with my resumé, which was another experience that I am extremely grateful for.  It really was an enjoyable experience for me!