I was struck by the optimism and ambition of the alumni at the American Councils’ charity ball held this week. When I asked them about their career plans, I felt as though I was speaking to bicultural individuals embracing the best of Russian and American character traits.
21-year-old Elizaveta Levina, an alumna of the high school program, who returned from her year in America five years ago, said that she thought that “In Russia people are brought up with a different outlook on their careers than Americans, because there are fewer opportunities here.”
Liza added that “When I was at high school in the States, I had the chance to take part in all kinds of extra-curricular activities, so when I came back to Russia, I was very optimistic about my future and full of grand ideas.”
Liza says that she hopes that in a couple of years she will have her own tourism business, possibly based in Europe. And perhaps that is not just a pipe dream — she already has a BA in business administration from Touro University and she is in her fifth year studying English and psychology at MGLU.
I spoke to recruitment specialists to ask them if they thought that pessimism is usually inherent in Russian nature and they all objected to my theory vehemently, saying that perhaps there was a mood of dejection in the labor market right after the 1998 financial crisis, but that it has now passed.
Anna Verba, of executive search agency Go-Getter Group, did agree with me on the importance of optimism in building a successful career. She pointed out that an optimist has positive energy that he passes on to colleagues, but that in contrast, a pessimistic manager, say, has a detrimental affect on co-workers.
However, she cautioned that optimism is just one factor among many, and not an alternative to other leadership qualities such as the rational thinking, management skills and professionalism essential to a successful career.