Welcome to Leaders In Play! We interview people who take having FUN at work very seriously. We know, it seems like a crazy concept, but incorporating Play At Work has been proven to improve employee engagement, creativity, recruitment, retention, and provide countless other benefits that help create healthy company culture. Read on to learn more about our featured leader and their definition of Play, both in and out of the workplace.
Location: Arlington, VA
Company: Department of Defense is my day job and D.C. Hopefuls is my passion project. D.C. Hopefuls is an organization dedicated to helping young people in Washington, D.C. get their career off the ground. Each year, thousands of young, ambitious people move to our nation’s capital with tons of student debt, a resume that some “career adviser” threw together for them, and no real understanding of how to professionally navigate this city. I know this to be true because it was my story for years. We teach young people how to build a strong resume that will get them into their field and excited about their career.
Role: Founder of D.C. Hopefuls
Two Highlights You’ve Had In Your Current Role:
Being able to meet a young man during his senior year at the University of Arkansas who says he wants to do environmental policy in D.C. one day and seeing him do it less than two years later.
Watching my small email list grow from 8 to over 500 in two years. I still can’t believe that many people want to take my advice!
Describe a normal day in your role.
No two days are the same. I focus 80% of my energy on the members of D.C. Hopefuls Fellowship, the private membership group within D.C. Hopefuls. I’m often posting in our private group, connecting members, conducting coaching sessions, or holding workshops. The remaining 20% of my time is dedicated to recruiting potential new members.
What does Play At Work mean to you?
Understanding that we are not machines. That time management is myth--it is all about energy management. Exercise, play, and breaks recharge our batteries!
What’s your favorite childhood game and why?
I’ll go with dodgeball. It’s definitely a great way to let off some steam!
How do you Play outside of work?
I started golfing last year when we found out my wife was expecting. I find that golf is the only place I’m truly in the moment. I’m not thinking about work, D.C. Hopefuls, bills, etc. Instead, I’m focused on what is exactly in front of me in that moment. Nothing resets my brain like swinging the clubs for an afternoon.
Name the most memorable work/networking event you’ve ever attended and why?
When I was new to D.C., I drove to a networking event at my graduate school. Halfway to the building I turned around and went home. I was overcome with anxiety about the idea of networking. I worked up the courage to eventually attend a few events. I always left disappointed. Often they centered on a few individuals speaking about their career and then we were all supposed to “network.” Whether it was the presenter or the attendees, all I ever heard was people recounting their “D.C. stories" (also known as their IRL LinkedIn profile). Conversation was reduced to regurgitating where they went to school, where they’ve worked, and who they know. It always left me feeling lost and confused on how they ever landed those jobs in the first place.
It wasn’t until years later that I became the speaker at these events and was able to share my real story of struggle, bad networking, and how I went from 350+ failed job applications in 4 years to 14 interviews in 12 weeks. The reaction I received was overwhelming and D.C. Hopefuls was born.
If you could have a billboard with anything written on it, what would it say? Why?
My billboard would say, "Help is the ultimate sign of strength." Too many people think asking for help is showing weakness, but it actually shows another person that you value them and have enough self-awareness to recognize your own shortcomings. It can seriously change your life.
Who or what do you draw playful inspiration from?
My one-year-old son. He has so much happy, playful energy. Every time I see him, I feel reinvigorated!
What’s one fun thing you want to do by the end of the year?
See Hamilton on Broadway. It’s a really long story but my wife and I have had crazy things happen several times that have prevented us from seeing it!
If you'd like to learn more about D.C. Hopefuls and how Tom equips professionals with the tools to succeed and advance their careers in the District, check out his FREE webinar from September 8-10. Register here!
If you have someone in mind who you would like to see featured, please email Angel at email@example.com.