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.

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