Here’s a career lesson from a place you wouldn’t expect. Many of us who grew up when Soul Train began wanted to emulate all the dances. Some of them were easy to do, other dances took coordination that few of us had.
It was cool. It was more than hip. It was enlightening.
I wanted an afro and bell bottoms. Eventually got the afro, and the bell bottoms, but too late. Mesmerized by Soul Train as a music fan, I don’t know what I was diggin’ more, the dancing and the music, or the culture.
Years later, I have not forgotten the way the show made me feel. Because of muscle memory, I can still do the “bump,” “the robot,” “the washing machine,” “the muscle,” and “the penguin.”
Soul Train has been off the air for several years now, and many of us, black, white, yellow and brown remember what Don Cornelius did during his career. Like Cornelius, we push past the lack of resources, means, and opportunity to achieve success. How we show it varies from person to person, and possibilities of opportunities.
Note what the competition is doing, then smash it with a locomotive
Don Cornelius started an entertainment show that featured stars who pantomime songs while young people dance in 1970. Sounds like “American Bandstand” doesn’t it? Yes the same genre, but Soul Train carved its own niche (also fighting off copycats). What made Soul Train different was the way it shaped culture, the distinct sound of music it showcased (especially the first few years) and how the show commanded the black community’s attention. Career lesson: Time and work should strengthen your product making it yours and original.
Stay on your personal brand track, even when errors in judgment derail it
Cornelius focused with the show’s brand passed up meaningful opportunities such as putting the name Soul Train on the title track of a song written for the show. The song “The Sound of Philadelphia” was one of the biggest songs of the decade. Career lesson: Many job seekers will mis-identify opportunities as good and bad. When you mistakenly miss a good opportunity, don’t be afraid to ask for another opportunity. Yes it’s humbling, but no, there’s no shame.
Train stops to allow others on board, and continues to the next stop
Don Cornelius stopped hosting the show in the late ‘90’s mostly as a business decision for the show continue to appeal to young adults. Career lesson: For many job seekers, allowing others to take over is not a choice. For many people it is the beginning of new opportunities, and a chance to have more control of the future. Experience never goes to waste as it becomes a part of character.
The same reason Soul Train is remembered, is the way older job seekers can stand out: People can recall how you make them feel, and make them change what they do. Soul Train changed what we did on Saturday afternoon, how we danced, and how the music changed our lives. Job seekers who exhibit changes in process, people, and technology successfully will impact the way co-workers do and forge forward.