Name: Michael D. Imperato
Title: Career Advisor, Trainer & Consultant
Company: YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School & Independent Consultant
Q: Describe your ideal workday.
A: As long as every day is different, that is great start. I excel when I have multiple competing priorities and have to respond to a crisis or changing circumstances. Working with multiple constituencies – students, alumni, staff, volunteers, employers, colleges and partners – is exciting. I value being able to collaborate with colleagues, opportunities to work strategically, and to help others take steps towards their future goals. Extra desserts from an event leftover in the staff kitchen is a bonus!
Q: Name a question that you would want to hear in an interview, but probably never will. Why would want someone to ask that question?
A: Can I speak with a colleague you have supervised, mentored or taught? Interviews and references are usually focused on supervisors or peer feedback. The perspective of the student/client/direct report is not often captured directly but is generally where an employee focuses most of his/her time and accomplishes goals or metrics. This would parallel a 360-degree feedback process and provide a more well-round picture of a candidate.
Q: What was the pathway that your career has taken to get you to your current position?
A: My original goal in college was to go into healthcare management but my experiences in student government and as a Resident Assistant led me to working in Student Affairs at universities in the area. My next career step into workforce development was driven by my strong interest in returning to Philly and to take on a new career challenge. Currently I focus on post-secondary access and alumni success at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, which is high school diploma program for motivated 18-20 year olds who previously dropped out of high school. This role combines my background in career development, post-secondary education and program design and was an unexpected opportunity. I never pictured myself working in a high school, but the last few years have been some of the most rewarding professional experiences of my career. In addition, I also work as an independent consultant on individual career and college strategy and employee training. In terms of the future, I am no longer focusing on five or ten year plans because my next opportunity may not exist yet!
Q: What is one thing you feel all young professionals should do? Why?
A: “Once a month invite someone smarter than you to lunch.” A few months ago I read this recommendation as I was searching for new professional development strategies. In practice, I look for professionals who have a leadership style, management technique or knowledge that I admire and ask to hear about their career and approach to leadership, their plans for the future and recommendations for learning more about the topics we discuss. After a few lunches this has turned out to be one of the best steps I have taken for my own professional development.
Q: What is the most horrible, outrageous business practice you have seen?
A: During my career I have observed negative business practices but those individuals make their decisions and determine if they want to share their experiences – I prefer to reflect on those as examples of what not to do in the future. In thinking about some of those experiences, I see a trend of leaders failing or choosing not to invest in their employees. My career working with students and staff has always focused on creating experiences that will meet the goals of the organization, help develop them as leaders, as well as to meet their future goals. In my experience, this investment has always resulted in stronger outcomes for our students, partners and the organization.
Q: What is the most spectacular, remarkable practice you have seen?
A: Humility. Over my career many of the leaders that I have admired have all possessed this quality and it is one that I continue to strive towards. Often this is accompanied with knowing when to listen rather than respond, especially when put into a difficult position by others.
Q: What drives you to be a part of YPN?
A: Volunteering and connecting members, especially new members, to those opportunities have been my best experiences in YPN. In particular, I have worked with McClure Elementary School and attended multiple events over the last few years. Interacting with the students, parents and staff to improve the community and the experience for the students has motivated me to return for each event at the school. Any YPN member who has not yet participated in a volunteer event should definitely check the YPN Events Calendar for new events each month!