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Not back to school – Lessons for every student

by Randall Craig on September 1, 2013

Filed in: Blog, Career Planning, Learning, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , ,

Just about every Friday for the last eight years and four months, I went to school – but no more.  I was a consultant to the Schulich school of business, where I gave 288 presentations, coached over 2100 students, and mentored 128 of them at 7am almost every week.

I interacted primarily with full and part-time MBA students (usually in their early 30’s), as well as a smattering of Executive MBA’s and undergraduate business students.

After such an extended client relationship, I thought it  might be useful to share some insights:

Always show up early:  Showing up late is evidence of a disorganized mind, disrespect to the person you’re meeting, and is a promise unkept.  While it is true that sometimes events conspire against you, lateness should be the rare exception.  When I presented a series of lectures, there were advertised to start at a specific time, at which time the door would be locked.  Lots of knocking, gesticulating, and complaints, but strangely the second lecture in the series would always be completely full ten minutes early.  Respecting the clock – showing up early – is a skill that is so easily trainable: just doing it makes it a habit.

Keep your eye on the big picture:  After waiting for weeks for an appointment with me, one student confided that they were troubled about an important issue on their resume: whether a particular headline should be bold or italics.  I responded that it was more important to ensure no spelling or grammatical errors.  And even more important to make sure that they knew what they were “built for” and that this was reflected in the resume – and their career plan.

Always take notes in meetings – and interviews:  Note taking is evidence of active listening, and it is the only way to later recall all of the details.  After 50 minutes of an intensive coaching session, a student stopped the discussion, commented that this was the most productive and informative session that he has ever had.  As I was about to say thank you, he reached into his bag, produced a pen and paper, and slid it across the table: “Could you just write all of this down for me?”  I took the paper and pen, did some writing, and slid it back to him.  I wrote “next time take notes”.

Move beyond the pond:  Many students are completely immersed within the business school: clubs, committees, events, and student government. While this is convenient (and necessary), there is an ocean beyond that provides far greater opportunity.  A case in point: whenever a company would come onto campus for an information session, there would be 50-100 students attending, plus a few corporate representatives.  All for one or two jobs.  At a professional association event, the ratio is reversed: there may be 50-100 companies present, but only one student.  And since 80% of the jobs are only accessible through networking, moving beyond the pond is even more important.

Use the resources at hand:  At every college and university, there is an entire team that can do resume critique, interview prep, and career counseling.  They also put on seminars, workshops, and bring in external speakers.  Strangely, only a small fraction of students would access these resources. Investing time on your career is often more important than spending time in it.  Why do it alone when there is a vast array of experience you can take advantage of?

Play the part of the role you’re looking for:  Too often, I would meet a student who was unshaven, wearing ratty jeans, or perhaps had one too many shirt buttons open.  Every profession has its uniform: accountants are button-down conservative, while creative directors are expected to show design “flair”.  A first impression of “student”, means a second place personal brand.  When you dress for the role you seek, others will begin treating you accordingly – giving you even more confidence for the role.

Ask great questions:  The best people ask the best questions:  it is evidence of preparation, interest, and engagement.  Dumb questions are evidence of… dumb people I would never want to hire.  Great questions get beyond the obvious, and expose relevant capabilities.  Questions that are easily answerable with Google don’t count.

This week’s action plan:  Do you know anyone looking for new role?  If so, forward this Tipsheet to them: even though they may no longer be at school, being a student is a lifelong occupation.

Question:  Do you have any other advice?  Share your thoughts at https://www.randallcraig.com/back-to-school-2.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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About 

Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at randallcraig.com and 108ideaspace.com.

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