Getting Your Foot in The Door
Some would say I am an expert in recruitment—I screen anywhere between 2,000 to 3,000 résumés a year. When an executive is reviewing résumés at that rate, you may be interested to know what his or her process is in choosing one résumé over another. After all, a résumé is the only thing you have to differentiate yourself from the hundreds of other people applying for that same job. So, how does an executive go about picking ten people to interview out of a stack of a thousand résumés? It’s a time- consuming job. Ultimately, what an executive wants to end up with is a pile of résumés that exhibit a conglomeration of academic achievement and demonstrated workability.
How does one get there? Well, the first thing any executive like myself will do is pull the résumés from Harvard, Columbia, and Wharton, to name a few. Every now and again, I will look at candidates without an Ivy League education and place their résumé in the “interview” pile because of the experience shown, but it’s a smaller percentage. Candidates with master’s degrees from prestigious business schools will make up the majority of my reading material. I will look long and hard at about a hundred of these résumés, and from there, I will invite about ten of those candidates into my office. While eight of those candidates will have acquired an Ivy League MBA, the two remaining candidates will have some level of education, a great network, and the kind of experience that far outweighs the fact that they didn’t go to an Ivy League school.
Why don’t all of the people who went to an Ivy League school get the job? Just because you have book smarts doesn’t mean you have common business sense, and common sense is a large part of street smarts. We all admire the work of Ivy League graduates because they are highly intelligent people, but I can’t look beyond the fact that sometimes that system fails. Let me reinforce the fact that I support academia in a very big way, considering my involvement in this sector when lecturing across the globe.
From that group of eight individuals, a few of the candidates will enter my office and I will know within five seconds that I am not interested in hiring them. I remember speaking with a qualified candidate from
Harvard who studied international law. We were looking for someone who would be able to fly to London and other European cities once or twice a week. This candidate sitting in my office passed the interview with flying colors, only to end the discussion on a sour note. “Will I need a passport to go to London?” she asked. A big mistake!
I couldn’t believe this was someone who’d received a degree from Harvard. There she was, an intelligent candidate who had gotten into a prestigious school and graduated with all the bells and whistles an MBA could afford, yet she did not have the common sense to explore the facts of traveling abroad. This candidate was one of ten people in a thousand to get a foot in my door, and she ruined her only opportunity.
My question to qualified candidates is, what makes anyone think that just because they made it to a good school, they can ignore the world around them? Thinking globally is the key consideration in this case. To those who are in Ivy League schools now, and to those young entrepreneurs who will never have the opportunity to do so, my message is the same. You are your own best asset, and therefore you must think outside the box and on a global scale.
Getting to where You want to Be
I say this to you because it is what I believe myself: I am my own best asset. Yes, I can speak six languages. Seven, actually, because I am in the process of learning Portuguese. Yes, I also went to a good school. I say yes to all of the things that make me look like a good candidate on paper—but those aren’t the only things that make me my own best asset.
What makes me my own best asset is the fact that I will accomplish, I will achieve, and I will do and commit, because I believe in myself. If you took all of my achievements away from me today—my networks, résumé, business, and money—and dropped me in China in the middle of a field, I would most definitely make it back. All of us would make it back. We would figure out a way to get to the next village, or to get clothes, or to make a phone call somewhere. We would figure out a way to get back to reality. It would be a nightmare, but we could do it.
We all have the ability to be street smart buried within us, but it takes a willingness to be that person in order to succeed. You have to decide exactly what you want to do, what you are capable of doing, and if you will follow through when the time comes. I’ve hired individuals who have lasted less than a week in my office because they were all talk and no business. Once, I had a man working for me who was hired to fly around the world doing trade shows, but he would get so much stage fright before the events that we had to let him go. Eventually, I found someone else who was willing to do it, and she did her job with great ease and professionalism. She loved jumping off a plane in Shanghai to go mix and mingle with strangers.
This lifestyle of high-energy, highly demanding work isn’t for everyone. You need to know who you are first before you get out there on the playing field. You will excel once you know who you are, and employers will see that either on your résumé or on your face when you walk in the door. The key to book smarts and street smarts is simply knowing that you are your own best asset. Confidence can be smelled a mile away and felt in the air.
My week is split into sections. Part of the week, I could be at the office working fourteen-hour days, but just as much as I work in the office, I am outside of it, flying around the world to meet with people and build new connections. This is my work, and this is what I’m good at. This is the name of the game when you want to play in the big leagues.
If I were a new hire in an office, I could predict that within the first two to three weeks, there would be a few complaints reported to HR about my work and management style. Working, I have a lot of energy. I’m also aggressive and competitive with my sales tactics. I know this about myself. Rather than toning down my natural skill, I target an environment where I am sure to succeed and lead the crowd, carrying a mission to the end. Flying around the world, meeting new people, and striking up new deals is just my oyster.
I kindly suggest young businesspeople not just get an MBA and look for a job they think they are supposed to have, but rather assess their skills and talents and seek the job they are meant to have and will be successful doing.
The Tom Cruise effect
If you know yourself and work hard, you will go far. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience success, and my hope is that you will too. My aspiration is that you will be able to achieve these things without getting cocky or egotistical.
We all know Tom Cruise as a very successful movie star and action hero—an icon. He worked for Paramount Pictures Corporation for over fourteen years and brought in over $14 billion during his tenure. One day, he took the opportunity to go on the Oprah Winfrey Show. He sat on her couch and bared his heart, speaking of his work, his trials, and his plans for the future in a way that perhaps not everyone was expecting him to. By the time he climbed off the couch, the CEO of Paramount had fired him, probably thinking he could be easily replaced.
I got to a point in my career where I imagined that I was also irreplaceable. After a track record of closing multimillion-dollar deals and scoring every deal I sought out, I was convinced that I could do anything, go anywhere, and say whatever I wanted to say. If you feed your ego the way I did, you will quickly learn that everyone, even Tom Cruise, is replaceable. There is someone out there who wants your seat on the bench. I was irreplaceable and so was my partner Jamie, a CEO and my mentor … that is, until another company bought our company, and almost as fast as Tom Cruise, we were a part of the past. In the end, no one is indispensable.