Member & Marketing Strategy, Benefits Growth Network
Wendy Keneipp is a passionate thinker, idea generator, and planner. She understands the impact of business strategy across an organization and develops communications, systems, and initiatives that drive organizational value and increase company awareness.
You may think information about college graduates and new hires has nothing to do with you as an established professional. But I urge you to find out how this is, in fact, directly relevant to you.
A recent article in the WSJ, Your College Major Is a Minor Issue, Employers Say, reported on the results of a survey done where they queried 318 companies that hire new graduates. The results were telling of an era that is quickly becoming the new norm.
Here are some of the key points I see as critical from the survey:
Colleges and universities are modifying programs to help graduates excel in these areas to fulfill the wants and needs of employer businesses. But we, the established professionals, didn't necessarily have those benefits when we went through school. If you don't feel you currently excel in these areas yourself, then you need to think about how to get there, and quickly.
Because if these are the types of things that employers are looking for in their new hires, what do you think they're looking for in their business partners and advisors?
Photo by Eli Christman.
I know a young lady who has recently graduated from college and is embarking on her career. A career, which by this time has been well in the works for a few years as she has taken advantage of many opportunities throughout college to pursue interests and demonstrate her motivation, drive, and skills. She is very impressive, and I have already put out recommendations on her behalf.
As she was preparing for graduation, we had one of our regular coffee chats, and she was telling me about her career search. The conversation turned to her schooling and the path she'd taken from high school graduation to college graduation. During this conversation she revealed what I believe is a significant differentiator for all students and business people who wish to get ahead.
She went to a private school her first year of college and didn't do well. She then came back home and went to community college to figure out what she wanted to do. From there, she transferred to a state university, where I met her, and that is where she said she became a student. It was there that she realized the key to a successful education was that the education doesn't end when the bell rings. That is actually just the beginning.
She said to me,
"It's not like high school where you just do assigned homework after class. After class you need to study what you learned in class. Regardless of homework or assignments, you just need to study the subject to really understand it and be able to use the information."
What a simple concept this is for everyone who is trying to learn something new (say, changing a business model) or keep up with the changes going on around us everyday (like HCR and the demands of employee satisfaction).
Doing the minimum will not get you ahead, and likely will not even keep you where you are for very long. To get ahead, you have to study, regardless of the assignments or tests in your immediate future.
The difference between those who know a few statistics and those who know how to diagnose root issues and apply solutions is profound. That difference lies in understanding the implications across the organization. And this knowledge is learned though study and application of ideas in actual workplace settings, and then studying or analyzing the results to learn for the next application.
It's this recognition so early in her schooling and career that has clearly made her such a standout. Ask yourself, are you studying after class lets out, or are you shelving those thoughts until class is back in session a couple of days later?
Photo by dcJohn.
One reason to say yes. Sometimes that all it takes.
We can usually come up with a laundry list of reasons why we shouldn't or couldn't do something. But the real challenge lies in asking ourselves why we should do something.
You might find that the one reason you should do it makes up for a list of reasons you shouldn't, or couldn't, or don't want to do it.
We tell producers and agency leaders this all the time. And sometimes we're faced with our own situations where we need to take our own advice.
My daughter is graduating from high school this year, and it's been a year with many difficult discussions and decisions regarding college plans. It's never been a question of if she would go to college, but rather where she would go.
As you're well aware, there are so many factors are involved in a decision like this. And when you start to become afraid of the answer, it suddenly becomes easier and easier to put up defenses and start creating that "shouldn't" list in spades. And I did just that. I spent an entire week before the decision deadline listing and arguing every single reason it didn't make sense because I was afraid of the answer – for numerous reasons apparently.
And then on the final day as I had many hours traveling with my own thoughts on airplanes and shuttle buses, I challenged myself with the "Why should I?" question.
And at a point like this, suddenly all the arguments become insignificant; previously insurmountable obstacles seem manageable; and getting to the goal becomes all that matters. Because you feel the power in your ability to make it happen and your desire to make it happen. You know you should it, and now you also know why you should do it.
When you ask yourself, "Of all the reasons I shouldn't, why should I make this happen?", you might find a whole new level of courage.
When you see others struggling with a decision, encourage them to try this little exercise, and you might just get to see the magic of their internal strength really come out.
Photo by Luigi Torreggiani.
We've recently discussed an article that was published in HBR, "The End of Solution Sales". It was written by the authors of The Challenger Sale where they take the ideas from the book and build even further on how it's critical to meet clients and prospects at an intellectual crossroads in the development of their purchasing decisions. The authors call this insight selling, which is leading conversations with "insights meant to upend a customer's approach to its business," and being willing to push customers out of their comfort zone.
There are many excellent points and concepts in the article, and I highly recommend reading it. There was a consistent theme I saw throughout the article that I feel is critical for agencies to be developing:
Selling is a team sport.
What I mean is that meeting people at these intellectual crossroads takes a completely different approach to selling and working with clients. And doing it alone will not get the same results as working as a team to prepare and deliver on the system. Selling based on insights takes an agency-level change in strategy.
The long-held ways of one-on-one selling for business insurance and benefits are rapidly coming to a close. Clients have access to too much information and are coming as prepared, if not more prepared, to discuss their needs and possible solutions than the sales people themselves. If you want your sales team to be more than simply order-takers for clients who have self-diagnosed, then you need to turn selling into a team sport in your agency.
Photo by Luiza Leite.