Juan Carlos* finished his MBA at IE many years ago when some of the current business school students were just about to be born. He has afterwards developed an impressive career. Until recently, he was Country Manager of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay for Baxter, one of the major global players in pharmaceuticals. He has returned to Spain now to be closer to his family.
For many business school students, a role as general manager in a big multinational corporation is still one of the most aspirational goals. Or is it? Juan Carlos encourages current students to spend some time thinking about this and points out the importance of creating a vision and of writing it down. Personally, he always does so on a yearly basis. At the end of the year, he looks back at what he achieved. Then he updates his personal and professional vision of what he would ideally achieve in around 3 years. Finally, he defines some goals for the year to come. What positive steps can be taken to get closer to those goals and which goals can already be reached?
To plan actions, he also believes in regularly making a personal SWOT analysis. If this is a good framework in business strategy why would you not want to apply it in your life? In a broader sense this is about self-awareness, something extremely important when thinking about your future and how you want to approach your goals. Juan Carlos also compares planning your future to planning your daily work. He shares how he realized how easily one can save 1-2 hours every day simply by planning in advance what should be done and by scheduling time accordingly. This is also related to prioritization. Which activities really add value to achieve your targets during the day, but more importantly: which steps in your life and which engagements really add to what you want to achieve? And where should you invest your resources accordingly? I could not agree more with Juan Carlos that living your live consciously, observing your environment and yourself constantly and making the most out of it not only helps you to be successful in your career but you will eventually also be a happier person.
Like a lot of leadership tools this concept is extremely simple. But be careful! It is not easy. Juan Carlos admits that if he looks back, he realizes that he worked too much for the first 10-15 years of his professional life. He is convinced he could have had exactly the same career spending a lot more time with his family. This whole paragraph should probably be bold and in capital letters for all the overambitious business school students searching for a job now.
Juan Carlos emphasizes the importance of knowing where you want to go. This also extends to job search. The more clearly you know what you want, the more likely you are to succeed. In addition to the open market, he experienced several success stories also if you engage headhunters specialized on your particular focus, if you get in touch with current employees of the company you want to work for – and lastly, if you try with unsolicited letters.
At the end of our conversation (and I was very happy to hear that from such an experienced professional after my recent posts here and here), he talked about the power of mentoring. He believes an extremely effective way to develop your career is to make use of the network and the advice of experienced professionals. They can help you along the process described above, to define your vision and to challenge your action plan to get there. IE alumni are a good starting point, he thinks. Many of them, he is convinced, are as eager to share and support as he is.
*Juan Carlos Sante is MBA alumnus of the class of 1987.