My first goal as a college senior was to have the kind of job where I would never have to wear a tie. Achievement unlocked. But that didn’t really get to the core of the issue. I was really trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. A person who helps customers every day was the answer.
When I was a kid, if you asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have stated the obvious career choice: become a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher. These are solid professions with clear career progress, job prospects, and paths to education. Sports broadcaster, comic book artist, or right fielder for the Philadelphia Phillies didn’t seem like likely options for me, so when I graduated during a recession in the early 1990s, I tried some traditional jobs – including one sending out books and publications using UPS.
Learning about traditional jobs also made me wonder why they weren’t using a technology new at the time: The Internet. Web sites and web companies were a fad in 1996 – communicating with customers through email and a website was new and different and unusual – and companies that made their money there seemed like a flash in the pan against traditional companies and outcomes.
Learning the lingo, technology, industry, and tactics to get things done is a practice, not a static task. And doing this task all revolves around engaging with and helping customers.
Customers make products go.
Customers use things wrong.
Customers force you to examine your assumptions.
Customers tell you sometimes that your product or service doesn’t work for them.
Customers surprise you by using what you do in unique and amazing ways.
And customers are the lifeblood of the business.
I should have had a different goal as a college senior: keep learning what makes people want to use products and build products and services to help them reach their goals.