Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

I was at a career fair representing Ford recently, and one thing struck me: there's a lack of truly decent personal presentation skills out there.

For example, to any number of college seniors who said they were interested in getting into sales, I said: "Great. Sell yourself to me."

The reaction I got was a stunned look, followed immediately by a rambling choice of words that didn't really convince me of much. Well, maybe they convinced me of something, but it wasn't to hire them.

I had just made a presentation to Brand Camp University, so perhaps presentations and personal branding was on my mind, but it got me to thinking: there could be a number of people who might benefit from some suggestions.

I know I've got a lot of followers on Twitter and here on the blog who are college students (hello Golf Management program at Ferris State (what a cool major!); hello students of Barbara Nixon at GSU), so I thought I might help out with some specific suggestions to consider.

Before I get into the steps I recommend, here's the deck I presented. I hope to have the video of my presentation at a future date.

Tips for success in your career

1. Prepare yourself
Darwin said "Chance favors the trained mind," and Henry Ford said "Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success." This means being careful of everything you do in public. While you may already know not to post racy pictures of yourself or make lewd comments on Facebook, others can tag you in photos and years later, due to the everlasting memory of the Internet, you may find that there's information out there about you that is less than flattering.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, one out of five employers is turning to social networks to find out about you (not to mention the 80% who already Google you). Some startling facts that were posted on socnet profiles:
  • Information about alcohol or drug use (41% of managers said this was a top concern)
  • Inappropriate photos or information posted on a candidate's page (40%)
  • Poor communication skills (29%)
  • Bad-mouthing of former employers or fellow employees (28%)
  • Inaccurate qualifications (27%)
  • Unprofessional screen names (22%)
  • Notes showing links to criminal behavior (21%)
  • Confidential information about past employers (19%)
Always be thinking with the future in mind.

2. Have a personal presence on the Web
Have you bought your own domain name yet? What are you waiting for? I purchased the domain names for my sons when they were born, lest someone else scoop them on their own brand. I suggest you buy yourname.com (not literally, Animal House fans) and register your preferred name on the sites & social networks that matter to you.

Choose the networks that matter the most to you - or more importantly - that you think matter to your employer or industry of choice. The social networks I use the most are Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. As I've explained before, I have standards for friending on each - the loosest being Twitter, context needed for Facebook, and a personal interaction required for LinkedIn.

While I'm at it - get on out there and friend me up if you haven't already! I'd love to interact with you in different ways.

3. Be compelling
Not everyone is a thought leader. Not everyone can create videos. That's okay. The first thing you should do is listen. Odds are you already read blogs (you're here, aren't you?). Take the time to get a sense for what's being said and figure out how you want to add to it.

If you choose to create your own site/blog/profile, figure out what you want to focus on. It could be lollipop manufacturing or knitting scarves for abandoned penguins - whatever it is, pick your topic and be the best at it.

And while it's important to write well for your own site, I usually recommend spending 2-3 times longer commenting on other sites than you do writing your own. It's like your grandmother used to say, "You've got two ears and one mouth; use them in that proportion."

Every comment you make it a stamp of your brand on someone else's site. Your perspective is valuable, and eventually, it will drive eyeballs back to your site. Just be consisent in who you are and be yourself.

4. Know what you want
When I first graduated from business school, I wanted to be a strategist. The problem was, no one was hiring inexperienced B-school grads to do strategy. It takes time to truly understand markets, trends, industries, and clients - something that is built over years. I always had that in the back of my mind as my career zigged here and zagged there, but now I'm in a job where I get to craft and execute on strategy.

While your initial job out of school may not be your dream job (but good for you if it is), keep your goal in mind as you navigate your career. When someone asks you what you want to do, have it at the top of your mind, and succinctly state it. Or, as Gary Vaynerchuk likes to say, "CRUSH it!"

5. Practice, practice, practice
Usually, it takes a long time to be truly great at something. Sure, someone like Mozart was an anomaly, but for most of us, you need to keep doing something over and over to hone your skills. Please, PLEASE practice your presentation skills, whether it's formal presentations, personal introductions, your elevator pitch - whatever.

In the end, it's all up to you. The only one who will look out for you in your career is you. And you need to be confident about who you are, where you're going, and what you want.

Henry Ford knew what he was talking about:
"Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."
Get ready. Be the best you that you can be. Do it over and over.

You'll do great.

Photo credit: zenia