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Personal Development

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


Matchmaker, Matchmaker

by Randall Craig on November 7, 2006

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Networking

Tagged as: , ,

How many people are in your network: 25? 200? 800? 1600? The number doesn’t matter as much as how tightly you are connected to them, and how tightly they are connected to each other. When this linkage happens, so does magic. Your network can support you in your current position, help you understand industry issues and trends, and make you aware of opportunities beyond. If your linkages are weak, your network is like a computer without electrical power: great potential, but wasted.

There are two primary ways to power your network. The first involves helping individuals within the network, by “giving” them things (ideas, information, support) that are genuinely helpful to them. Doing so lays the groundwork for them to return the favor. The second way to power your network is to connect those within it to each other. This might mean a three-way meal, a conference call, or setting up a short coffee meeting for your contacts by themselves. If you create linkages of value, your relationship with both parties will also become more valuable. And they’ll return the favor, hooking you up with contacts in their network.

This Week’s Action Item: Add the title “matchmaker” to your resume, and help your contacts with their networking. Identify three matches that you could arrange – and schedule the first meeting to happen this week.

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

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


Starting a New Job

by Randall Craig October 24, 2006

You’ve been through a grueling interview process and you’ve finally got the job or won that promotion. What can you do right at the start to guarantee your success? The truth is that nothing is guaranteed in today’s environment, but take care of a few key things, and your chances of success can improve drastically: […]

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The good old days…

by Randall Craig September 12, 2006

Have you ever spent time with some colleagues talking about the good old days? Perhaps wishing that a former boss or colleague was still part of the team? Or maybe wishing that the old commission plan was still in place? Many people do this from time to time, but it is a terrible waste of […]

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People don’t fail, they give up

by Randall Craig August 15, 2006

Look around, and you see others enjoying great vacations, fancy cars, and great careers. Especially when you don’t have these things, it is easy to lose your confidence, which makes these (and other goals) even less attainable. While some are successful because they are lucky, most people get to where they are because of consistent, […]

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Business Travel Balancing Act

by Randall Craig August 8, 2006

When you are interviewing for that new position, and are asked about how you feel about business travel, most people will say that it isn’t a problem. In fact, some may see the prospect of travelling to exciting new places as a key benefit of taking the job in the first place. After several months […]

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Experience Life

by Randall Craig August 1, 2006

During the last several weeks, I have been touring China, with stops in Xiamen, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong (amongst others). At the very beginning, it was easiest to stay with the guide. They helped with everything: guiding, translating, negotiating, and dealing with all of the problems along the way. One evening, I decided to […]

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The Hare and the Fox

by Randall Craig July 25, 2006

An old master was with his disciple walking in the woods, when they observed a hare being chased by a fox. The student observed that it would not be long before the hare would be caught, and eaten by the faster (and probably smarter) fox. The master replied that this particular rabbit would get away, […]

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Making Great Coffee

by Randall Craig July 11, 2006

Not every work day is a great day. Your boss is pressuring you about a deadline. Your co-workers aren’t doing their share of the work. Your staff aren’t doing their normal bang-on job. And of course, you forgot to bring change for your morning Starbucks, which means that you are stuck with the yucky stuff […]

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The Sharpest Point

by Randall Craig July 4, 2006

Most first impressions are formed within the first 30 seconds of conversation. Most hiring managers will take only 20-40 seconds to screen a resume. Most sales presentations will engage – or turn off – prospects within the first minute of interaction. What is the key to forming that first great impression? To speak to others […]

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Stretch yourself and reach up

by Randall Craig June 6, 2006

Most athletes understand the importance of stretching: avoiding injuries, becoming more flexible, and improving performance. But unless your business is fitness (or you are a performance athlete) how might this be relevant to you? First, let me suggest that you ARE a performance athlete, but in the arena of business. You require flexibility (not to […]

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Balancing Act – Chapter One

by Randall Craig May 30, 2006

How do you find Balance, when you are in the middle of the biggest project of your career? Often the answer is that you cannot – and sometimes the answer is that you should not. The reason why can be found in any good mystery book. During the first chapter or so, the plot is […]

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Mentor Mentee

by Randall Craig May 23, 2006

I’m not sure if mentee is a proper word, but it should be. So much has been written about the importance of finding a mentor, but when you get one, what is your role as the mentee? First, consider the reasons a mentor is showing an interest in you. They might enjoy coaching/developing others. They […]

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Community Involvement – Personal Benefit

by Randall Craig May 16, 2006

Who are those individuals who organize charitable events, act as fundraisers, and sit on not-for-profit boards? How do they find the time, when the challenge of Balance means that time is at an all-time premium? In addition to the “feel-good” that comes from helping others, there are some importance benefits that might make you consider […]

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Give and You Shall Receive

by Randall Craig May 9, 2006

Many people are not really comfortable developing new business relationships – or personal ones, for that matter. Yet this skill – networking – is critical to business success, whether you do it internally, or amongst your peers in a trade association or professional group. It increases your value, and can open the door to a […]

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The 1% Solution

by Randall Craig May 2, 2006

Nowadays, very few people get excited about collecting pennies. This isn’t particularly surprising: even after finding 100 of them, you can’t even buy a coffee at your local Starbucks. Unfortunately, this attitude of ignoring the pennies causes us to think of ALL “small” things as not making a material difference. Some small things DO actually […]

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What would my mentor do?

by Randall Craig April 25, 2006

Mentors and coaches hold a special place in most successful managers’ careers. They provide advice on difficult decisions, give valuable career perspective, and smooth the political way when problems occur. But what should you do if your mentor is not available, and you need their advice? Stalling or deferring your decision isn’t a preferred alternative, […]

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Becoming the Perfect Candidate

by Randall Craig April 18, 2006

My coaching clients often will ask – how do I make myself perfect for a job that has just been posted? Most people know the basics: do the research, write a great cover letter, and customize your resume. And make sure that you know the buzzwords. And if you are clever enough, you’ll get an […]

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by Randall Craig April 4, 2006

Almost everyone dreams of getting that big promotion, yet for most people the goal is elusive, and infrequently occurring. So what is the secret of getting the bigger chair, private office, and higher salary? The big secret is that there is no big secret. When someone is promoted, “everyone” thinks they know the reason: luck, […]

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Thinking inside the box

by Randall Craig March 21, 2006

After a seminar I recently delivered, I was approached by two undergraduate business students and asked if I could give them some advice. They hoped to get into consulting, and wanted me to suggest the “best” courses they should take over the next two years. I gave them some ideas, but then told them that […]

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