When Stewart walked into my office with his Turning Points article for the KHC blog, it naturally prompted me to think about the turning points in my life. They all hinge on my human capital, with financial implications that followed.
The first major turning point in my life was the decision to attend college at Bowling Green State University in Ohio after graduating from high school in Iowa. I wanted to venture out of Iowa, get a business degree and play Division 1 tennis. Bowling Green provided all this plus more. It was a huge challenge to go to a school where I literally didn’t know anyone. I walked on to the tennis team with the promise from the coach that if I made the team I’d get some scholarship money. Passing these challenges boosted my confidence and enhanced my sense of independence. What I learned as an athlete – discipline, teamwork and tenacity – has helped me throughout my life. It was in Ohio that I started my career at United Telephone of Ohio (UTO), a local arm of the company then known as United Telecom, now Sprint.
Being a natural planner, I decided to work for 2-3 years at UTO, then return to Iowa to either attend law school or get an MBA as a full-time student. However, I changed my mind. First, my mother talked me out of attending law school, and I have been forever grateful. I’m not going to use a lawyer joke, (although tempting) since I have friends who are lawyers, it’s simple I think my business career has been a great fit for me. My next turning point came when I decided to keep working full-time at UTO and attend The Ohio State University’s weekend MBA program in 1986. Every Saturday for 21 months I drove an hour down to the OSU campus to take a 4- hour course in the morning and a 4-hour course in the afternoon. It was hard work, but well worth it. I have no doubt that the MBA program helped me advance my career. Building my knowledge and skills – investing in my human capital – positioned me for later promotions. Plus, UTO paid for most of it! So from a financial standpoint, I was still working and earning money and paid little out of pocket for a high quality MBA. This was not a bad financial situation for someone in their 20s. Perhaps most importantly, I met three of my life-long friends in the program.
Instead of my original plan to work at Sprint for 2-3 years, I stayed for over 21. I had a great run at Sprint, particularly in the 1990s when it was a growing company. I had the opportunity to work with so many great people – talented, smart, high ethics, hard-working, and caring folks. In 1993, I made a decision that I characterize as an “acceleration” point rather than a turning point. I took a lateral job that some of my peers scoffed at. I did it to get supervisory experience and to work directly for a rising star in the corporation. It was a bit of a gamble, but one that paid off big. This colleague became one of the top six officers at Sprint. He became my sponsor and promoted me into several officer level roles. As I tell many clients I coach, be thoughtful about career moves and what connections they provide. It’s not just about a raise or a promotion.
My third turning point is obvious – the decision to leave Sprint and corporate America in 2004. This eventually led to a career change as well. Once I left, I realized that I wanted a different experience than a large corporation. My last few years at Sprint were hard with constant re-organizations and down-sizing. I really wanted to do something more meaningful, something to help others. I had always loved coaching and developing people while at Sprint. After working as a Chief Marketing Officer for a small biotech firm, I joined KHC to head up our human capital – career and executive coaching – practice. The role at KHC also allowed me to do marketing as well. Five years into this role, I decided to add financial planning to my skill set – taking my own advice to continue to build one’s skills sets. I thoroughly enjoy helping clients achieve their goals – both in their career and in their life. Most importantly, I am living the “Making Life Count!®” philosophy. I love the balance I have in my life, with time to volunteer on non-profit boards and have fun with family and friends. I’m thankful for both of my careers.
While my decisive turning points were well thought-out, they also led me to opportunities and life experiences I wouldn’t have dreamed of. They all started with focusing on how to best use my human capital to achieve my goals. My financial plan morphed with these transitions. I suspect that’s true for all of us….what are your turning points?