Looking to grow in your career? Sid Fuchs has some advice. “Make choices that give you more choices later,” says the author of Get Off the Bench: Unleashing the Power of Strategic Networking Through Relationships. Plus, don’t do the same job every year, for the next 20 years.
They’re two mottos Fuchs routinely follows in his role as president, CEO and director of MacAulay-Brown, Inc. (MacB), a Dayton, Ohio-based national security company. Along the way, Fuchs has learned, “If you are doing the same job for 20 years, you’re really not expanding your skill sets. You have one year of experience 20 times.”
Recently, Fuchs spoke with WashingtonExec about the power of relationships to grow professionally, and how everyone – from millennials to boomers – can advance in a stagnant economy.
Creativity and Commitment
It takes creativity and commitment to grow in a stagnant economy, says Fuchs, whose company employs 1,500 hires worldwide.
“Companies have to be very honest with their employees about the challenges in this industry right now,” says Fuchs. “There isn’t tremendous organic growth, so you have to find ways to be creative in order to challenge your people – and make them a priority.”
For Fuchs, that means giving staff additional assignments and training to keep their skill sets fresh.
Professional Relationships Outside of Your Organization
What was true in the past still holds: Networking reigns supreme. “As long as there is a need for people in the world, relationships and networking are still important,” says Fuchs.
But Fuchs notices an opposite trend. “I think across the spectrum there is a tendency to undervalue the importance of people and relationships,” says Fuchs, adding, “You have to build a network with people of all ages and perspectives.”
For millennials, that means respecting diversity of age. “When I was in my 20s and 30s, the general sense of people in that era was that we wanted to connect with more senior people to help and guide us,” says Fuchs. “Today, I think there is a tendency for younger people to discredit older people as ‘not with it’ … that is a huge mistake because you could be the most tech- and social media-savvy person in the world, but nothing replaces experience and access.”
It’s a message that Fuchs imparts regularly in his own mentoring activities on behalf colleges and universities, such as George Mason University and Louisiana State University. “The things I’ve learned in the last 30 years aren’t from a book, they’ve been from real-world experience,” says Fuchs, who, in turn, imparts lessons on leadership and career management to students he meets with. “There is a real desire to learn and for excellence, which is encouraging,” he says.
In addition to his work as the CEO of MacB and Executive in Residence at Louisiana State University, Fuchs has another book in the works. “I am working on a second manuscript – it’s about skillset evolution and how to transform from an individual contributor to an executive over the course of a career,” says Fuchs.
And Fuchs is enjoying time as an empty nester with his wife, now that their 3 sons are in college or have graduated and joined the workforce. “That’s been 22 years in the making … I know [our time]will include plenty of travel and some trips we haven’t done in the past – it’s time to integrate life and work even more and make sure we take advantage of the fact we have this freedom now and have done an excellent job of raising three outstanding young men,” he says.
That freedom comes at a time when MacB is growing, under private ownership. “The private ownership aspect is a huge advantage for us,” says Fuchs, whose company recently acquired Commonwealth Technology, Inc. (CTI), a provider of specialized products and engineering solutions for national security endeavors. “We will continue to acquire in our key markets and expand our capabilities while driving organic growth.”
Throughout, one element will remain a constant. “We will continue to invest in our people – and in relationships,” says Fuchs.