I recently had the opportunity to go back to the university that I graduated from to speak in front of the 2015 graduating class. I was given full reign to speak about anything I wanted as long as it was “inspiring”.
I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to speak about, and then it hit me. If I could go back in time and speak to myself when I was in the same situation as the graduates, what would I want to know? What do I wish I knew when I was 22?
Little did I know, LinkedIn also had an ongoing blog series called #IfIWere22. What a perfect coincidence.
When I was 22 I was about to embark on a new journey, entering the job force. It was an exciting time, but it was also a turbulent time. I was entering into a job market that was less than ideal as it was a couple years after the tragedy of 9/11 and the tech industry was hitting a mini recession. After graduating near the top of my class in a program that prided itself on getting students jobs before graduation, I felt that finding a job would be easy. But nothing is ever that easy in life. I struggled to get an interview for months. In fact, I was down to my last month’s rent before I was ready to give up and head back home… I cringe to think how differently my life would be today if I didn’t land a job during that final month.
Because there was so much on the line for me, I knew that once I got an interview, I would have to nail it. But being 22 I was never formally taught people skills and this hindered me when I got into the interview room. It hindered me to be able to make the right networks and connections to succeed in a networked world.
Over a decade later, I realize now how important it is to have great people skills. It is a game-changer that makes a world of difference when communicating with people. It also help you create a good first impression with others, which by the way is what people will generally remember you by.
Hence, the first thing I would tell myself when I was 22 is the five key pillars to having great people skills.
Lesson #1: The Five Pillars to Having Great People Skills
1. Use my smile more often
·In the business world, it is something that I don’t see enough of anymore. A true smile highlights your friendliness and trustworthiness. It is a way to warm up the room and ease the stress of an impending interview or awkward networking situation.
2. Make great eye contact
·When you are young and shy, the natural tendency is to avoid looking into someone’s eyes when you shake their hand or speak to them. Making great eye contact showcases to the other person that you are listening, that you are interested in what they have to say.
· Do not stare at the individual but you need to check in with them ever so often or else it becomes very disrespectful
3. Properly use your hands
· First off, practice giving good handshakes. Here are some simple rules:
i. Keep it dry
ii. Keep it vertical (Don’t roll your hand on top or underneath the other’s persons hand)
iii. Keep it firm (but not too firm)
·Use your hands to help emphasize points you want to make when you are speaking. When meeting someone new avoid keeping your hands in your pockets or behind your back. Also never have your arms crossed at first even if it feels comfortable.
4. Bring the Excitement to the room
·When you bring energy to the room, others can feel it. If you are excited in an interview room, your interviewees can feel it. Too often too many university graduates are too nervous or scared to display excitement. Excitement showcases you want the job bad. Don’t be afraid to be excited, but be very afraid of being too laid back in the interview room.
·Showcase excitement by:
i. Changing the tone of your voice
ii. By maintaining great body language
5. Slow down your speed of speech
·When we are nervous we generally speak too fast and begin stumbling on our words. Really practice slowing your speech down so that others can understand you.
·How powerful is it when you can showcase excitement but yet maintain poise in a conversation with an interviewer?
Lesson #2: Accelerate My Own Personal Development
After leaving university, one of my biggest regrets was not spending enough time and money on developing myself. You see, in university you are forced to take courses that you are interested in and more importantly not interested in. You are forced to continually learn and expand your knowledge. The beautiful thing about learning subjects that you have no interest in is that the knowledge you gain resonates in your mind. Soon that knowledge stirs together and when you least expect it, the knowledge you have learned from a variety of different sources begins to formulate innovative ideas. Creativity is the fuel that drives technology companies in today’s world.
I am also not directly prescribing going back to college or university. That is a personal choice that everyone has to make on their own. For me I wish I had spent more time reading books and attending courses/events of all different genres. I wish I had accelerated my learning rather than become complacent. In today’s Internet world, you can learn anything you choose to learn so there is no longer any excuses for not expanding your knowledge on a daily basis.
Lesson #3: Health Equals Wealth
Working in the high tech world for over a decade now, I have seen first-hand how working in a desk job every single day takes a tremendous toll on people’s health. Here are some of the things that work against you when you enter the “corporate world”:
· After work beers
· Cheap vending machines
· Random junk food lying around everywhere (donuts, cookies, etc.)
· Pressure to perform at a job
· Long hours and long road trips
· Being wired into work 24/7
· Sitting at a desk 8+ hours a day (Rolled shoulders, brontosaurus necks, sore back, etc.)
When I was 22, I felt that if I just stayed minimally active I would be able to maintain my health. But, that was not the case. A few years ago, the compounding effects of constant stress began to take its toll on me. I would get random cases of anxiety and insomnia and would rely on caffeine and sugar to boost my feelings of low energy (I will go more into this in future blog). I realized that the root cause of all these issues was the fact that I didn’t build into my life enough ME time. I didn’t build proper habits of eating well, sleeping well and exercising.
When your physical health begins to fail you, your mental health is next to go! I can tell you that once your health is at a low point, it is a long and painful road back to the top.
At the end of the day, it does not matter how much money you make or how successful you become. If you are not healthy enough to enjoy life, then what is the point?
Lesson #4: Life is Long Road so Enjoy the Journey
When I was 22, I was so excited to finish school and get my career started. While in school, the only thing I could think of was “I wish it was over!”
Since that time, I have enjoyed a successful career but I now realize how much I wish I had a chance to go back in time and take the time to enjoy my past experiences more. If I was back in university, I would have spent more time getting to know the students around me, I would have spent more time thanking the professors who had a huge impact on me, I would have tried to truly enjoy the journey regardless if it was a happy, sad, enjoyable or stressful time.
One thing I have realized over the past decade is that once you leave school, your life begins to accelerate. Time really seems to fly as days begin to mix together, weeks begin to blur and seasons seem to disappear in an instant. We can all get caught up in chasing our next goal but what I would tell myself when I was 22 is, don’t wait until you reach a destination or goal to feel happy or fulfilled. Happiness and fulfillment can be yours, right here, right now. Just choose to see it and feel it.
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Also, if you are older than 22 and dare to admit it, tell me what would you tell yourself when you were 22?
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