Job Chronicles: Vernon JordanPosted: July 27, 2009
Like any ambitious person I have mentors. Some I know and some I don’t. The ones I don’t know I label as mentors in the sense of the lessons I can learn from books they written, interviews, and professional accomplishments.
During law school I read a quote from Vernon Jordan (of Clinton/Monica Lewinsky fame) who in an interview was asked what his strengths as a lawyer were. His response, “I know people, all kinds, everywhere and I can understand them.”
That quote made me an instant fan of Mr. Jordan because it articulated how I wanted to build my career. However the quote can be applied to pretty much any field you can think of. At the end of the day it always comes down to people (bosses, employees, customers) and understanding what they want. The more types of people you know, whether as friends, through social/professional groups, kickball teams, and so forth, the greater your potential to see the world through their eyes, and proceed accordingly.
Mr. Jordan’s ultimate strength in his legal practice is not his memo writing prowess (though I’m sure his writing ability is excellent), his ability to churn out legal briefs, or hours billed. Mr. Jordan’s strength lay in his ability to leverage past relationships. He was a facilitator, a connector above all else.
Here’s an excerpt from an entertaining Fast Company article of which Jordan is the focus:
“Jordan earns $1 million a year from a law practice that requires him to file no brief and visit no courtroom, because his billable hours tend to be logged in posh restaurants, on cellular phones … making a deft introduction here, nudging a legislative position there, ironing out an indelicate situation before it makes the papers.”
I don’t want to be the next Vernon Jordan. There is only one Vernon Jordan. What I do want is to be in the same strata as him, uniquely A.J., eventually.