“I own this!!”


Still sounds funny. A few years ago, the corporate director of “people development” for a company I worked for went running around the conference room screaming this when the new…and expensive…succession planning / people development software package we’d invested a ton on money on decided to take a dump. I thought it was an odd way to say, “I’ll handle this.”


Lately, though, I’m thinking differently about the concept of ownership. I’m talking about pride and investment. Kind of like your car. If you’ve ever rented a car you know what I mean. I put over 200,000 miles on my 2007 Ford F150 when I travelled for work. It was my baby, my home away from home. I serviced it meticulously. I cleaned it meticulously. And I drove it like I paid the note on it.


Sometimes, though, I had to fly and I’d get a rental. Coffee spills? No problem. Backing up? No problem. Little scrape? No problem. Driving? Like I stole it! Why? It wasn’t mine. My company paid for it and I had the insurance. If I scrape one of those Minion-looking posts at the gas station, it’s handled.


Ownership changes your perspective. For cars it’s the difference between changing your oil and caring that it even has oil. It’s the difference between Armor All on the dash and Starbucks Pike Place. It’s the difference between being fully involved and somewhat engaged.


For your career search and later career, ownership is critical. Students in my classes earn points by doing activities. If you take time to think about your current situation, what you want to do later, and then map out what you can do to figure out how to get there, that’s ownership. If you do activities because they’ll help you meet people in your field and develop a network, that’s ownership. If you have a skill or knowledge deficiency and you attend a workshop or seek out a mentor to address this deficiency, that’s ownership. If you’re just in a rush to accumulate points without thinking about what you’re doing (or more importantly, WHY!) then you’re just renting the experience.


So how do you “own it?”

  1. Take yourself seriously – This means paying attention to details and not letting yourself get sidetracked or distracted by “shiny objects.” If you want to work on Wall Street, work in fashion, work for Google, be a barber, do whatever, then think seriously about what it takes to do that, do your research, be honest with yourself about what you need to do to accomplish that goal, and then do those things. If you can’t or won’t do those things, then be honest with yourself. You don’t really want to do it. Change your goal.
  2. Think strategically, not tactically – Yes, you need a “to-do” list, that’s a good way to get important things done. But while you’re making it or updating it, keep in mind WHY you need to do these things. Remember to have a big picture goal or destination in mind. If the goal is to learn about certain careers, then your actions need to reflect that goal. This would be the same if your goal is to grow your professional network, develop interview skills, or secure a job with ABC Company.
  3. Execute the tactics – Now that you have a goal and a list of things to do, execute your to-do list.
  4. When things go wrong, fix it – Not all goals are attainable. Then again, sometimes we just figure out this goal isn’t right for us. At some point you may have to change majors, change career goals, or just reboot. It’s ok, it isn’t the end of the world. One student told me she had to send notes to almost 100 alumni to get two informational interviews. But both of those contacts proved to be invaluable. If networking on LinkedIn isn’t working then go to professional organization meetings, join a meetup (, attend employer events in the college, or something else that puts you in touch with people. Doing nothing or quitting is NOT an option!


Recently something near and dear to me has faced challenges. We’ve experienced upheaval and turmoil. I took my eye off the ball and for that, I’m sorry. But to those who are with me, know one thing.


I own this!