What kind of consumer are you?

career advice

CONSUME [kuhn-soom]
1. to destroy or expend by use; use up

2. to eat or drink up; devour

3. to spend (money, time, etc.) wastefully

4. to absorb; engross


A few years ago (OK, over a decade) I was a 20-something college graduate with a few years of professional experience, some successes, a lot of failures and no lack of drive to get to the top regardless  the obstacles; whether they were human beings or inanimate concepts.  Unfortunately, I had little idea of how to get there and studying was the last thing on my mind.  My definition of consume during those years was all variations of 1, 2 and 3.  I consumed well…and often.  

What I would tell my 24-year old professional self and what you will hear me coaching my teams to do now is to be consumers of business, industry, development and leadership.  “Be a student.”  By nature we learn by doing and watching, but limiting ourselves to these avenues will do just that – limit.  To be a consumer in this context has nothing to do with your bar tab, a weekend shopping spree or all-you-can eat pizza and it will do more for you than drain your pocketbook or expand your waistline!

If I told you that your next promotion and pay raise were guaranteed if you learned how to start a fire without matches in one week’s time, what would you do? 

  • Memorize a how-to guide with step by step instructions
  • Look up fire-starting tips and tricks in your search engine
  • Practice in your backyard
  • Tweet a Survivor contestant and ask for some tips
  • Ask your friends on Facebook
  • All of the above

The point is, the answers to your tests are at your fingertips in a variety of consumable formats; some obvious and some a bit more obscure.  The world truly is your classroom and here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Twitter

Dip into the world of tweets, follows, hashtags and mindshare.  Follow me @jessiguenther and you will get access to notes and articles that are near and dear to me as a professional (and you’ll learn about my sports team preferences which won’t get you promoted, but will indicate I’ve got good sense).  It may take a little getting used to, but the beauty of this site is it allows you to consume meaningful information in a customized way.  For general business tips and thought leadership, start following Harvard Business Review, Leaders Beacon and Allegis Global Solutions.  Follow an influential leader in your business or life and check out who and what they’re following as well.

2. Read the Newspaper

If you travel, there is still a point between zero and 10,000 ft when electronics are prohibited- it’s a great time to do some “old-fashioned” reading. If you want more in your career, you need to know what’s going on around you.  For the tech savvy, you can download the Wall Street Journal app to your mobile device.

3. Use Your Morning Commute

Listen to an informative audiobook, tune your XM radio to a favorite news and information channel or build meaningful dialogue with your carpool. 

4. Subscribe to at Least One Daily or Weekly Feed

Find content specific to your industry and schedule 15 minutes in your day to read, digest and further research the information that you receive.  In the Human Capital space, try Staffing Industry Analysts, Human Capital Institute and the American Staffing Association. Use Delicious or Google Reader to keep track of your resources.

5. Call a Mentor or Leader Whom You Respect

Ask for 3 tips to improve your knowledge in an area that is important to you.  Do this every few months and you’ll start to find patterns that are worth pursuing.

A mentor of mine recently told me that his training regimen with new hires includes a mandate that they start their day with the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  If I had worked for him back in 1997 when my career first began, I might have saved my pocketbook and waistline from some unneeded grief.  Redefine yourself as a consumer and watch what happens.

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance”   ~ Will Durant

Posted 11/16/2011 By Jessi Guenther With more than 19 years of talent acquisition and recruitment industry experience, Jessi Guenther serves as the Executive Director of SIGMA, Allegis Global Solutions’ (AGS) purpose-built solution for the small to mid-sized Managed Services Provider (MSP) market.

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