What is the line between constructive criticism and getting berated? I think that all depends on the listener.
Throughout life, you are going to be offered advice…warranted and unwarranted. How do you handle that advice, especially when it comes in the form of criticism? When you are young and in your teenage years, you are more inclined to rebel and learn for yourself and not want to be told what to do or how you are doing it wrong. When you are old, you feel as if you have had enough life experience to know that what somebody is telling you is not anything new and that you are pretty sure you are right about what you are doing. But there is a sweet spot in the middle, when people are most open to change and taking advice. These are your wisest years because these years allow you to learn from others, try new things, make mistakes, and grow from those mistakes. The longer you can prolong this mentality, the wiser you will be.
I left off my last blog detailing how AIM began connecting students with mentors. Once we started charging students $90 to connect with mentors, we received wild success. Every student received internships, follow up meetings with their mentor, recommendations to meet other professionals in their field or a combination of those outcomes.
It was awesome to feel that AIM was truly making a positive impact on these college students. My only issue was that AIM was not making nearly enough money to sustain a business and I needed to discover a way to make AIM sustainable.
Having the realization and acceptance that your current business plan is unsustainable is not easy to accept. I met with an Indiana University alumnus who was a former investment banker and recruiter for JP Morgan Chase. He ripped my business model apart…to shreds…no mercy. I could have gotten angry and hung up the phone, but I realized there was a silver lining.
First, I learned that most people are not inherently mean and their goal is not to berate you. Second, in every conversation, there is always a nugget of beneficial information that can be learned.
What this alumnus mentioned was that despite mentorship being beneficial, AIM would not be sustainable and that most college graduates entering the business world lacked soft skills and emotional intelligence (which he argued were as important as mentorship). He said that if a company could figure out a way to teach these skills and include a mentoring aspect that JP Morgan Chase and most other companies would be very intrigued in paying money to connect with the students AIM helped.
In essence, I learned a way to monetize AIM outside of the students and not purely that my current business plan sucked. I learned that despite Indiana University’s best efforts to teach soft skills and emotional intelligence, those are just skills that are very personal and difficult to measure with grades. It also requires a certain motivation level and desire of the student to want to learn and develop these skills too.
When these courses that teach soft skills and emotional intelligence are required, the motivation of the student diminishes significantly because they never had a choice of whether or not to take the class.
AIM pivoted to provide students who voluntarily purchased access to enroll in workshops that taught soft skills and emotional intelligence, connected students with mentors, and then with employment opportunities after they understood themselves well enough to gauge a better idea of what they wanted out of their career.
Most people don’t voluntarily try to bring others down. Most people inherently want to help others out because they derive the pleasure of feeling valued and special when they can share their wisdom. Realize that when others are criticizing you, they may have a point, so don’t take it as a personal attack, but rather embrace it, learn from it, and maybe build a positive relationship.