Chris McConnehey’s Final, Biiiiiiiiig Question (“What would I really have said?”)

what do MBA students look like?  Like they are going to conquer the world!I didn’t think I was going to make a series out of my presentation at Westminster, but it just kind of worked this way. Chris e-mailed me with this question:

The other question I really wanted to ask which I figured was totally inappropriate for class, was this: If you had been given a totally open forum what would you have discussed? No restrictions to online networking topics, no timelimit, no real restrictions. The only direction you would have been give is that you should share some of the things that you thought we be of most value to people in our situation, how would your presentation have differed?

He was referring to the fact that I had 20 minutes, and was to talk about online/social networking (mostly LinkedIn). I can’t really define “people in our situation,” except that this was a class full of MBA students that hopefully thinks they are about to be set free and conquer the world. Smart, ambitious, accomplished. Here’s what I would say:

  1. Build intimate relationships. Starting now, get to know others better. Work to become a power connector. This is really what networking should be – if you are not the most powerful networker you know then you need to go to the library and get Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, and take two or three days to read it. This should set the foundation for your perception of relationship building that will help in many aspects of your next forty years.
  2. Be in the right place at the right time (and if that doesn’t exist, create it). I recommend you get Keith Ferrazzi’s book from the library. But here are two books that you should own: Some Assembly Required and The ABC’s of Networking. Both are by Thom Singer. I’ve read them both. Thom’s books are the perfect complement to Keith’s book. Keith talks about what and why, where Thom gives hundreds of real examples of how (I found Keith’s examples to be unreal). I know Thom Singer, and I know people that know him. He is the definition of business networking, and his books will serve as excellent resources for you as you figure out how to be in the right place at the right time, or how to create opportunities to develop intimate relationships.
  3. Make it easy for others to know who you are. This can also be called personal branding. If your resume comes across my desk, and I Google your name to see who you are, I should see at least two or three real results that YOU control on the first page of Google. The first thing to do is to get a LinkedIn account and flesh it out (that will usually end up on the first page). The second thing to do is to start a serious business blog. This is overwhelming for most people, but if you want to see some excellent, duplicatable (sp?) examples, check out my You Get It personal branding monthly winners.
  4. Start a “side business.” I don’t care if you sell batman capes on eBay, own part of a shoe store in a mall or sell grandma’s desserts from your kitchen. You should do this for two reason:
    1. It is an excellent way to learn… to really learn what business is about. Sales, customer service, accounting, strategy, competition, all the good stuff. You can read about it (I did), you can teach/consult others (I did), but until you do it yourself, with your own money and energy, you won’t really understand it (I found that to be true when I started JibberJobber).
    2. If done right, it can provide a stabilizing revenue stream to your main income. One reason I started JibberJobber is because I never, ever want to depend 100% on an employer for my income. Developing multiple streams of income is a simple concept, but powerful in this world of mergers, layoffs and change.
  5. Learn. You need to understand your competitive landscape better than anyone. I immersed myself in the career space, and set out to learn all I could that would help me get ahead. What I didn’t realize is that I would know more about different aspects of the career landscape that many others. I learned about coaches, resume writers, recruiters, outplacement, job boards and more. I thought all of the major players in these areas would know more than I did, but I found people from one group picking my brain about other groups… and I came to realize that my understand of this space was quite abnormal. Yet very, very valuable. Be curious, be inquisitive, and try to understand the competitive landscape as best you can (which includes strategies, models, and even individuals).
  6. Be prepared for change. It’s clear that we won’t have the cradle to grave, fat pension and sweet retirement jobs that our parents may have had. But there are still too many people that are floored by job changes imposed on them. There are still too many people that (like me, a year ago) think that if you can’t get or keep a job, it’s because you suck. Change happens for any of a million reasons. If you get laid off right now, what are you going to do? Do you have a plan? How will you pay your bills as you look for your next job? What will you do for health insurance? What if your wife is pregnant when you are unemployed (that happened to me :))? How will you deal with it emotionally? Is your network going to be ready to help you (in other words, will you have been developing network capital, so they are anxious to repay you?)? Will you have developed a personal brand and others will be able to easily recognize you? This is the new world, folks. It’s not a scare tactic. I lived through it and was extremely unprepared. It’s my hope that someone, just one person that hears this message, can begin to prepare for that day.
  7. Keep your finances in order. This gets hammered all over the place, from Money magazine to various websites to your dad telling you to be careful about putting things on credit. But here’s the reality. If you have your finances in order, when you lose your paycheck, you have more options. One of my options was to start JibberJobber — because we didn’t have huge, horrible credit payments and contracts that we were locked into, we were able to move forward. Otherwise I would have been under a lot more financial pressure, and the options I really had would not have been options.

And that brings me to my final point. This is the point that I made, as I walked out the door, to a crowd that seemed to be somewhat captive (that is, not that excited to listen to me, but they had to be there): Remember me when you get laid off (probably wishing that you would have taken some parts of this advice and worked on it).

So now, if you’ve read this far, what would YOU tell a class full of MBA students, as they prepare to conquer the world?

6 thoughts on “Chris McConnehey’s Final, Biiiiiiiiig Question (“What would I really have said?”)”

  1. Wise advice. I couldn’t have put it better.

    My advice would be to be humble and show your willingness to learn from those who have come before you. My experience with new grads is that they come out of university so pumped up thinking that they’ve learned all there is to know when, in fact, they’ve only just begun. It takes a lot of time and patience to get them to come back down to earth and they end up losing out on opportunities because of it.

    Another piece of advice that was given to me is to smile when you talk to people on the phone. Most of my clients never see me because they’re all over the world but they can hear me smile. Sounds silly but it works.

  2. Jason,

    This is a very nice list and Nichole has some great extensions.

    I would add that Corporate Politics is exceptionally powerful and will trump knowledge, facts, data, and your experience. Understanding how corporate politics works is a critical job skill.

    Timothy L. Johnson has this great book on corporate politics called “GUST: The Tale Wind of Office Politics” and it is the first one that lays out a model that can be used to actually figure out what is going on and what the motivations are for the political side of corporate life. It is presented as a fable in the first part and then the model with corresponding call-outs from the fable in the second. I have not seen such a good rendition of what all that is about previously.

    Just a comment on the “Learn” paragraph — I’m finding the same thing in my work. Just the other day, for example, a co-worker asked “why all the fuss about hiring Gen Y — what’s Gen Y?” And I casually popped of five reasons and everyone around me just looked at me like I was from Mars. That’s when I realized that I’m constantly learning about career management and others…are not. It was like a light bulb going off and I no longer discount all this writing!

  3. Hi Jason – Loved the advice! But I’ve got a quick question. Would you say the same thing to undergrad students getting ready to graduate? What advice would you add/change?

    Also, what would your comments on “paying your dues” be? It just seems like such an outdated term…

    Love the blog!

  4. All great commments. The only thing I would add is to start yesterday building your network. Too many of us wait until we really need the contacts and network to start growing it. You never know who of your high school or college friends will be come powerful networker who you should stay in touch with.

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