Tips for New Graduates: How to Start Your Professional Life

Competition In Business

This time of year is full of graduation ceremonies, resume writing and job searches.  It seems everyone is looking for good advice for those just starting a new career.

I recently asked Robert Dilenschneider
  for his advice for those just starting a professional career.  Robert is the founder and Chairman of The Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations and communications consulting firm headquartered in New York City. He is the author of many books, including the best-selling Power and Influence and the newly-released The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life.

 

Find the Right Culture

 

Most job seekers think, “I just want to get a job anywhere” but you point out that finding the right cultural fit is important.  Why is it important to know the culture of the organization you are potentially joining?

The cultural environment of a workplace can be critically important.  If the core beliefs, value systems, and behavior patterns of many of the people one works alongside of differ perceptibly from yours, you will never feel at home, be able to perform at your highest level, and move upward in the organization.  That is just a realistic fact of workplace life.  Taking a job “anywhere” can upend one’s career track significantly.

The Critical First Years of Your Professional LifeWhen you are outside looking in, reading the recruiting materials and looking at the website, how do you figure out the culture?

Figuring out a firm’s culture from the outside may not be easy.  Cultural climate and identity have to be experienced directly.  But asking the right questions of a future employer, or of anyone you may know now working at a particular company, could be very helpful.

Let’s talk about the boss. You say, “Every day when you go into work, you want to determine — quickly — where the match is between your bosses’ goals, strengths, and weaknesses and yours.”  What is a “match” and how do you find it?  How do you create a good relationship and the right fit?

Again, verbal exchanges with your boss or manager are essential.  But colleagues, who’ve been working at a specific job longer than you, can probably be a font of valuable information about the person or persons one reports to — their likes and dislikes and, most importantly, their on-the-job objectives.

 

Work the Grapevine

 

Working the grapevine is not something that most of us learn in school. Why is this so important?

How to Stay Relevant and Ahead of the Competition

Horse Racing Action Motion Blur

 

In any given day we receive thousands of messages.  Our inboxes explode with email.  Our social media accounts are never-ending streams of new information and updates from friends all over the world.

Staying relevant in the midst of all of it is an ongoing challenge.  Breaking through the noise and standing out whether personally or professionally is a constant challenge.

 

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” General Eric Shinseki

 

RelevanceAndrea Coville is the CEO of global public relations agency Brodeur Partners.  Paul B. Brown is a best-selling author and contributor to The New York Times.   Together they have written an excellent book called Relevance: The Power to Change Minds and Behavior and Stay Ahead of the Competition.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with them about the concept of relevance.

What do you mean by relevance and why is it so important?

Let us start with why it is so important. Worldwide, organizations spend hundreds of billions of dollars annually to get people to buy a product, embrace a brand, follow a candidate, or join a cause. And yet we can all agree that these marketing campaigns, ads, public relations initiatives, communication programs, and social media and change efforts are—to be kind—often less effective than they could be.

Relevance is a guiding principle to ensure that all your marketing and communications efforts make a sustained impact.

 

Relevance is a guiding principle to ensure that all your marketing and communications efforts make a sustained impact.

 

Okay, so what do we mean by relevance? We mean your offering is practical and especially is socially applicable.

We have found that most people misread the definition, putting almost all their emphasis on the practical.  That’s understandable.  It is certainly true that what you are offering must solve a customer need and do it well, but you need to do more.  And that is where the emotional part of relevance comes in.  If your product/service/idea resonates with a customer, if it means something to him in addition to being utilitarian, then the relationship will be deeper, longer lasting, and more profitable.

 

Avoiding Irrelevance

 

Let’s flip to the counter.  Irrelevance.  When you think about becoming irrelevant, it paints a whole different picture.  Would you share an example of a company becoming irrelevant?  What can be done about it?

Unfortunately, it is easy to come up with examples of companies that became irrelevant.  Think of a technology company that had THE hot product five years ago and now is a distant also-ran. Or think of entire industries—the makers of payphones and print encyclopedias spring to mind—that are no longer relevant.

Serve to Be Great: 7 Lessons from Matt Tenney

We all make mistakes.  When we learn from those mistakes, we are said to be wise.  When we not only learn from those mistakes, but also then decide to use the experience to better the world, we become an inspiring example of what is possible.  When we make serving others our primary goal, our view of the world shifts and new possibilities emerge.

I am excited to introduce Matt Tenney, who has written a terrific new book, Serve to Be Great.  I’m always looking to learn from others, and here are a few lessons I learned from Matt’s powerful story:

 

“There is no better way to build our influence with others than to serve them.” –Matt Tenney

 

1. You can create happiness anywhere.

Few people have experienced the depths of despair like Matt Tenney.  His failure landed him in prison for years.  And yet, in prison, Matt learned to be happier in a cell than he was when he was free.

 

“Leaders who consider others’ needs first are more likely to empower employees.” –Matt Tenney

 

2. Your greatest failure may be your life’s greatest catalyst for change.

As I spent time with Matt, I could see that his zest for life and appreciation for everything around him was somehow different.  Undoubtedly this came from experiencing the loss of all that he knew.

 

“Asking ‘How will this help me to serve others?’ makes us more effective and happier leaders.” –Matt Tenney

3. When you change your self-talk, you change your world.

Reading Matt’s terrific new book, Serve to Be Great, I noticed that his self-talk changed throughout his story.  As he planned a crime, he was justifying his actions.  Now, his self-talk is all about how he can serve others.

 

 

“Being fully present with a person is one of the most effective ways to show that we care.” –Matt Tenney

 

4.  Learn how to change selfishness to selflessness.

Matt is constantly asking himself this question: “How will this help me to serve others?”  By focusing everything outward, it changes his motivation and the trajectory of his actions.  Matt’s goal is to be the most kind, compassionate person he can be.  Get around him and you will find that you, too, want to be more compassionate.

