Talk to Everyone

Merritt and I saw Peter Shankman speak several years ago at the the Bridge Conference in DC. Since then, we’ve attended a ShankMinds conference in NYC and benefit from his impromptu emails and other goodies he shares on his website.

Loved this email that sailed through earlier this week. Talk to everyone. You never know who you’re talking to or what it may lead to. Posting it here for you here with Peter’s permission.

Thanks, Peter!

Peter Shankman.jpg

Happy rainy Tuesday from New York City...

I'm the commencement speaker later today at the West Bronx Academy Public High School later today. As many of you know, I'm very proud of my NYC public school roots, and I'm always happy to speak to public school kids whenever I'm asked. But how this came about is funny, because I wasn't actually asked.

In the apartment building where I live, there's a pool. And the pool has a lifeguard in the evenings. His name is Anfernie. He's 17 years old, and has been lifeguarding for two years. Considering that hardly anyone ever uses the pool, it's a pretty sweet gig for him. Whenever I bring my daughter down, he and I would get to talking. I've given him advice on college, entrepreneurship, etc. He's always been thirsty for knowledge, and I've always been happy to offer him any value I could, in-between playing the "Daddy Whale game," (which, in case you're unfamiliar, involves me swimming the entire length of the pool and back multiple times, with a six-year-old on my back, until said six-year-old gets bored and wants to do something else.)

Anyhow, I got an email last month out of the blue from the school, asking if I'd want to be their commencement speaker. Why? Because Anfernie told the principal that I would be a great speaker and she should reach out to me. The principal researched me and emailed. I, of course, was happy to do it. 

What's my point? TALK TO EVERYONE. You never know who you're talking to, who might have things to teach you, who you might be able to help. You never know where a simple conversation could go. I've gotten many corporate keynote gigs simply by talking (and listening) to the person next to me on an airplane, instead of burying my head in my laptop the entire trip. (One of the benefits of ADHD - We're naturally curious! We LIKE to learn about people, and almost everyone, when given the chance, will gladly tell you about themselves.)

Let's make a pact to look up from our phones every once in a while, and start a conversation with the person next to us. You'd be AMAZED what it can do for you!

Remember the excitement you felt the day you graduated, 



How to Get A Job ...

I found the recent New York Times column, "How to Get a Job at Google" fascinating. Thomas Friedman condensed the approach down to five key traits: technical ability, learning ability, leadership, humility and ownership.

In my experience, that list is as relevant to a small entrepreneurial operation as a Silicon Valley giant. Or a small nonprofit.

The opening paragraph attention-getter - "... that Google had determined that 'G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless" - was a bit disconcerting, however.

I've always been a big believer in the value of education. So I was somewhat relieved to see this position clarified a bit in follow-up column, "How to Get a Job at Google, Part 2" this past weekend. (I'd encourage you to send the link to this column to every student you know!)

Between the two columns being published, I also had the opportunity to meet some some of our budding young communications professionals at the Rockhurst University Department of Communication and Fine Arts annual "Speed Networking" event.

(Full disclosure: I am a Rockhurst graduate. In fact the first to graduate with the then-just-added Communications major. Even accounting for that bias, I was impressed with the number of bright, eager, curious young minds.)

Some of (what I felt were) the best questions asked of me parallel the points Friedman makes. 

1. What qualities do you look for when you're considering a hire?

Curiosity, initiative and a willingness to take responsibility, were the terms I used. (Remarkably similar to learning ability, leadership and ownership.)

2. Should I have an online portfolio?

Does that sound like technical ability? Friedman quotes Lazlo Block, the senior vice president of people operations for Google, who feels, “Humans are by nature creative beings, but not by nature logical, structured-thinking beings. Those are skills you have to learn." He goes on to emphasize that the people who offer both skill sets are the strongest candidates.

3. What can I do to make myself a more attractive candidate?

Be engaged. Volunteer. Look for opportunities to develop real-world examples of how you can apply your learnings in your chosen field. Be positive and enthusiastic about communicating your successes. But always remain honest and genuine.

4. Are there more or fewer opportunities for communications careers with nonprofits?

More. If you're selling a product, you have the physical item and experience to help build your case. If you're selling a mission, you're presenting a concept or idea that depends almost entirely on how it's communicated to make it real.

5 Is M&C hiring for any intern positions?

It wasn't the question that struck me. Or the fact it was asked multiple times. It was that in four of the five instances, a second-semester senior was looking; in one a second-semester sophomore.

She, I think, understands what Friedman is saying. And, I suspect, will have no trouble at all getting a job!