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Last week, while on a brief vacation, I had the privilege of reading the book, Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. The book tells the story of how the author, a self-described Hillbilly, rises from a life of poverty and instability to graduate from Yale Law School and join the ranks of the “elite.” It is a remarkably honest story in which Mr. Vance shares some very intimate, personal observations on the very significant challenges he had to overcome to achieve success in both his personal life and career.

Hillbilly Elegy has received a lot of attention from the media since the life it depicts is thought to be representative of many blue-collar Trump supporters. Mr. Vance was recently interviewed on several leading Sunday morning news shows.

I am not qualified to assess whether the Kentucky Hillbillies that Mr. Vance depicts in his book are typical Trump supporters. What I can say is that this is an extremely well written book that is well worth reading for its observations about life. I would encourage anyone seeking to advance their careers in the Transportation industry to read and reflect on the experiences of Mr. Vance. The following are a few thoughts.

J.D. Vance describes the Hillbilly culture in detail. He explains how the decline in manufacturing in Ohio, where Mr. Vance lived for much of his early life, had a major impact on the community. A quirky culture characterized by a low work ethic, a low priority on education, particularly for males, and poverty, led to problems with alcohol, drug addiction and human relationships. Mr. Vance had a very challenging family life.

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One of the business trends over the past couple of decades has been the employment of personal coaches to help key leaders and executives enhance their skill sets. These coaches can be engaged to tutor an executive in such areas as leadership, decision-making and team-building; others may be hired to coach an individual in media relations, in certain “technical” job functions or in speaking another language (i.e. French or English).

When used wisely and effectively, these resources can be very helpful in expediting the career growth of a potential high achiever within an organization. For some organizations, they can help “weed out” those business leaders who don’t possess the ability to learn and adapt in a timely manner.

Some businesses and government functions are willing to spend significant dollars to fast track their top executive talent. In fact, in some companies, we encounter business leaders who have multiple coaches with each one having a specific area of expertise. The question is, what can individuals do, who wish to progress rapidly in their careers, if their organizations aren’t willing or don’t have the budget to provide this additional level of mentoring and education? Here are a few suggestions.

Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses and construct your own Career Development Plan

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