This is all about you, the college or trade school or university student who is taking classes and hoping to graduate with a degree in something, then go out and start your career. It can also be for the person who is returning to school and getting more education and training to qualify for higher-paying jobs, more responsibility, a better working environment and all that makes up what it will take to live your dream.
Let’s assume for a moment that you are in school but have not yet finished. This Unofficial, Unauthorized but Totally Accurate set of suggested Guidelines is for the purpose of encouraging you to look beyond your required reading and studies and to understand that a much bigger picture of your life is in development as I write this.
First, there’s your student debt. Second, there is the economy that is affecting all of us regarding the cost of living, mergers, acquisitions, foreign interference, competition, innovation, layoffs, closures, politics, failed businesses and let’s throw in disappointment in the fact that college age students have a tough time getting a good first job right out of the gate. You have your hands full.
I get it. So do the rest of us. So, let’s make tons of lemonade that will serve everyone.
From a Distance
While in college, the 30,000-foot view of the world tends to look overwhelming to some and perhaps for the naive, a little less challenging. I’m not sure where you fit. But I do know this: If you are actively working to improve your skills as a Communicator, Connector and Collaborator you are effectively creating a competitive advantage. If you go out tomorrow and apply for a position in any enterprise or business and you enjoy owning the skills I’m talking about, your potential for being the one they choose increases substantially.
Best-selling author and speaker Simon Sinek once said, “Hire on enthusiasm; you can always teach them skills later.” I agree, but with the caveat that how well you Communicate, Connect and Collaborate, even before being hired, will allow you to create the skills, habits, relationships and reputation that will continue to support you for your entire Life.
(Many university professors I have spoken to confirm: These skills are, in many cases, more valuable to the student than the degree being earned, so keep going!)
The Secret is in the Value You Bring
T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said, “We’ve always been the value-leader, important in a time of a questionable economy.” Value, to Mr. Sievert, means constantly striving to bring to their customers more value than what the consumer is paying for. From top to bottom, Sievert wants T-Mobile to stand out as the exception and to do that, he points to adding value wherever possible.
You must do the same, for you are your own enterprise. You are your own Brand, Image and Culture rolled up into How You Show Up. Your value proposition is that you are going to add value to any company you work for. You are going to create for yourself a reputation for working smarter and being someone others can count on, day in and day out. Whether you work full time or part time, the more value you bring, the higher value you represent. And the higher value you consistently work toward, the better the habits you create that will continue to carry you forward.
How You Can Add Value
How much value can you bring to a job you are applying for if you have never worked there? A good place to start is to do your homework. See what you can learn about the company. Research the CEO, the Managers, the history and the industry. Here are some examples of how to go deep and wide:
- Industry news: Write down all you can about the competition.
- Local news: What are you able to dig up?
- Identify the people high up (the movers and shakers).
- Identify what the company does and how they do it.
- Identify the company’s “Why.”
- Identify people you might work with and for.
- Do you know anyone there?
- Do you know anyone who has worked there recently?
- Contact HR: It will never hurt you to ask someone in Human Resources a question. It shows you are not afraid to ask. It shows you are willing to engage with them, for all the right reasons, and thereby, it empowers you.
After you have gathered all the information you can, take a weekend and commit the key information to memory, then practice delivering that information in the mirror. Get a friend to ask you questions similar to what you believe will be asked in an interview. When you dedicate yourself this way and the interviewer asks why you are interested in working there, you will have an arsenal of all the pertinent information you researched, right on the tip of your tongue, and you can deliver your responses with enthusiasm!
You may think that no one applying for a minimum wage job is going to go to this much “trouble.”
(And you would be correct, unless they, too, read this article in See Beyond Magazine and apply the same dedication to their career start as I hope you will.)
This is precisely why you should do the work: few will go to this much effort. It is You who will gain great value by doing your research and collecting a full picture of the candidate company, preferably from the perspective of the people who will consider hiring you. Add to that your confidence, self-respect and willingness to go the extra mile and you become the prime prospect. Keep asking yourself what else you can learn and explore that will help differentiate you from other candidates.
One small step—One giant Leap
It is easy to assume that just because you have some college training you should be afforded an easy application and interview. After all, you have been devoting your waking hours to learning certain subjects, being tested on them and passing, right?
In truth, as long as you are someone who needs to be trained to do the job, you still represent very little value to that company. There are others they can easily substitute if you don’t work out. To their thinking, their investment of time, training and effort hasn’t racked up too much in their costs, yet. You are still an unknown commodity until you become someone who can be productive, trustworthy and VALUED.
When you decide you want to represent a certain, ever-growing value to your employer, my wholehearted recommendation is that you concentrate on creating value wherever you go because your great attitude will be yet another positive reflection on the company you work for. Keep focused on continual improvement. By becoming a StandOut in the three disciplines of Communicating, Connecting and Collaborating, your skills will take you as far and wide as you decide.
The degree you earn opens a door. To step through, however, you must figure out how to be the best choice out of all the applicants applying for the same job. The best applicant will be chosen by the value and potential value the applicant represents.
Don’t put this off until after you graduate. The connections and contacts and solid relationships you create now while finishing your courses will help you smooth out the road to jobs that appeal to you. Build this solid foundation of value by meeting people, serving them, helping them, and recommending them to others, long before you ask them to refer, endorse or sponsor you during the search for your next career position.
I promise you this: It will be worth your effort. You will be creating the habits now that will serve you from now on and help you excel in planning and orchestrating your budding career.