We don’t need to tell you that the corporate landscape is shifting and changing, and has been for some time. Many factors have led to this changing landscape – expectations have shifted, gender dynamics are different and technology has played a major role. Career objectives aside, for young people, just finding a job after college, in this highly competitive market, is a major challenge. More young people than ever have completed degrees and this leads to fierce competition.
There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. The issue is that many young people believe a target career is sufficient. They are not prepared to face the challenges associated with meeting their career aspirations. They believe their degrees will automatically land them jobs – but what about all the other young people with identical qualifications, vying for the same jobs?
Colombe Nadeau-O’Shea, a consultant with Corporate Class Inc., and a specialist in professional presence for emerging leaders, recently interviewed company President and Founder, Diane Craig.
Colombe’s goal was to understand what it takes – beyond a specific career objective and the necessary credentials – to enter the job market, secure a relevant position and ensure career advancement.
Colombe Nadeau-O’Shea: Do all my impressive degrees imply I have leadership skills? If it’s not about the degrees and the titles, what makes a good leader?
Diane Craig: Certainly, having an engineering degree and MBA shows your level of discipline, gives you the required credentials and gets you in the door for an interview.
It shows your ambition. That’s why organizations often require that in addition to an engineering degree, people also have an MBA.
Competition is fierce out there. What differentiates you are the intangibles, like your people skills. Are you reliable? Can we trust you? Are you trainable? Are you likeable?
Currently, when it comes to leadership, organizations are looking for authentic management talent. They want people who know how to motivate every individual on their team, how to review performance, build relationships, overcome adversity and make decisions based on productivity, not politics. There’s a Gallup Report that illustrates how only two in ten people have these skills. True leaders know how to motivate and inspire.
C: So, I have these degrees, but I want to increase my leadership ability – what is the first step?
D: Ask for feedback! Find out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Do a personal SWOT analysis.
The next stage is to focus on your strengths. The stronger your strengths are, they more they will out-shine the areas that need improvement.
If you have a weakness or flaw, that’s the next thing to focus on and correct.
C: Who should provide feedback?
D: If you want to have a true picture of what your reputation is and what your brand is, ask bosses, colleagues, direct reports, mentors, coaches, professors, family, and friends. Everyone! Feedback is one of the most important career assessment tools.
C: Is leadership presence the same thing as executive presence?
D: EP is multifaceted. It is more than leadership abilities. In order to be anointed as a leader you must be perceived as one. For that reason, we focus on EP first – because it is about you. Once you’re anointed as a leader, then we move on to leadership presence, which is about helping your teams’ performance and productivity.
C: How would increasing my executive presence, or professional presence, help me enter the job market and my career objective?
D: Both provide the competitive edge needed to make you stand out. There are often several applicants with similar educational backgrounds, applying for the same job. During the interview, people typically focus on demonstrating their competencies but these are already established. They forget how to first build the relationship, instill credibility, and trust in who they are.
C: So really, it’s a matter of hard skills versus soft skills?
D: To the interviewer, the applicants probably all appear to be very similar. What’s going to make the difference is the person who has more presence, and a humble confidence – not an arrogant confidence.
C: I’m a terrible interviewee – can you give me some presentation skills tips that might help me in my future interviews?
D: I take it here, that by presentation skills, you mean, how you present yourself?
C: Yes, that’s what I mean.
Remember, there are two considerations – how you present yourself, and how you present information. First, how you present yourself:
- Rehearse the art of handshaking
- Remember to consistently maintain eye contact and to smile
- Be aware of any distracting habits and ask for feedback to help correct those distractions
When it comes to presenting information:
- Get to the point immediately
- Don’t burden your listener with context at the beginning
- Make your statement, explain why and how, and then provide context
And think about what you want the person to do with this information. If it’s hiring you, then say: “I hope this meets with your expectations and represents the ideal candidate you are looking for.”
C: Any final thoughts on the importance of possessing effective leadership skills and / or professional presence when entering the job market?
D: When new recruits enter the job market, they usually focus on their technical skills, unaware that behavioural skills propel careers. Behavioural skills – like the ability to build relationships, to present yourself with confidence and poise, and to establish credibility – are mandatory for effective leaders.
Surveys repeatedly show that people hire for technical skills and fire for behavioural missteps.
With more and more people attending university, receiving degrees and increasing their technical skills, now more than ever, there is a need for students to differentiate themselves. The best way to do this, and to open doors to your career choices, is to take steps to increase your professional presence, and to focus on the development of your soft skills.