A Mentor Remembered

Sometimes, a person we barely know influences us in ways unimaginable.  Whether through counsel, encouragement, praise, or even chiding.

Recently, John Szymczak passed.  Nearly twenty years ago, I was at a crossroads in my career.  Deciding whether to continue working in senior corporate human resources management or start an organization development firm, I sought the counsel of Mr. Szymczak.

John was well known in Western New York and beyond as a career transition specialist.  He had helped thousands of men and women of all ages and backgrounds search for employment and/or find their niche.  He was an executive coach before the profession became in vogue.  

When I voiced my interest in starting a business, John listened attentively.  He deftly challenged my idea without killing my dream.  Then, he offered a simple prescription,  “If you are serious about this, share your business idea with 35 people.  Do not try to sell them.  Ask them what they think about your idea.  And then, and only then, after you analyze and digest the information will you consider whether to start your business.”

John Szymczak had a knack for “cutting to the chase.”  This was exceptionally valuable when dealing with results-oriented professionals and executives.  I sure did not need the message and advice sugar-coated in anyway.  John knew the risks associated with starting a business.   He had the wisdom to not predict what level of success I would have in my business. Perhaps, he knew that a bit of uncertainty was the challenge I needed.

Twenty years later, I am glad I listened to John Szymczak, the career professional I barely knew.   May his memory be eternal.


Posted on November 5, 2015 .