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Career Planning

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

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

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)  Professional credentials site Web strategy, technology, and development
Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Most people have a LinkedIn profile.  And most people understand the importance that relationships play in building a business, making a sale, or getting the job.  But most people are mystified when it comes to using Social Media (and LinkedIn in particular) pro-actively.

Of course, there are active strategies that are a play on content marketing: putting something “out there” in the hope that a person or organization will happen upon that content (or happen upon your profile), and then reach out to make contact.   Examples of this include creating a robust profile filled with keywords, periodically sending out new status updates, or contributing meaningfully within LinkedIn groups.

If you are doing these things, then you are fertilizing the soil, but not planting any seeds. To grow business, you need strategies that are even more pro-active.  Here are six of them:

1) Before you meet anyone in the real world, search for them on LinkedIn. If you have very little time, doing this will expose at least some of their background.  And when you do meet, you can ask them about common connections.  If you have more time, call the common connections first; you’ll not only strengthen that relationship, but you’ll arm yourself with invaluable intelligence for your meeting.

2) Check on who is viewing your profile.  Reach out and say hello, asking them about their interest in you.  You can offer to send some more background, or perhaps schedule a short phone conversation. Hint:  See who you know in common, and reach out to them first.

3) Groups:  After developing a reputation in a LinkedIn group as a contributor, ask another contributor if they wish to get together for a short phone meeting or a  coffee.

4) Third party introduction:  Review the connections of one person that you know well at a “target” company, and ask if they could help set up a coffee meeting with a specific individual on their connections list.  After the coffee meeting, ask that individual if you can be connected within LinkedIn.

5) Improve your 1st degree relationships. Review all of your connections; compile a list of people that you don’t know that well, and reach out to each of them for either a phone call or in-person meeting.

6) Comments:  Instead of a generic comment on someone’s post, ask directly if you can “connect” in the real world. Sometimes a simple “can we connect over the phone?”  will work wonders.

What is the common thread between each of these pro-active prospecting strategies?  Each one aims to transform an online relationship to a real world one.  Whether you are looking to close a deal or get a new job, most people will not commit without spending real time together.

This Week’s Action Plan:  If you’ve already made the investment in a Social Media profile, and you’ve made the investment in learning how Social Media works, it’s now time to get a return on this investment.  This week, leave the passive world behind, and execute at least one of these active  prospecting strategies.

Marketing insight:  The Relationship Curve suggests that a sale is not made without first moving through awareness, preference, then trial.  These prospecting strategies are all designed to move people from one stage, into another.

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

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Social Infrastructure

by Randall Craig December 7, 2012

Look around, and you are surrounded by advertisements: which ones catch your eye?  Likely, the ones that are the loudest.  Unfortunately, the race to the loudest is making it hard for anything to get through. One of the key reasons for corporate interest in Social Media is that it is a completely new channel, one […]

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Social Networking Integration

by Randall Craig November 30, 2012

Have you ever considered how some words (and technologies) are so important, yet in the fullness of time completely disappear?  Buggy whips, Barrel makers (“coopers”), and Telex machines  are but a few examples.  Not fifteen years ago, the term “ebusiness” was popular, until people figured out that there was no such thing as ebusiness – […]

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Generation Gap

by Randall Craig July 26, 2012

Look around: who are the Social Media go-to people in your office?  Look around again, and identify the people with the strongest business acumen.  In almost all organizations, the first group is younger, with-it hipsters, while the second group is typically much older.  Getting these groups on the same Social Media strategy page  can be […]

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Corporate Success Factors

by Randall Craig April 5, 2012

It’s always easy to look at other organizations – or other people – and marvel at their incredible foresight, acumen, and investment.  To look at some of the most successful companies and their products – Apple and Google come to mind – and say “They were just lucky” is too easy, and unlikely. Few people […]

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Can you ever have too many friends? (yes)

by Randall Craig March 29, 2012

Do you play the milestone game with your Social Media accounts? When you first sign up, you aim for ten connections.  Then 50, 100, 250, and finally the coveted 500 – you’ve arrived.  And then you aim for 1000.  How many is too many? As I look at my own LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, it […]

