Career Wisdom 4 You Series Mission: To serve invaluable insider-wisdom to college students across the globe as they work towards having an impactful & healthy career.
Featured Guest For Wisdom Session #5: Chris Forando, VP, Organization Development at L’Oréal
(Disclaimer: The expressed opinions below are solely Chris Forando’s and not of L’Oréal or his past employers.)
Question 1: What do you enjoy most about your current role & career overall?
I have always been fascinated by people – what they do, why they do it, how they act and react, and what motivates them. Having spent the early years of my career as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, I was fortunate enough to be a part of something special, to work with and amongst others who thought more of the mission and serving others, than they did about themselves. I was able to observe the incredible feats that cohesive teams could perform when people worked together and realized that personal success was only achievable through the success of the team. One of the most important aspects I look for when transitioning to a new company or a new team is whether I will be working with ‘mission-oriented’ people – those who realize they are a part of something bigger than themselves and commit to being the very best team member they can be through continuous learning, communicating, sharing and supporting.
Question 2: How should students best maximize their internships?
One simple word – LEARN. We live in a knowledge-based economy where employers are desperately looking for people who can bring value to their organization and are committed to continuously increasing their personal knowledge and skills in ways that make teams more efficient and more effective. I would encourage interns to seek out every opportunity to learn from those who have more experience and education. Ask lots of questions. Be inquisitive. Get involved and don’t be afraid to volunteer for things. Fear is the greatest and most powerful of emotions. It will keep us from doing what we want to do and need to do.
Question 3: What skills and personal characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your industry?
Without a doubt, I attribute my career success to an insatiable appetite for learning and sharing that knowledge with others to make a difference in individuals, teams and organizations. I discovered early on that I loved learning, about almost anything. I learned from books, magazines, professors, mentors, bosses, online courses, students, and co-workers. I realized that obtaining both a breadth and depth of knowledge increased my confidence and gave me strength to confront my fears.
Having spent the time in the Coast Guard I learned the value of being part of a team and working with people that shared similar values of commitment, loyalty, respect and honor.
Lastly, the skill that has been most instrumental to my success and happiness is the ability to be a strong critical thinker. Socrates said “Of all the things I know, I know that I know nothing at all.” I discovered later in my career that the world is not simply black and white, right and wrong, true or false, or good or bad. The world is millions of shades of gray. Thinking that our thoughts or ways of doing things are right blinds us to the infinite possibilities of other ways. Thinking less about being right and more about learning new things and understanding those things ultimately made me wiser and certainly less stressed.
Question 4: What are the biggest early-career mistakes to avoid?
The biggest mistake I made in my early career was thinking about myself. I was guided by a pursuit of self-interest – “What can you do for me? What have you done for me? How can I get more? What about me?”. Then I attended a workshop where the presenter said, “You’ll get what you want by giving others what they want.” That changed my whole attitude. I realized that to get what I wanted – new opportunities, chances to learn, promotions, and increased responsibility –I needed to give others what they wanted first. What did others want? Commitment, performance, value. In time I realized the value of changing my mindset as my career began to flourish. It had required that I think more of others, and less of myself.
Bonus Wisdom: What final piece of advice do you have for students?
There is old Sufi proverb that says “There is nothing noble about being superior to another person. True nobility comes from being superior to a former self.” Consider how you will be better tomorrow than you were today. How will you be better tonight than you were this morning? I’m reminded of a quote from the late actor Tony Curtis, “Service to others is the rent we pay for our time on earth.” My advice is to find ways to help others and that add value to their lives. Don’t compare yourself to anyone other than yourself. Titles, salary, big offices, and material items can always be taken from us. What cannot be taken is our knowledge, our values, and what we do to make special moments for others.