Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Risk Taking Leads to Reward

My Temple University School of Communications & Theater commencement speech was two weeks ago, but the message is still relevant – one I hope the graduates took to heart.

It applies to all of us. That is – you need to believe in yourself, and have the courage to take calculated risks.

Do you remember when you were an elementary school student playing on the jungle gym? In order to get across the bars, you had to be willing to let go of one hand, and place it on the next rung. Drop a hand, grab, drop a hand, grab.

If you aren’t willing to let go -- of old thinking, old behaviors, old habits, you will continually be stuck.

I was asked this question when I was deciding whether to take a risk and launch my own business -- giving up a tenured teaching position at a college -- “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Notice – the word “could” not “would.”

Don’t always think in negative terms. The chances that the worst could happen if you do take a risk are small.

The second question to ask yourself is, “And, then what?”

There will always be a “then what?” What will you do if the risk doesn’t pan out the way you wanted it to?

What are the risks you would like to take?

I encourage you to go for them!

Keep in mind what Thomas Edison said, “If we all did what we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves.”

By the way, here are the four key ideas that I gave the Temple graduates:

1)Play to your strengths and passion for greater success

2)Market yourself continually and professionally

3)Be open to all possibilities

4)Take calculated risks

Monday, May 18, 2009

Recent Graduates -- Or Any Professional -- Be Open to All Possibilities

Good news. By all accounts and feedback, my Temple commencement address went well.

Soon it can be seen on YouTube and on our web site.

The audience got involved, and I had fun.

If you haven’t been following my blog, last week I was the keynote graduation speaker for the School of Communications & Theater at Temple University. There were 675 graduates, and another 2,000 plus (family, friends, faculty, etc) in attendance.

I must admit, I was stressed – but well-prepared!

The first two points I covered (which I wrote about in my last two weekly blog posts) were:

1)Play to your strengths and passion for greater success

2)Market yourself continually and professionally

The third point is: Be open to all possibilities.

The world is different now than when these graduates entered college, and it will continue to change.

The class of 2009 can’t afford to think in silos. This fresh crop of college graduates needs to be open-minded as to where they can apply their talents and skills.

If things don’t exist, or graduates have a tough time finding such “perfect” opportunities, they need to look for new ways to create them.

Where would the talents of a broadcast major fit? What nontraditional “platforms” can a theater major perform on?

Flexibility and creativity are key for new graduates. Continuing their education – whether formal or informal – will be essential.

The challenge for graduates is to focus on the next steps of learning.

My mantra is, “If you aren’t green and growing, you are ripe and rotting.”

Although my presentation was to recent college graduates, this message is valuable for all business professionals.

Next week, I’ll share my fourth strategy for new graduates. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Temple Commencement Address Part II: Sell Yourself & The Value You Bring

Last week, I wrote about my upcoming Temple University speech during graduation ceremonies.

The commencement from the School of Communications & Theater is this Thursday, May 14th.

I’ve spent many hours writing and practicing my presentation.

The first point I described last week (and will deliver) was about the importance of finding/identifying both your passion and your talents.

The second key idea that I’ll share with graduates is the importance of selling yourself and the value you bring.

When selling, not only do you need to use multiple channels, but also do it in a positive way – one that projects an image of someone who is polished and professional, not that of a college undergrad.

What are these channels? I break them down into two categories:

New Age -- Using Modern Technologies

•Check Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and any other job web sites.

•Create multiple resumes and save them as nonmodifiable PDFs or JPEGs with appropriate file names on your computer. These resumes will each focus on different, specific traits/qualifications, depending on the job/industry you are targeting. If you code them right, you can send the right one as an e-mail attachment at the drop of a hat. Remember that all of these resumes, and their accompanying cover letters, need to be proofread by someone else. You’re too close to them.

•Develop a web site which highlights your capabilities.

•Create a YouTube account, and upload a video resume

•Create a blog, or blog on others' blogs.

•Tweet on Twitter

•Use other social networking sites like LinkedIn, Myspace and Facebook.

Again, remember to clean up your act. Recruiters are using these tools, and checking you out and your digital “footprint”.

Ask yourself what virtual impressions are you creating and making with these businesspeople/potential employers?

Old-Fashioned Techniques

•Talk to people, don’t just text or e-mail them.

•Expand your real life network. It is ultimately people who hire other people.

Go to your friends’ parents and parents’ friends. Let others know what you want and what you are capable of.

Spend less time texting your friends and listening to music. Everywhere you go, make it a point to meet people -- a variety of people.

College students and business professionals need to be active in their community. Join trade groups and clubs. Consider volunteering, too. Helping others also provides great dividends.

You can’t wait to be discovered – it is up to each graduate (or professional) to sell him/herself. Be proactive, not reactive.

Next week, I will write about the third part of my commencement address – looking for, and creating, specific opportunities.

Wish me well this Thursday!

Monday, May 4, 2009

It’s Graduation Time, Lessons Learned & To Share

Have you ever given a graduation speech?

It’s always been a goal of mine, and this year, I received a call from the Dean of Temple University’s School of Communications and Theater – one of the largest colleges within Temple University – asking me to be their 2009 commencement speaker.

What an honor! What a responsibility!

So, on a daily basis since that call, I have been thinking/ writing/talking out loud, putting my thoughts together.

Ultimately, on graduation day, May 14th, I want it to be inspirational, realistic and informative.

That said,I have come up with four learning points that I will share with graduates, and in my blog over the next few weeks.

My learning point for this week is this:

As difficult as the job market is, no one is a victim. It is critical to be honest with yourself and assess both your talent and your passion.

When the two are combined, work isn’t work. It is a gift.

How do you assess that?

Take a look at yourself when you are the happiest. What are you doing? The flip side is to look at what makes you miserable and drains you.

I was a speech communications major as an undergraduate. My parents worried about job opportunities in the field after I graduated (yes, even in the dark ages, there were job issues!). They encouraged me to switch into speech pathology and therapy.

The fact that I had no passion, interest, or talent for this field, seemed to secondary to getting a job.

I held my ground, and am so glad that I did.

Once I realized (at age 21) that my purpose was, and still is, to communicate and help others to be more effective, the rest was looking for opportunities where I could make that happen.

For me, career #1 was working in a college, teaching communication and presentation skills, so students would be better equipped no matter what they pursued.

All these years later, I still believe that to be happy, you need to figure out your purpose and your passion.

What is yours?