Professional Pointers From Your Kids: Do What You Do Best

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Mike Rude, CHRO at Catamaran, recounts how he found the true meaning of following your passion from his son.Fall14_ProfessionalPointers_small

By Mike Rude

In my various HR roles, I have spent almost 25 years giving other people career advice, helping them answer questions like, “Is this job a good fit for me?” and “What should my next job be?” and “What are the different career paths I should consider?”  But it wasn’t until I had a somewhat similar conversation with my 15-year-old son, Billy, that the true meaning of that “advice” hit home for me.

During my youth, I spent almost 15 years playing soccer in various school, club and traveling teams.  I loved the sport, and still do. I had many great memories and achievements with my teams.  When my son was about eight years old, he joined a youth soccer team and for the next seven years played with his friends on several teams.  Our family became part of the typical soccer family entourage, and it seemed like we lived and breathed soccer in some way all the time.  For my son, it wasn’t the competition and winning, but the friends and social dynamic that appealed to him the most (a bit to his father’s chagrin).  During this same time, Billy was also involved in other activities like theater, music and choir.  He was equally gifted on the stage and at the piano as he was on the soccer field.

Then, during his freshman year in high school, in the middle of the soccer season after a hard-fought game, he told me he wanted to have a “father-son” discussion after dinner.  I was eager to continue to connect with my teenager, but he was clearly very nervous about what he wanted to share with me.

“Dad, I know you love soccer and played it for a long time.  And while I like it too, it’s not as important to me as it may be to you.  It takes a lot of time, and I wasn’t able to try out for one of the lead roles in the school musical this year because it conflicted with the rehearsal schedule.  I’m not sure I want to play anymore, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.  I would much rather be part of the musical theater program.”

With this new awareness, I wanted to make sure I responded to Billy in the most supportive and fatherly way I could.  And fortunately, the words that came out of my mouth, almost automatically after years of career discussions at work were, “Billy, it’s important that you do what you do what you do best, and what you really love to do.”  As soon as I heard myself say those words and saw the positive reaction in my son’s eyes, I felt a whole new appreciation for how true and appropriate that advice really is.  Apparently he had been feeling this way for a couple years, but he was afraid to disappoint me or take a different path than what he thought was expected.

Today, Billy is preparing to leave for his freshman year of college, attending a wonderful musical theater program (with a scholarship!!) and excited about the path he has chosen to pursue.  For the past four years, as I proudly watched him on stage, I felt relieved that we had that talk about what his strengths and gifts were and what he truly loved doing.  He is excited, he is engaged and he is getting better at his craft each and every day.  And isn’t that what we want from our employees in our companies as well?

Mike Rude (1) Mike Rude is the CHRO of Catamaran.

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