 

“Wisdom is much more likely to develop while we are still than when we are in motion.” –Matt Tenney

5.  Service leads to greatness.

Leaders who lead with love are the ones we remember.  Among the many examples Matt shares in his keynote speech is Joel Manby, who wrote Love Works.  Joel is a CEO, featured on Undercover Boss, who leads with love.  When leaders serve with love, the positive impact creates sustainable success.

“The more focused I became on how I could serve others, the happier I became.” –Matt Tenney

 

6.  Notice the extraordinary small moments.

Previously, Matt wrote a guest post for Leadership Insights about what he learned about leadership from Daniel.  Daniel was a teenager dying from cancer, and yet he taught lessons that still make Matt emotional.

“Every time we interact with another, we have the opportunity to add value to a life.” –Matt Tenney

7.  In stillness, you can change your state of mind, your present and your future.

Practicing mindfulness and awareness training, which he learned from monks, is important for leaders.  Lowering stress, becoming focused, and increasing your compassion for others is all possible through the practices he shares in his book.

Last week, I spent some time with Matt.  I had the opportunity to watch him keynote for industry executives.  I watched him interact with people from all walks of life.  And I learned from his story.  I think you will enjoy Matt’s story and his book.

As I wrote in a blurb he included in the book: Serve to Be Great is both inspiring and practical.  Matt Tenney delivers a powerful narrative that takes you on an incredible journey.  The insights from that journey and the examples he shares of truly great leaders will improve your performance, widen your perspective, and raise your leadership game.”

Because service does lead to greatness.  And servant leadership is the best form of leadership there is.

Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom

Gender Diversity: The New Balanced Scorecard

Business Team

G. Shawn Hunter is the author of OUT THINK: How Innovation Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomesas well as Vice President and Executive Producer for Skillsoft’s leadership video-learning products.

 

“People who are right most of the time are people who change their minds often.”
– Jeff Bezos

 

In his wonderful book, Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard researcher Daniel Gilbert points out that often our best bet for making decisions we will both enjoy and benefit from is to ask our peers who have made similar decisions.  Gilbert’s advice before embarking on an important decision is to ask someone whom we trust, who has also made the decision we are contemplating, and follow their advice.  And as Gilbert points out, once we learn their point of view on the matter, we often refuse that advice on the grounds that our situation is different.  We reject their advice claiming, “But I’m unique! How could they possibly know what’s best for me?”

 

Research conclusion: The inability to accept outside advice and insight increases with power.

 

More recent research concludes that this inability to accept outside advice and insight only increases with power.  The more power and resources controlled by an individual, the more confident they tend to be in their decision-making and the less they tend to listen and be influenced by outside opinions and points of view.  However, in their study women were often an exception.

In two phases of the study, women tended to be more open to outside points of view regardless of their position of power within the organization.  In their study entitled “The detrimental effects of power on confidence, advice taking, and accuracy,” Kelly See and her colleagues discovered that women more often reported less certainty in their decisions than men and solicited the advice and opinions of their colleagues more.  Most interestingly, because women more often solicited the opinion and advice of their colleagues, they were viewed by their peers as more confident leaders.

So while they may have lacked confidence in their decisions, women were regarded as more confident and effective leaders precisely because they asked for advice from their peers.

How to Overcome Leadership Blindspots

Blind spot

 

When you first learn to drive, do you remember learning about blind spots?  The driving instructor likely emphasized it repeatedly.

I can remember my driving instructor saying, “Check your blind spot before you change lanes.  Your life depends on it and so does mine!”

They are called blind spots for a reason.  They are not visible, not readily apparent, and are easily missed.

Author Robert Bruce Shaw has just released a new book called Leadership Blindspots.  I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his new book and the challenges facing leaders.

 

A blindspot is an unrecognized weakness or threat that has the potential to undermine a leader’s success.

 

The Need For An Early Warning System

 

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” –Jonathan Swift

 

You discuss the balancing act that all leaders face.  That is the need to be both supremely confident and yet also see situations accurately with no distortion.  It’s always easy to look in the rear view mirror and judge leaders, but how does a leader know early enough to change course?Robert Bruce Shaw

Leaders need warning systems that signal trouble ahead.  Savvy leaders, for example, have a group of trusted advisors whose role, in part, is to surface vulnerabilities that a leader may overlook.  Or, some leaders assign “sentinels” to track data on emerging competitive threats and report out periodically on what they are finding.  I also describe in the book ongoing leadership practices that are useful in seeing threats early in the game, such as having regular contact with customers and front-line colleagues.  These techniques don’t tell a leader if and when to change course – but they provide the information needed to make that decision. 

 

Levels of Blindness

 

You have a chapter on this, but I want to ask:  How do you spot a blindspot if you are blind to it?

Keep in mind that there are levels of blindness.  There are times when leaders are completely blindsided by a weakness or threat and other situations when they are partially aware of a weakness or threat but fail to understand its potential impact or the need for action.  That said, you can simply ask a few people who know you well if they think you have any blindspots.  You then probe in specific areas as needed – for example, blindspots in how you view your own leadership team or the capabilities of your organization.  Ask for specific examples in each area they identify.  Another approach is to examine the mistakes you have made over your career and look for patterns in the causes of those mistakes.  If repeated over time, mistakes are valuable in pointing to an unrecognized weakness that will most likely surface again in the future.

 

Blindspots always come with a price.

 

 

Critical Leadership Skill:  Peripheral Vision

Seeing what others miss—what you call peripheral vision—is a critical leadership skill.  What techniques help improve a leader’s peripheral vision?