What Abraham Lincoln Could Teach Today's Interns & New Hires
I’m old enough to remember the days when our country stopped to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday each February 12th and George Washington’s on February 22nd. No Presidents Birthday weekend then! In fact, my mother, who was both a political devotee and a baker extraordinaire, made sure we knew these days were important events. Each year on Lincoln’s birthday, she produced a celebration cake topped with a “log cabin” (made of tootsie rolls). And every year our Washington birthday dinner ended with cherry pie--though Mom was the first to insist the whole “I cannot tell a lie,” cherry tree-story was more fiction than fact.
This past year, Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Louis reintroduced movie-goers to our nation’s 16th president. The movie Lincoln, which I highly recommend, shines a spotlight on this politically astute White House occupant who became fully engaged in the messy, deal-making involved in achieving three goals: ending the Civil War; uniting the country; and abolishing slavery. The movie made me laugh and cry and proud to be part of the American experiment.
New and established professionals alike would benefit from studying the life of Abraham Lincoln. It’s filled with a series of lessons like: Failure happens . . . what matters is how we handle defeat; Personal losses are inevitable . . . and can be transformative events; Rejection need never be permanent.
Do an Internet search on “Lincoln’s failures,” and you’ll quickly come across several lists that look something like this:
• 1831 - Lost his job
• 1832 - Defeated in run for Illinois State Legislature
• 1833 - Failed in business
• 1834 - Elected to Illinois State Legislature (success)
• 1835 - Sweetheart died
• 1836 - Had nervous breakdown
• 1838 - Defeated in run for Illinois House Speaker
• 1843 - Defeated in run for nomination for U.S. Congress
• 1846 - Elected to Congress (success)
• 1848 - Lost re-nomination
• 1849 - Rejected for land officer position
• 1854 - Defeated in run for U.S. Senate
• 1856 - Defeated in run for nomination for Vice President
• 1858 - Again defeated in run for U.S. Senate
• 1860 - Elected President (success)
On this Lincoln’s Birthday, take some time to remember our 16th president and think about your own professional challenges. Do you worry that your resumé is not as stellar as some of your competitors for a particular position? Make a run for the job anyway. Show employers the special traits you can bring to their workplace. Did you lose a job during the Great Recession? That shouldn’t keep you from scaling new heights. Every time you’ve tackled a new challenge, have you felt defeated? Keep your head up and your eyes open. The right opportunity may still be out there. When you think about professional networking, consider creating a very diverse network not unlike Lincoln's team of rivals.
What Do You Need to Know?
If Lincoln’s life teaches us anything, it’s that failure of some kind is inevitable, persistence pays off and an operational network is invaluable.
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