4 Career Tips Gleaned from Enterprising Nine-Year-Old

Katy Montgomery

Katy currently serves as the Global Director of the Career Development Centre at INSEAD where she manages career services professionals across three campuses: Abu Dhabi, Fontainebleau, and Singapore. Katy previously served as the Associate Dean for Student Development at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

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Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

President Obama recently hosted his last White House Science Fair highlighting “the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and innovators.” One budding scientist, nine-year-old Jacob Leggette, really got the President’s attention. And, he got mine, too. Jacob was obsessed with 3D printers. Rather than sit by and wait for one to be presented to him, Jacob wrote letters to 3-D printer companies and convinced them to provide him with free 3D printers. What would he give the companies? Written reviews of their machines. Smart kid.

Jacob wanted something and he went after it. He didn’t expect someone to give it to him. Instead, he offered something in return. He saw a problem: lack of access to a 3D printer. He found a solution: writing reviews in exchange for 3D printers. And his clever solution led him to the White House Science Fair and a face-to-face meeting with President Obama. During that meeting, Jacob asked the President, “Do you have a child science adviser?”

Jacob is only nine-years-old, but his enthusiasm, drive, problem solving, and asking the right questions are instructive to a business school student who is job hunting:

1.  If you want something, don’t wait for someone to give it to you. Go after it.

2.  When presented with a problem, don’t give up; instead, use your problem solving skills and creativity to find an answer.

3.  When asking someone for a favor, it is always helpful to offer something in return. Job searching (informational interviewing, networking) is not a one way street.

4.  You will never know the answer if you don’t ask the question.

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