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Launching a Career in a Pandemic: Caroline Kallam’s Leadership Journey

Caroline is one of millions of 2020 graduates who did everything right: pursued their passion, built a network, gained experience, and got their dream job… only to have a global pandemic upend all of their plans.

“Pivoting” then became the buzzword for this cohort of future leaders, and with her job offer on hold and the future wide open, Caroline pivoted into the Master’s program in Leadership and Human Resource Development at LSU. Last fall she came on board at Success Labs as our newest Associate Consultant. In this role, Caroline utilizes her background in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology to support our consultants and clients with strategic planning and organizational development, research and survey design, and report writing.

“As the president of my sorority of over 300 women, I had the opportunity to take a course on leadership, and I got really into it,” says Caroline. “Leadership coaching and development worked on me – it made me the leader in college that I wasn’t before. I realized that investing in other people and seeing that bear fruit was my passion.”

Her passion eventually led to a job offer from her sorority as a leadership development consultant, but this traveling position was suspended amid the first wave of the pandemic. With graduate school applications long closed, Caroline knew she didn’t want to sit around and wait for something to happen… so she took a chance, contacted the director of the graduate program, and was able to join the Fall 2020 cohort.

“It all ended up working out. I had my dream job in my hands and the rug got swept out from under me, but now I have the opportunity to learn more, and be a practitioner of what I’m learning.”

She says that her favorite part of the work is seeing the light bulb come on for the client, and knowing that they’ve made a connection that will benefit them in their role. Caroline remembers a light bulb moment she had while managing the Executive Council at her sorority – noticing how different learning styles and personalities affected performance. She began meeting with the Council one-on-one to provide specific support, and in the process learned a lot about the key leadership competencies of Delegation, Listening, and Communication.

A Values-First Approach

“I’ve watched friends go into the workplace post-COVID, and now the job market is more volatile than ever, especially with resignations and job changing on the rise,” Caroline notes. “I think this is an opportunity for my generation to set ourselves to a standard, take control of our career journey, and teach leaders about what the workplace can and should be.”

Companies are increasingly recognizing that being people-centric is the key to business success… rather than a production-first approach. In many cases, early-career employees are driving this shift by asking for a focus on development, wellness, and work-life balance. Organizations in turn are finding that investing in people yields a ten-fold return; via increased morale, high retention, and the ability to attract top up-and-coming talent.

Caroline advises other young professionals to recognize the important role they have in this conversation. Establish the values that are most important to you, and align yourself with organizations that practice those values. High standards have a way of trickling out to the rest of the company.

“If our generation is focused on asking workplaces to be the best versions of themselves, everyone will be successful. It’s a grassroots effort.”

As Caroline progresses in her career, she’s excited to see how the principles of I/O Psychology – particularly studies on how workplace practices affect employees – play out in today’s business environment. Most of all, she looks forward to using her career to continue to help people and organizations be their best in our dynamic, complex world. As Caroline learned for herself, there’s plenty of opportunity to seize along with our challenges – if you are willing to set high standards and rise to this moment.

Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to grow leaders, build teams and drive results through great people strategy. Contact us to get proactive about expanding your company’s potential, and stay up-to-date with our latest news and leadership development updates here.

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