Megan Jacobs | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Megan Jacobs

Background:  

Dell's Nashville hub is the city's 38th-largest employer, with roughly 1,500 workers. The company is poised for extended growth, with the addition of 150 more positions announced last year. Human Resources Business Partner Megan Jacobs helps meet the needs of these employees, while also supporting major HR projects globally. 

The Mistake:

A big mistake that I really learned a lot from was believing that career growth and career paths needed to follow some five year or 10-year plan, and would only be successful if I had a formal mentor relationship.

I feel like my career really took a different path when I stopped focusing on this formal map, and really focused on my skill portfolio. It sounds really broad, but this was something I was just not taught in college or in the workforce.

I had a great mentor along the way who called me and told me about a role opening up in HR. I, no joke, laughed out loud and thought she was crazy. She sat me down and we talked about the job and listed out some of my skills. Over time, I was really able to step back and realize that there's a lot of little skills that come along that I picked up along the way. She told me I really understood how to simplify something, how to communicate a message clearly and identify the real problem.

After walking me through it, when I looked at that job I realized I actually did have quite a few of those skills. And it had a lot of skill opportunities that I would love to get. I wanted global experience, and in my roles prior to that I had none.

I would have paid more attention to options and opportunities sooner. When someone knocked on my door and asked me to put my name in the hat for an HR opportunity, I wouldn't have laughed out loud.

I don't know what I want to do this weekend – why would I know what I want to do in 10 years?

The Lesson:

When you look at a career plan and talk about it in classes or jobs, (typically you) identify your strengths and opportunity areas and then say, "What do we need to do to get you to where you want to be in three years or five years or even 10 years?" That question was asked quite a bit. I don't know what I want to do this weekend – why would I know what I want to do in 10 years?

I felt like that was the question I had to answer.

When I started looking more at a skill portfolio versus what I want to do next, I realized I was more aware of what I learned, and I continued to revisit that. When I was leading a sales team, I spent a lot of time learning how to put together a plan, while also anticipating any hurdles we might encounter. Just looking at that plan is something I have leaned back on in project management and even in conversations that I am having today.

I learned very early on that building a mentor relationship can be tough, and maintaining a mentor relationship can be even more difficult. I have multiple mentors that I have built relationships with over the last few years, and it's allowed us to have really strong relationships without that typical, formal cadence of a one-on-one or a meeting on the calendar every week.

Pictured: Megan Jacobs Photo courtesy of Dell Nashville.

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