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By Kristin Hiemstra A shameless believer of human potential, Kristin is as dynamic and energetic about career issues as a nice person can be. She combines real world knowledge from her many years of hiring experience in Washington, DC with a decade of college admissions experience.

Great Advice For Graduates

By Kristin Hiemstra Posted May 8, 2014 at 6:00 am

With school graduation right around the corner and Spring in the air, one thing is for sure… change. The saying that ‘”only wet babies like change” reflects our resistance to changing the status quo. Most of us would prefer to remain comfortable in whatever our circumstances at that moment but alas, that is not an option.

On this week’s Art of Potential show my guest, Brett Derby, 06′ CHHS graduate, shares his approach to creating successful transitions in his life. Brett graduated from USC in ’10 and is currently enrolled in Columbia Business School’s MBA program. In spite of the fact that he is early in his career, Brett has already successfully created quite a resume, which includes a coveted internship at Apple Corp., a Senior Analyst position in Sales Strategy & Operations at Edwards Lifesciences and an Associate position at Mansa Capital, where he is currently employed. Far from struggling to find work and opportunities, Brett has made really cool things happen for himself.

Here are a few tips he shares:

1. Write down your goals. Each year Brett writes his goals down and he looks at them at least once a week. Interestingly, this advice is consistent with the wisdom Lee Champion (a SVP at Bank of America) shared when I interviewed him a few weeks ago. Writing down goals is the first step to giving them a form. Putting them on a timeline gives them structure. Form + structure = a framework.

Before reading further, write down three goals you have for your life. (Seriously… I’m not kidding… you actually have to DO this for it to work – reading about it doesn’t count.)

2. Leverage your network. One of the main reasons Brett’s career path has had such an upward trajectory is because he uses his network to create opportunities. Sure, he looks on job boards like everyone else, but rather than using them for actual job postings, he uses job boards for reverse engineering purposes. For example, Brett found his most recent job at Mansa Capital by looking at their job postings, finding a job he liked but was totally unqualified for, and using his LinkedIn profile to set up informational interviews. During those interviews, he learned more about the company and created great connections. He then used those connections when Mansa posted a job that was a good match for him. Because he was already familiar with the company and its goals he had an insider’s position; the company, anxious to hire him, revised the job description for him.

Find a company that does work you like, check your LinkedIn profile and reach out to some folks for coffee. Find out what the company is doing. Seek only information – not a job. Write your thank you notes and keep in touch. You are creating a pipeline for opportunities to arrive.

3. Create your reputation. Brett does not self-promote but, as mentioned, he does do informational interviews. Brett lets his work and professionalism speak for itself and makes sure that people know who he is and what he is about. References are crucial to success. I’ve had students get into college with their grades and test scores but get sidelined because someone gave them a poor reference. When at a company, Brett works to exceed his employer’s expectations and he keeps a running list of his accomplishments. Again, something we heard from Lee Champion.

Go write your own list of successes, and chunk it into periods of time and employers. When opportunities present themselves – which they often do in odd places – you will now have examples fresh in your mind of how you can help a potential employer. You should also make a list of references and keep in touch with them.

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