Simple words can help launch a career

I just found this letter in our storage unit. When I was 22 years old, I was hacking away at a telephone system at Sears in Antioch, CA while working as the building engineer. For some reason, I was really drawn to that ROLM telephone system and I somehow captured the attention of a local IBM rep. I think she was amused by my enthusiasm – by this time, I had “socially engineered” my way into getting the system password for the PBX. I had already performed a ton of optimizations to it, such as matching all telephone extensions to the department number, building speed-dials to all neighboring Sears stores, and replacing the old Automotive Department telephones with digital multi-line telephones. A few days after our meeting, she sent this letter to the store. She probably had no idea how influential it would be.

In this letter, this IBM account rep called me “innovative”. I was just 22 years old. I was just a kid with an affinity for that big orange telephone system. And this account rep with IBM, who I respected and admired, took the time to write this.

The confidence boost from this letter propelled me into a very rewarding career in telecommunications. I used it to score my next two jobs – one with a Northern Telecom reseller in 95, and the next with a large institutional investment firm in 97.

Over the next thirty years, I have attempted to boost others in the same way. We have no idea what letter of recommendation or encouragement will do for someone. I’m not sure a linked-in recommendation or “good job” comment on Facebook has the same impact today. I suppose today it’s all about the “likes” and the “shares”. But if you have a chance to help someone just starting out in life with a letter like this, I highly recommend it. You have no idea what a few written words of encouragement can do for someone.

Kim Beaudette, if you’re out there somewhere, I thank you for taking the time to write this note back in 1992. You changed my life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *