Perspective Series: Interview with Ali Rauch of Chicken Salad Chick
My biggest hope when you read this interview with Ali Rauch (Director of Marketing at Chicken Salad Chick) is that you see a co-worker, boss, season of job searching, or difficult job in a new light. I hope that the perspective she shares will encourage you to see that you get to decide how you will respond to life.
She took the words out of my mouth as she talked about how each opportunity (even bussing tables) teaches you something and leads to the next opportunity. I can only add that you can't expect better opportunities if you aren't willing to make the most of the ones you have.
1. How has perspective affected your career?
Perspective is a state of mind. No person can control the universe and decide exactly what (or when) things happen within your life or career. What every single person can do, is control HOW they react to, feel about, and interpret everything that happens.
Perspective has impacted my life, significantly, but I see it impacting my career every day in many ways. I'm an incredibly positive person, sometimes to a fault, but my ability to truly see EVERYTHING that happens in a positive light makes me a better person, a happier person, and a valuable asset to my company because I lift others up with my positivity.
2. What is your advice for others who are seeking to grow in their career?
My recommendation is to look at every job (or task) as an "opportunity".
I look back in my career and it's interesting... I worked in restaurants in high school and college, then my first "real job" was as a Scholarship Advisor at Auburn University. I stuffed envelopes, gave speeches, advised students, and honestly, was bored, a lot.
You know what I learned in that job? 1) I learned how to use excel and do a mail merge! Simple as that... and I fell in love with Auburn and officially became a part of the family (major bonus!!).
I then moved on to working as a PR & Marketing Manager for a small technology company in Auburn. I helped execute the digital marketing efforts, did some customer service and even sales tasks, technical writing, and most importantly, managed the team who built and executed our mobile apps. I left there and moved to a Sales & Marketing Coordinator position for a manufacturing company in N. Alabama. They manufactured aftermarket engine parts for boat engines. Not exactly my cup of tea, but man did I learn a lot. I worked with their engineering team on a software program. I traveled the world and did trade shows. I worked hand in hand with the President and learned so much about business, and profitability, and how the business world works. Without that experience, I would not have been ready to join Chicken Salad Chick, nor capable of coming in as the 1 woman marketing department that was charged with building the brand from 3 locations to the 120 we now have. What if I had said no? What if I had said "that's not a cool enough job for me" and kept looking? I'm glad I don't have to wonder!
That's a long winded answer, but important context because while I was on my career path, I never knew that it would take me to where I am now, but looking back, I see a lot of different jobs and tasks that I did that have all played into why I'm good at what I do now. Without a positive and ready-to-learn attitude, I never would have gotten where I am today.
One of my favorite speeches on this topic is from Ashton Kutcher, where he talks a lot about how opportunity looks a whole lot like hard work. That's the truth! Getting that big house, or nice car, or 6 figure salary does not come simply because you graduated from college (or got a 4.0), it comes from hard work.
Every person has the ability to impact how others value them as an employee by showing up on time, bringing a positive attitude, being willing to do any project, regardless if it's fun, glamorous, or technically a part of the job description. Every thing you do, is an opportunity to learn, and grow, and develop into a better person and employee.
3. From your perspective as a leader, what is one thing that employees can do to communicate or work better with their leader?
Learning each other's preferences and communication style is a really good start.
If your boss is a texter and hates voicemail, know that. If he or she is bad at checking email, then schedule meetings to run down your list of questions verbally.
Learn how they work, and adjust yourself accordingly so you can work best together.
4. From an interviewer perspective, what are you most interested in in the interview?
For me, my first interview is exclusively about CULTURE.
I'll take a look at their resume and confirm if they have the base skills I need, and may ask a few questions about it to get some context, but really, I"m asking questions regarding culture. We follow the Patrick Lenceoni, The Ideal Team Player, guidelines to find people who are humble, hungry and smart.
I ask questions like:
"What's your proudest accomplishment?"
"What is it about other people that annoy you?"
"What annoys you about other people?"
"What kind of hours do you work?"
"Did you work hard in high school?"
"What's the hardest you've ever worked for something in your life?"
We want to know:
1. Are they hungry - will they work hard to succeed?
2. Are they humble - do they care about themselves and what's in it for them, or do they truly care about others?
3. Are they smart - not book smart, but interpersonally smart. Can they read other other people well, get along with others, etc?
5. From a business perspective, what should other leaders be aware of as they grow?
They need to adjust and embrace the changing of time and culture and employee types. The millennials are coming into our own, and they're smart, and intuitive, and although some may give the rest a bad rap, for the most part, they work hard and want to do well in their lives (personally and professionally).
I would also recommend that leaders don't shy away from questions. As employees, we tend to ask a lot of "why" questions, not because we are questioning authority, or not trusting it, but because we truly want to understand. Embrace that instead of getting scared by it. There's room for all of us at the top - let's grow together and take the world by storm!
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