Moving on ("Last Career Lesson")

[The following text was a speech I gave upon my last work day at Jacobs University as Head of Career Services before moving to my new job.]

You know how in the movies, the character always storms into the office of some HR person and before having even opened the door, they start shouting “I am QUITTING”??? And how often time, there will be roller blades involved? the person skating across a restaurant floor? Well, this isn’t quite like what happened. Not at all. For me, it was a long process and I want to share with you today, the process - because it is an embodiment of what we’ve been repeating over and over and over again - networking!!!

So, many of you have been asking me “what from now” and I’ve been annoying replying “come to my career lesson” and you’ll find out. Today I’m going to shed some light on the rumors about why quitting. 

It all started in April. You remember, Mercatorstrasse event? It was huge - wild wild west. Wonderful weather, magical food, drinks, fun (some pictures btw are included in the slideshows here - they have that wild west dusty color). An alumnus of Jacobs was visiting and I as a typical Career services guy was gathering information, trying to pamper her to share with us more of her experience and to help establish the first link.

I was listening to Ioana (you can find actually some interview with her in our alumni profiles on the career services website - end of commercial break), and I could see this passion in her eyes. And of course the first thing that comes to mind is “boy, I need to introduce her to Diana who is looking for the same kind of an internship”. Little did I know that this decision was what will lead me forward as well.

So, we set it all up, Diana applies, and takes over the internship after Ioana. And sure thing, as someone with genuine professional passion for Human Resource Management, both of them talk their supervisor into meeting me, the guy from Career Services. So I prepare, I have an offer in hand, a suggested timeline for recruitment, a couple of questions based on some curious findings they have done some research on with university students and off I take the train. We are still in July, is everyone still following? We’ve got way to go :-)

The meeting goes fine, I meet some other colleagues who are responsible for university relationships as well, I have lunch in their cafeteria (not too bad but honestly, Aramark is still pretty good - so stop whining about that). And good, we shake hands, we smile, we exchange pleasantries, I do my “magic” and ... I fail utterly. I come back to the office, I do a follow-up offer, I send my thank you-s, and NOTHING. For weeks. Nothing.

Three weeks later, I get an email from Diana that her boss (who I met) has been “asking about me” [airquotes]. I wonder really? We just had a coffee but he wants to see my CV. wait wait wait - that’s merely the beginning of the story. So, I say, sure, it can never hurt to learn about recruitment processes about a specific company first hand and pass on that knowledge further (same as all of you do with your internship reports). And then for weeks, again nothing. Diana tells me “position he had in mind got filled internally” so that’s that. OK, I didn’t think further about it. And then, September came. And I get an email from someone who has the same family name as Diana’s supervisor asking if I would be available for a phone interview. It turns out in the meantime that, yes, that was Diana’s boss’s wife who also works there. And it turns out, Diana’s boss had no idea my CV had landed in his wife’s hands. Lovely isn’t it? I assume they have a very good communication lifestyle. But perhaps you could make the argument that they know how to keep personal life separate from professional - which I have been notoriously bad at.

So, anyway, I have the first interview over the phone with her. I prepare, I close the door, turn off all gadgets (of which I have many), I stand up and do the whole interview standing, I still wear my best suit although its over the phone, I have my CV printed in front of me, I have prepared my elevator speech, my “3 weaknesses”, my “3 strengths”, and ... ZILCH. She asks me one thing: “We don’t have anything in HR but would you be interested in Sales and Marketing?” I explain that most of my job is in fact marketing. So, great, when can you come for a personal interview.

I think to myself, all of this is a good exercise and I go there to meet the head of sales and marketing for central and eastern Europe. And you know, I haven't had many bosses. In reality i have had only two real bosses. But I have often heard that you should first choose your boss and then your job. So far I've never done that - things happened. So I had the chance to test this theory. And in the entire interview, not for a single moment, did we talk about the job or the tasks. We talked about values, believes, fears, aspirations - and this is the kind of conversation that when you have with someone you realize "he can be a great mentor to me" - someone I can trust fully, someone who will understand how I think, someone who will support me with advice and plain with being present, someone who will never start rumors against your back, someone who will defend you because he is not afraid of responsibilities. I've seen such a boss before and at this moment, I want to turn to you, Dr. AZJ:

We had a bumpy start, I am not easy to work with, I am opinionated and arrogant sometimes but it took me a couple of jour-fixes to come to terms with that and to learn that you are someone I can learn from a lot: about patience, about persistence, about zen passion. You remain the one of the few people from whom I can tolerate to hear sentences starting with "in my experience...". In fact, I love those sentences - and whenever I was frustrated with something in the past months when we weren't working together anymore, I wanted to come over to hear that phrase. If it weren't for this relationship, I think it is safe to say that I would have personally not been able to find the passion in my heart to work the late hours, to fight for the students, to grow career services. Whatever has happened with career services to this day is thanks to you! Thank you!!!

Back on track now. First interview goes great. I get a call from HR wondering about my feedback. I tell them I felt great and they tell me that the "click" was mutual. I am thrilled of course. They want another interview. I say great - I'll be there. As some of you know, at that time, I started considering leaving Jacobs more seriously. So i welcomed the next interview - that was November. And once again, the interview was a marathon of "how do you think", " why" and "what do you believe in" questions. The interview was with the same guy from sales and marketing plus the general manager for Poland. 

At the end of the interview, they tell me that indeed they want to fire me and that HR will be in touch with me. And to cut the long story short, in December they had started the process and so had I. I had mentally started preparing, I had started cleaning up the administrative issues in the office, etc. And here we are today: all the plans for the transition have been completed, a detailed step by step time schedule (down to drafted emails) has been submitted to the leadership, with an offer for continued support in the coming months if necessary. And I am having my last working day.

And I have some more thank yous to say:

Diana - because whenever I needed a pep-talk, she gave me a motivational speech

Anika, Carin, Laetitia, Imke and Sarina - because they made Career Services my home

Ulf Hansen - because when I was speechless, he had a monologue prepared

Keratin Wilde - because in times of desperation, her poignant and sometimes sarcastic comments warmed the heart

Margrit Schreier and Arvid Kappas because they always wished me the best with all their heart

Marja - because in times when I was down, she always had tea ready.

And despite the distinguished crowd, we didn't know why the shape of the hat?
2010-09-26 at 00-02-31, people.jpg