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5 Killer Ways to Kickstart Your Career

5 Killer Ways to Kickstart Your Career

Building a career isn’t easy, especially for graduates. It’s particularly difficult if you find yourself competing against people with better qualifications than you.

The bright side? Experience and skills carry a lot of weight when it comes to applications. It’s not all about pieces of paper. If you can show a recruiter that you developed your skills through hard work and initiative, you’re not just demonstrating technical talents—you’re highlighting positive character traits.

What are some of the great ways to boost your career prospects and gain a job-hunting edge? Here are five career-building tips to help you kickstart your career.

1. Do an internship or get work experience.

Unpaid internships are controversial, but work experience can be incredibly useful when trying to crack into any industry. Why is that? For a start, it works: this YouGov employment survey of HR professionals revealed that 85% of employers felt relevant work experience was more important that non-vocational degrees.

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Why does it work? In a lot of industries, many candidates may not have studied the areas academically, so experience counts for a lot. Working for free (or for super low wages) also shows a lot of character; if you’re willing to log hundreds hours in return for little more than the chance to learn, it shows a lot of determination and dedication.

Work experience or internships aren’t possible for everyone, but if it’s an option for you, it could give you an edge over other candidates.

2. Sing up for a volunteering placement.

Employers love candidates with volunteering work on their resume. In the same YouGov survey referenced earlier, almost half of HR professionals said they would be more likely to employ an applicant with constructive volunteering experience, and 63% revealed that volunteering makes an application stand out.

Why does this make sense? Because signing-up for a volunteering placement abroad with an ethical, independent organisation like Original Volunteers allows you to develop desirable skills and experience that employers crave. Stepping out of your comfort zone and into a challenging environment means you need to learn to be independent, organised and self-reliant. It builds your confidence, forces you to work on your communication abilities and rewards initiative.

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These skills, often earned through challenging experiences, can put you streets ahead of other job applicants fresh out of university with no “real world” experience.

3. Build a brilliant online portfolio.

If you want to work in any industry that depends on impressions, personality and communication, you need to be effective at promoting your achievements. An old-school printed portfolio is useful, but only for face-to-face interviews. An awesome resume and LinkedIn profile is important, but it might not be enough.

So what’s the answer?

Create your own online portfolio to promote yourself, and demonstrate what you can do. Publish links and references to your best work, and point prospective employers in the direction of where they can find your stellar stuff around the web. Turn yourself into a brand.

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Why does this work? Because the easiest way to become a fan of a band is to work through their greatest hits, so make it simple for recruiters: present them with an accessible “best of” version of yourself online.

4. Network with the right people.

Networking used to be all about face-to-face meetings, robust handshakes and physically moving in the right circles. But thanks to social media, on sites like LinkedIn, you can now research, discover and network with the right people without leaving your bedroom. Yep, from the comfort of your own home you can kickstart your career by finding recruiters and their companies—and making sure you show up on their radar.

What does this entail practically? Following them on social channels, engaging with the posts and content they share, and generally coming across as a switched-on, digitally savvy industry hopeful. So that might mean retweeting and favouriting on Twitter, commenting on LinkedIn and plus-one-ing on Google+ (yes, you should be using it).

The “who-you-know” arena of professional networking can be a dense and frustratingly behind-closed-doors world. But with online social networks, you have a chance to “infiltrate” these worlds and get involved in the conversation.

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5. Have something to say.

All the research, clever networking and smart profile creating won’t count for much if you’ve got nothing to say for yourself. To take your career kickstarting to the next level, you need some views. Some opinions. What are the trends in the industry you want to break into? What are the big changes coming in future?

You don’t need to pretend to be a thought leader with 20 years of experience, but you need to have something interesting to say. Parroting the leading voices you follow on Twitter isn’t going to cut it. When it comes to applications and interviews, recruiters are looking for candidates who have a mind of their own and stand out.

A word of warning: you don’t want to be too controversial. Interesting is good. Original is better. Edgy can work, too. But beware the danger of trying so hard to impress a recruiter that you come across as unprofessional. In fact, there are lots of things you should keep quiet about in interviews.

Featured photo credit: Nana B Agyei via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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