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Seven Social Media Job Search Steps

by Randall Craig March 8, 2012

Even from the most committed employees, one question comes up over and over again: how to use Social Media to find your next job.  It might be couched in different language (How do I develop professional profile/How do I take advantage of Social tools for support, etc), but the question remains.  How can you use […]

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Six Steps to Strategic Blogging

by Randall Craig February 17, 2012

Chances are that you are not a blogger.  But chances are relatively high that you like the idea of being one. During my last 100 or so presentations, I asked the audiences if they blog: only a sprinkling of  hands typically go up. When asked if they like the idea of blogging, most people put […]

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Back to the Basics

by Randall Craig February 10, 2012

Wake up, wash, dress, and eat breakfast. Scan the headlines, scan LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Blog comments. Read and respond to comments in your communities. Then start the day. Check voice mail. Check email, and respond to emails from LinkedIn groups, Facebook, and Twitter direct messages. Then see if there are any comments on YouTube. […]

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Tools of the Trade

by Randall Craig January 3, 2012

If you are reading this and profess to have some expertise in Social Media, then you may be offended by my next comment: it soon won’t matter, and your “expertise” is fast becoming irrelevant. Your long term career is in jeopardy, and your short term prospects are also questionable. Note that I didn’t say that […]

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Five Social Media New Year’s Career Resolutions

by Randall Craig December 28, 2011

1) Resolve to become more proactive: Social media is a great resource for connecting with people, but it is the most powerful when it is used to “amplify” real-world relationships proactively.  This year, get in the habit of checking a connection’s profile before a meeting.  Get in the habit of recognizing others online for work […]

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Are you a Social Media addict?

by Randall Craig November 16, 2011

Have you ever been “captured” by an activity, finding it almost impossible to let go? Marathon runners call it the runner’s high. Smokers call it an addiction. But what is it called when you can’t tear yourself from Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or other social networks? If it is part of your job, then some would […]

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Critical Mass

by Randall Craig August 23, 2011

[Special Announcement:  Since 2009, I have hosted a webTV show where I interviewed the nation’s thought-leaders each week.  I am inviting you to a special “sneak peak” at the show’s new beta website.  We’re still filling in the gaps, but with over 115 episodes, guest blogs, and other features, there is quite a bit there.  […]

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The Right 10,000 Hours

by Randall Craig June 7, 2011

Malcolm Gladwell asserts that one cannot be an expert without first earning 10,000 hours of experience. So how do you become recognized for your expertise if you don’t have enough experience to be recognized…?  This isn’t a problem just for those entering the workforce (or for entrepreneurs), but also for those considering a career change, […]

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The Authentic Me

by Randall Craig May 10, 2011

Have you ever listened to a presentation and thought it sounded fake?  Or met someone for the first time, and thought they were different in person when compared to their emails? Too often, we think that we need to be different people to different audiences:  the stern parent, the loving spouse, the “professional” businessperson, or […]

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Knowledge to Action

by Randall Craig January 27, 2011

During the last seven years, this Tipsheet has focused on answering one key question: how can we as individuals translate what we learn into practical advice.  The Tipsheet content has ranged from professional success, management perspective, to social media.  Whatever the topic, each week there is a call to action, often with a twist, that […]

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Goal Culture

by Randall Craig January 12, 2011

Do you look for shortcuts in order to more efficiently reach your goals?  Do you feel jealous when others achieve before you do?  If so, it’s not surprising: you’ve been programmed that way.  Many organizations set annual goals for their employees; they follow-up with annual evaluations.  Compensation is tied directly to achievement… and the cycle […]

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Twitter Job Search

by Randall Craig June 23, 2010

Much has been said about Twitter, but how can you use it when you’re trying to sell yourself into your next role? It may be easier than you think; consider these four strategies: 1) Networking: Reach out to your “followers” on Twitter to let them know that you are currently looking for a new role.  […]

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Best of… Career Planning

by Randall Craig May 18, 2010

When was the last time you seriously considered your career? Since you spend more time at your job than doing anything else in life, it’s surprising how little time people thinking strategically about it. These Make It Happen articles can help start the progress: here are my favorite ones about career planning: The Long Game: […]

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