Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dressed for ready

A client came in and when someone shares their narrative I have the compulsion to share part of mine. Nothing too personal but my great friend Linda is a big believer that we learn from stories.

So let me tell you the story that I told my young client:

Many many years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and women went on "Queen for a Day" and vied for refrigerators by telling the tawdry and sad tales of their life, I was a young account executive at a blue chip public relations firm. Very wet behind the ears yet somehow possessed of this strange ability to look more sophisticated than the people I reported to.

One day I arrived at the office and shared the elevator ride with the company's CEO and serial philanderer. He gave me the once over and then barked "what's your name?" I told him and he grunted something. I was temporarily working on the 15th floor at the time which was where the big boys and girls sat -- all the executive vice presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents -- everyone in shouting distance from the CEO so he could observe their comings and goings (oh and did I mention that he had a permanent tan that was so dark it could only come from a can?)

A few hours passed and my phone rang. The woman I reported to said "Ellen, what are you doing this afternoon?" Thinking she wanted an update, I started to tell her all the important work I was doing when she cut me off and in her crisp British accent said, "Forget that. You're going with me and the CEO to (Fortune 100 company)."

My response was logical: "But I don't have my clothes."

Her retort was equally logical (by her bizarro logic): "Don't worry. You can buy a toothbrush at the airport."

And away we went. To pitch a million dollar account for the company. Me...brand new to the company. So new I still hadn't figured out how to pad an expense account. So, what's my point? I was ready. Not really ready but dressed for ready. The CEO could envision me as part of his team and after a little research, felt that I had the confidence to handle myself in a high-stakes situation.

I am convinced that most of the opportunities I've had in my career have had to do with two things: luck and a polished presentation. Okay, maybe three things: luck, smarts and a polished presentation but since we can't control luck, we really have to make sure that we're on our game at all times. Forget casual -- always dress like you're about to jump on a plane and head to the boardroom and blow them away with your exuberance, intelligence, and yeah, superior taste in clothes.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

She's Baaaaaaaaaaack

God it feels good to be back blogging. Did you miss me? Nah, only joking. I'm not that needy. Actually, I stopped blogging so I could write "The Essentials of Fabulous: A Primer", a must-read book for anyone who wants to standout and be memorable in a very virtual world. Publishing date: To be announced and announce it I shall.

A year later, I can say with full confidence: Nothing's changed. Everyone is still staring at the little screen in their hands. We're still slurring our names everytime we leave a message. We're still blathering when we leave a voicemail message. Newsflash: No one listens to the very end of any message. We look at the name and the number and when we reach you, we force you to repeat everything you've said.

Leadership is M.I.A. Either the bosses are terrified of their employees or they don't have the people skills that are critically important to running a successful company. Over and over, people tell me hair-raising stories about bosses who berate and criticize but can't muster up a compliment now and then. Poo on those bosses.

Unemployment is sky high yet there are still jobs to be had but only for the very well-connected or people who have access to personal stationery and who are unafraid of doing the drudge work of writing letters and asking for a meeting.

A while back, a potential client came in for a complimentary half hour. The guy told me his story -- lots of resumes sent out and no responses -- and I listened and took note of his demeanor and presentation skills. Let me reiterate: it was a complimentary half hour or maybe it was a full hour (I'm admittedly sloppy about the time especially if the story is somewhat interesting). Anyway, here's the point: The time we spent together was FREE yet the man never sent me a thank you note to acknowledge the gift of my time.

There it was -- the answer to the man's poignant question "how come I'm not getting hired?" He wasn't doing the maximum which is what it takes to make it today.

Then there was a client who kept missing appointments but when she did show up, she complained that business was off. Lightbulb! Maybe her clients got sick and tired of waiting for her and decided to work with someone who respected their time. I wish I could say I helped her but I couldn't. She didn't want to change her m.o. We parted ways and I wish her well.

That's why I felt I needed to write "The Essentials of Fabulous: A Primer" (I'm just practicing for when I do a tv spot...you've got to repeat the title of the book at least three times). It's a how-to for anyone who doesn't get it (Chapter Eight), who doesn't quite grasp the importance of a polished presentation. It matters. More than ever.