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Learning

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)
www.RandallCraig.com:  Professional credentials site
www.108ideaspace.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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One of the most important – and one of the newest – elements of a modern marketing strategy is Content Marketing.  The idea is that if your “content” is everywhere, then would-be clients would be easily attracted to you.

Unfortunately, many marketers miss a crucial aspect of this: that the content must be valuable in the eyes of the reader; it must be insightful, new, and demonstrate thought-leadership.  If it doesn’t do this, the reader won’t make the direct connection between the content, and your expertise.  And they certainly won’t be asking for help.

Thought-leadership is the fundamental underpinning of content marketing – but how does one develop it?
Some ideas:

  • Read outside your professional area of knowledge: magazines, history, science, academic journals, daily newspapers, blogs, and more.
  • Register for seminars and courses, take certifications, and learn from people who are experts in areas related to your own.  You can then connect the dots between this new knowledge and your area of expertise.
  • Take greater responsibility on the job, thereby enriching your practical knowledge, outside of your usual day-to-day.
  • Write.  Not only does this help synthesize your ideas, but it is the first step to gaining feedback from others.
  • Join a group that puts your ideas to the test, both through discussion and debate.

More than any of these ideas, however, is the importance of actually spending time thinking.  Becoming a thought-leader without giving yourself ample time to think is impossible.

This week’s action plan: Whether you aspire to thought-leadership or not, thinking time often gets squeezed away by urgent deadlines and other priorities.  This week, schedule time to think – at least five hours.  One hour each day is a very small investment for thought leadership… and to make better decisions.

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

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
:  Professional credentials site
www.108ideaspace
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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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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Crowdsourcing

by Randall Craig July 20, 2012

How often have you run into a creative roadblock? Or you were stumped with a problem that you couldn’t figure out? When this happens, we are usually operating under a conventional wisdom that artificially closes the door to possibility. To break the block, one need only ask for help from ever-widening circles: colleagues, community, and […]

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Reading beyond the lines, part two

by Randall Craig September 20, 2011

Have you ever thought about how to become more creative?  One way is to expose yourself to ideas just beyond “the usual”: ideas that challenge you to think differently, or expose you to experiences that are well beyond your immediate knowledge.  With so much available on the web, it is easy to forget that books […]

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Happy Birthday World Wide Web

by Randall Craig August 9, 2011

It’s not celebrated widely, but in August 2011 (August 6th actually) the world wide web turned twenty. From humble beginnings, this “child” has revolutionized the world in no less a transformational way than the industrial revolution a century earlier. Think about what didn’t exist in 1991: eCommerce, eBay, ezines, online newspapers, Wikipedia, iphones, ipads, itunes, […]

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Intellectual Health Food

by Randall Craig August 19, 2009

Where did you pick up your current attitude to learning? The quick answer is your friends, family, school, and work colleagues. Looking more widely, you probably were influenced by TV, movies, your favorite author, and the culture in general. Too often, it is mindless TV shows, complaining friends and family, and your day-to-day work responsibilities. […]

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Sweat the small stuff – again

by Randall Craig July 7, 2009

Why do some people have tremendous career success, and others don’t? It might be convenient to point to their superior intellect, drive, positive attitude, or just plain luck – none of which you feel you have. But often their success comes from a source far more mundane: they try harder. Whatever their unique gifts, some […]

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Tomorrow’s job today

by Randall Craig November 18, 2008

As children, we get up and go to school… because that’s what we do. As young adults, we choose a college or university to give us the skills to succeed in a particular career. For many people, formal education then stops – and for good reason: why bother with more education, if you know all […]

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Get Certified

by Randall Craig November 4, 2008

There is no question that certification in your area of specialization provides enduring value. (In fact, there are a number of professions where you cannot practice without it.) Becoming certified differentiates you from your competition, and signals to others that you uphold certain standards and practices. These may include committing to a minimum number of […]

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Back to School Lessons

by Randall Craig August 19, 2008

Why is it that retailers have back-to-school sales starting in August? They know that clothing purchases are made in the 3-4 weeks immediately before the first day of school. (They also know that few customers will purchase clothing a mere day or two beforehand.) Stores make their buying decisions months in advance. Manufacturers make their […]

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Serving Non-customers Profitably

by Randall Craig August 5, 2008

Every organization focuses on profit first, right? While this is true for the corporate world, it often isn’t true in the not-for-profit sector, nor in government. These organizations typically have many different stakeholders, including the communities they serve, donors, regulators, media, and special interest groups. And the goals of these stakeholders move well beyond profitability. […]

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Career Renovations

by Randall Craig March 18, 2008

As many homeowners know, every few years you look at your home, and decide that one room or another needs a renovation. You go through the work, perhaps re-painting, perhaps purchasing new furniture, or perhaps doing something a bit more radical. When the renovation is complete, you know that it will provide years of satisfaction. […]

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Mastering a skill

by Randall Craig February 28, 2008

How long does it take – or should it take – for you to master a new skill? Conventional wisdom suggests that after doing something several times, you should know it fairly well. After doing it for a few months, you should have proficiency. And after a year, you’re an expert. Or are you? The […]

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Reading beyond the lines [u]

by Randall Craig October 18, 2007

A typical way to develop perspective is to consider issues from different vantage points. A less common – but perhaps more valuable – way to develop perspective is to expose yourself to different ideas. One way to do this is to read books that are at the fringes of your “typical” interest area – and […]

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Linked

by Randall Craig November 26, 2006

I’m just about half way through a fascinating book, called “Linked“, by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. In it, he explores how networks grow: whether they be social networks, biological networks, the internet, or web sites. One of his most fascinating points is that the study of an individual node – whether it be a cancer cell, an […]

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Report on Business Television

by Randall Craig November 20, 2006

Earlier today, I was at Report on Business Television, taping a few segments for some upcoming shows. In between, I spent time chatting with the host, Anne Gaviola. I made an off-hand remark that she must meet a number of fascinating guests; her reply impressed me. She said that indeed that she did meet many […]

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Two ears and one mouth

by Randall Craig March 14, 2006

Did you ever wonder how children can so quickly learn new things? And ever hear the expression “Children should be seen, and not heard”? Maybe there is a connection between these two concepts that can help us be better managers. Consider: it is 100% impossible to learn from others if you are the only one […]

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A Lifetime Return on Investment

by Randall Craig February 7, 2006

Recently I was a speaker at an international gathering of HR professionals. For three days, participants walked through the trade show, sat in conference rooms learning new ideas, and met other folks in the business. The wonderful thing about all this education and training is that once you learn something, the knowledge is yours forever. […]

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Learning from the Rest

by Randall Craig January 24, 2006

Ever hear the expression “Learn from the Best”? This is great when it comes to a coach or consultant, but a more important concept is “Learning from the Rest”. Each day, we interact with our workmates, friends, and sometimes even the youngest of children. Each of these folks has something unique that they can give […]

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