In the frantic week before Commencement, anxious seniors on the hunt for a job-any job-gathered in Neilson Browsing Room hoping for some pearls of wisdom from one of Wall Street’s most successful career coaches.
Maggie Craddock ’85, author of The Authentic Career, didn’t disappoint, but before she gave away her secrets to success, she wanted to give her eager young charges a reality check: “I wish I could say that if you put your head down and do your best, you’ll be all right. But it’s not that simple,” she said. “You’re going to have to work hard to be noticed. Welcome to competition in the real world.”
Knowing what you’re up against, she said, is the first step in developing the emotional resilience that is essential to crafting a long-term strategy for career success in an economy that is ever-changing and a business environment that tends to demoralize the young and inexperienced.
With copies of Craddock’s book in their hands and notebooks open on their laps, the students eagerly jotted down her advice and enthusiastically shook their heads when a particular point hit close to home.
At the heart of Craddock’s talk were three strategies that she said if mastered would make the road to corporate success a little less bumpy: developing the courage and persistence to maintain a long-term career plan, understanding how your personal background influences your professional path, and cultivating your inner resources.
One way to develop courage, Craddock told the students, is to “do your homework.” “You have to understand the organization you want to work for,” she said. “How does it stay alive financially, does it have the resources for you to grow? Being armed with this knowledge will put you in a stronger position.”
Knowing a company’s values and how they mesh with your own will also make it easier to determine if a specific job opportunity is right for you, Craddock said. More than that, though, it’s important to understand how your personal experiences might influence how well you integrate into a corporate environment. “You wear a lot more of your inner selves on your sleeves than you think,” she said. “Everything from how you relate to your siblings to whether your mother worked outside of the home can influence how you feel about your own accomplishments and how well you respond to professional pressures.”
Craddock encouraged the students to “make self-reflection a priority” in their lives. “Take the time to listen to yourself and learn what’s inside of you,” she said. “Cultivating those inner resources will give you the grace to handle the corporate reshuffling that you’ll inevitably experience; it will give you the grace to deal with a protracted job search without becoming depressed; it will teach you to trust your gut, an invaluable tool because some of the most important decisions you’re going to make in business will be based on conversations you have with yourself.”
Craddock has been dispensing this kind of advice for close to a decade, having conducted executive coaching with a variety of clients, including a number of Fortune 500 CEOs. Before becoming a career coach, she worked as a portfolio manager at Scudder, Stevens & Clark, where she oversaw $3 billion in short-term global assets. In addition to this Wall Street experience, Craddock is a certified family therapist and has done work with post-traumatic stress disorder.