A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Rob Bates is a dedicated business professional with a knack for problem solving, and a passion for public service, causal marketing, and community building/mobilizing/organizing.
He also has a passion for music production, audio engineering, sound innovation and design).
1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/ certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?
The new role that I’m in (Financial Representative) is a contracted position for the first few months and requires heavy training from the company (and some licensing). This kind of training is the only way to really be fully prepared for the role, but the role isn’t for everyone. It requires interpersonal skills, transparency, and trust. Now, I could sit back and tell you that I attended the University of Illinois, majored in Advertising and held various internships (one at Edelman, a top 50 PR firm, and an internship at Carol Williams followed by a fellowship with the Obama for America campaign) which bolstered all chances of me locking in opportunities desired by many others…but I won’t. These all taught me something different, most importantly by teaching me about myself and how I work with others in different settings. It also helped to give me perspective on what I should focus on.
Now, since I am in a fairly new role I’d rather exercise a bit more reserve in answering this question. Still, the best answer I can give is actually by responding with series of questions that I always ask myself prior to applying for any position: Is this role a good fit for what I expect of myself? Am I career building, or am I job seeking? If I’m job seeking, realistically, how will this help me as ‘stepping stone’ or ‘launch pad’ towards the career that I want? And, how long do I plan to stay in the role? If I want to do something but don’t have the necessary skills to accomplish it just yet, what are the best ways for me to acquire those skills? Who will I be working with? What are the conditions, etc. — I reverse interview the job description of the position for which I am applying, if that makes sense.
Sure, everyone tells the tale of how their process is similar, but truth is I’ve been employed, unemployed, underpaid and over-utilized— and I have even found myself in a role where I came to know absolute complacency. And complacency is always always always a no-no in my book. It comes down to the person and the experiences that they seek out.
Truth is, I attended University of Illinois only months after beating Cancer my senior year of highschool. Though I would’ve done just fine at any other school, I never really had a say in where I wanted to go. Of all the schools I applied to, U of I was my top selection. I only applied to schools in the midwest because no one knew whether my health would sustain. Point is, I had no clue of what I wanted to do going into school. I switched majors several times and somehow landed on advertising. I took a keen interest in certain psychology principles I learned about from various classes. I dabbled in music production for several years, loved photography and video, and in combining all of these I saw advertising as an outlet. But, I also learned a lot from serveral Urban Planning classes I took, a civil engineering course or two, and thoroughly enjoyed my study abroad to Cape Town, South Africa. Again, so many different college experiences, not to mention post collegiate work in different fields (PR, Marketing, Advertising, Philanthropy/Causal Advocacy, etc). I feel that I have a good idea of who I am these days based one what I don’t like, and what I’ve taken interest in, along with seeing understanding why certain experiences felt like a better fit for me.
1B. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job?
Specifically, for what it is I wish to accomplish in the long run, and based on where I see myself in just a matter of years, policy writing / analysis. I have a heart that has not given in to my brain’s calls for me to find a profession that is highly lucrative. In short, as I have started the licensing process for this new position, I am undertaking the graduate school application process too.
I have given strong consideration to graduate school, and contrary to popular notions that it (itbeing graduate school) is a waste of time, I assure you, it won’t be. I’ve learned that it comes down to the individual and what they’re able to make of their own experience. I have the utmost confidence in my own ability to achieve and excel in any institution given that the field of work is in line with my passion for public service and ethics in policy.
2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?
Absolutely. Patience, strong interpersonal skills, confidence, transparency, trust building, etc. – this current role is vert much a sky’s the limit position so final output/take-home is based on the individual. I’m excited about the opportunity especially given that a lot of my personal characteristics/traits align well with what the position calls for. I’ve also managed to pick up a part time working for Trumaker, a new men’s clothing start-up. Again, requisite of the position would be genuine principles of interpersonal relationship building 101.
Hmm, this is a tough one. In my full-time job I do certain aspects of each; but would probably still be considered a producer. In my extracurricular spare time, given the organizations I’m involved with and community projects I choose to undertake, I’m much more of an embodiment of 3 of the 4.
I’m always thinking about the next thing I can make happen in order to improve someone else’s life— and this can be scaled both downward and upward. Yet, I’m always imagining the new; developing the narrative of the unprecedented— the undiscovered, the exciting. I do this and then set out to accomplish whatever my idea calls for. And in order to do this, I use a combination of my own originality guided by intellect and practicality. I often manage my own projects and projects that involved others. So, ideally, I would say I’m somewhere between an improver, thinker and builder– but, the reality is most would see my current role as that of a producer. If you consider everything that I’m involved in it requires a much broader approach to the question than just limiting it to the one role I currently hold.
4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?
In many ways, yes, it will down the line. But not immediately. It might be easier to speak for me to speak on the last role I held (held that position for almost 3 years). My last position used to require direct supervision from my manager as I was just getting my foothold. Still, I really evolved a role that was meant to focus on one or two things, and turned it into something much bigger by adding more value. Upon vacating that position I was responsible for managing a number of highly important resources, and in turn, that required me to“project manage” for other people. With regard to my newest role, it really requires that I be prepared to engage with people on a moment to moment basis, but no direct reports as of yet.
5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?
This industry is about trust. I know I keep saying that, but it is. Trust, persistence, and consistency. Through engaging with clients, anything I do in my role is direct representation of the company and should always have positive impact. On the business level, happier clients leads to further referrals for myself and my teammates. In short, the people we help?Everyday people. This matters because it isn’t just their lives, but their children’s lives, and the lives of their children’s children. A huge focus of the financial planning / advisory industry is helping individuals to plan for the future. Again, I have to be very careful in speaking on this since it is a new role and I would hate to get in trouble for misstating or misrepresenting, but I genuinely feel that I have a solid understanding of this as it is what drew me to this industry in the first place.
6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1–10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?
Yes. I don’t have to do any heavy lifting (biggest safety concern given the reconstructive surgery it took to piece my left arm together), and I don’t have to engage with violent individuals on a day to day basis. So, I would have to say it is fairly safe; a fair 2 or 3. Though, to be perfectly honest, the only reason it isn’t a 1 is that there are some risks involved in the role (which can be potentially dangerous to my financial security should I execute an aspect of my job incorrectly). This industry is very specific about what you can and can’t say regarding you / your company’s practices and requires many hours of training which I am currently in the process of doing.
7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?
I’m very particular about how I view these kinds of things. Everything I do in my professional life I see as having impact on personal— that is, I don’t like separating the two (work life, personal life). What I have seen is that when the lines start to get blurred this is often a sign that you’re doing that which is meant for you.
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.