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6 Things College Won’t Teach You That Make or Break Your Career

6 Things College Won’t Teach You That Make or Break Your Career

You’ve spent the last four (or more) years in college, taking class after class, final after final, preparing yourself for your first real job in the professional field you wish to pursue as a career. You even managed, despite the still fledgling economy, to snag a job. Great! Good for you. But… what now?

You want to impress your employers and sail through to your first promotion.

Follow these tips to not get in your own way of that happening. These are crucial things you need to apply in your new professional setting that you didn’t learn in college. Your first boss may not even teach you these things, but they will make or break your career. I guarantee it!

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    1. Put your phone away

    Put your phone away when working. Seriously. Just put it away. This means in meetings, at lunches or dinners, at your desk, at any work event or during your work time. Keep your phone on silent and only check it when you take a break.

    Nothing will erode trust in your productivity and professionalism faster than co-workers (or worse, your boss) seeing you constantly on your phone. At work lunches, dinners or social functions your job is to socially engage with your clients or co-workers, not to text your partner or post to Instagram how delish the pricey expense account dinner looks.

    2. Become an expert at conversation with anyone

    You will be put in many different situations in your first real job. You will be exposed to people who have started their own companies, climbed Mount Everest, or graduated from an Ivy League school. You will also be exposed to people who grew up in a trailer park, worked three jobs to pay for college, and scrimped and saved every cent to make it to where they are. Your wildest imagination can’t possibly guess the backgrounds of all the different types of people you will come into contact with.

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    So where do you come in here? Learn how to talk to any and all of them. Make them feel comfortable with you, and like their life story is the most fascinating one you’ve ever heard.

    Be curious. Be open. Ask thoughtful questions focused on them.

    Even if you have nothing in common with them, draw some commonality from books or other conversations you have encountered. For example, I’ve never set foot on an Ivy League campus, but I just read about a research project on Ivy League campuses regarding introverts that I could bring up to tie into their unique background.


    3. Limit Your Drinking at work functions

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      Work functions are not the place to engage in excessive drinking.

      Some work functions include open bars or at least an expectation that you walk around with a drink in your hand. So if you do drink, apply a maximum two drink limit at all work functions. The holiday party, client dinners, networking receptions, any of it. Anything to do with work, follow a two drink maximum.

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      There is nothing impressive about slurring words. The last thing you want to do the next morning is wonder how bad you really were. Just avoid it altogether by being strict in this area.

      There is a time and place to cut loose and let it all hang out. A work function is not the place.

      4. Create connections with a purpose

      Be purposeful and diligent in creating connections with other people, whether they are clients, co-workers or networking contacts.

      Remembering personal facts about anyone is a gold rule in creating trust and openness that leads to connection.

      Did your client mention to you an upcoming vacation cruise? Write it down as a note in their contact information where you keep their phone number. This note will trigger you to recall that tiny tidbit the next time you reach out to call them.

      How good do you think it feels to be remembered for something you just said in passing? Amazing. Your new contact will feel that too when you ask about that cruise they were going on. You just told them without a doubt that they matter to you by this one simple little effort.

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      5. Watch first, commit later

      When you are the newbie, it feels good to get included in social events. Although you may have a tendency to form friendships quickly and jump at the chance to join a social group at work, it’s usually best to take a “wait and see” approach.

      I am not saying decline all invitations, but be careful of forming alliances too soon.

      A work setting is like a family. The dynamics of the group have been formed over a long period of time and many interactions. You just set foot in this unknown environment. You don’t know yet who is loyal and who could be a back stabber, who is a team player and who sloughs the work off on others. Take your time to use your intuition and gauge the situation before you align yourself with anyone in a more permanent way.


      6. Get a jump start on your own life experiences

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        You are just starting out in life and don’t exactly have the funds to travel the world. How can you possibly hold conversations of interest with business contacts that have 20 to 40 years of career and world experience?

        Read.

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        That’s it. Read, read, and read some more. Books can take you anywhere, teach you anything and give you an unending bank of conversational topics to draw from. Maybe you haven’t traveled to Romania, but you’ve read all about the castles there. Maybe you don’t have 20 years of business experience, but you did read the bestselling business book that came out last year.

        Reading will always give you a big advantage in life. Yes, I know when you left college you never wanted to look at another book again. But at least now you get to pick what you read. What if you pick up a book, give it a decent chance and hate it? Never pick it up again. Pick another one. Read only what you love.

        **

        Best of luck submersing yourself in your new and wonderful career! It is a huge transition to change your social sphere from a college crowd of 20-somethings to a group varied and age ranged professionals. Approach each encounter as an opportunity to learn from those with more experience. Show your own special personality. Teach them a thing or two about your generation. You will meet contacts that you want as mentors because you value their leadership greatly. And you will recognize those people that are showing you exactly what not to do for your future.

        Be observant, be yourself, be conscientious and you will go as far as your dreams can imagine!

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        Dawn Hafner

        Dawn is a Practical Life Coach who offers concrete tools to help people implement life changes.

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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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