23 February 2007

Inspiring Lessons From America's Most Wanted!

You must be wondering what can America's most wanted teach me! Well, you will be surprised. The story behind this person has far reaching lessons that we can all learn from and use in improving our lives and help in finding our dream jobs and careers.

Well Stanley 'Tookie' Williams did not quite make it to the list of America's Most Wanted, but he was responsible for cofounding one of America's most notorious gangs in South Central Los Angeles, California, USA. He cofounded 'the Crips' gang, the deadly rivals and enemy of the bloods which have both run riot and damage to the communities involved. But would you believe it, this man went from being a gang leader to being nominated for a 'Nobel Peace Prize'! Is that strange or what? How does someone so violent, on death row at San Quentin prison, go from being a gang member to potentially receiving one of the most prestigious prizes known on earth - simply remarkable. A Nobel prize nomination is something very few men and women ever get to achieve in their lives. And that is the story of Stanley Williams, narrated in his book 'Life in Prison' with writer Barbara Becnel.

I thought the lessons from his book were so significant and useful for people in life outside of prison. He talked of the time growing up when he and his mates in the 'hood' were so impressionable and one of his friend's elder brother who had just been released from prison for murder would garther the kids by the porch and reminisce about the 'wonderful times' in prison! Lesson 1: Be careful where you seek your advise. Stanley would constantly hear how wonderful prison was and that it was a place for men to prove themselves and show how really tough they were, they were even shown pictures of inmates showing off their big muscles in the exercise yard working out on weights. Stanley soon became affixed with the idea of going to prison and looking big and buff. He did, Stanley was a guy well over 6ft tall and more than 280 pounds of pure muscle! He was extremely intimidating to look at, and i guess this fitted well with what seemed cool at the time. Now, he regrets it all and has written numerous books to show and help people it certainly is not cool and the dangers of prison.

Lesson 2: Read Read Read. Stanley 'Tookie' Williams whilst in prison developed himself by simply immersing himself in books and literature almost biblical transformations similar to Saul in the bible. Stanley read books on history, art, economics and anything he could get his hands on, so you see this was infact a very intelligent man. So the moral here, is that self-education is absolutely paramount for you in your life if you want to extend yourself and go beyond your current station in life. You need to learn from the successful people. Learn from their mistakes so you do not repeat them. Remember the saying, i have used it in the past. 'A prudent person will learn from personal experience, while a wise one will from others. Dr Jim Rohn also said: 'Formal education will make you a living and self-education will make you a fortune.' If only Stanley 'Tookie' Williams had known of this before being brainwashed as a kid on the tough streets of South Central LA. You know they say, 'it is what you do not know that will make or break you, not what you actually know.'

So in your contuined search for your dream job and career or indeed if you are in business, you could do no wrong by taking heed of these 2 important lessons. Be careful of who you take your advise from (i have written about this in my previous articles) and also read read read. It will make you a better person, and give you the edge over your competitors, enabling you to get closer to your dream job.

See you soon.

Femi Yusoof

14 February 2007

How To Make An Impressive Presentation

"Genius, a power that dazzles humans, is oft but perserverence in disguise." H. W. Austin. I would also add the word 'preparation' to that quote from one of Britain's successful tennis players back in the 30s.

Often the difference between a successful presentation and an unsuccessful one is the level of preparation that comes before. So it is imperative you prepare, and indeed very important when attending an interview or presenting to a prospective client.

You may be familiar with the Dragon's Den, the tv series which has entrepreneurs present their business plans and ideas to already highly successful business men and women who form a panel of judges deciding on whether to invest in the products/services being shown to them. Well, i had a thought about what was the main difference between those that got what they came for, which was the investment of cash into their business and those that did not do so well.

And you probably guessed, those that managed to get the cash they needed were those that had prepared thoroughly before coming onto the show, making sure they knew their business inside and out, numbers included. After all, if you are going to ask for an investment of £100,000 or more, it makes sense to prepare in advance.

There is no difference when attending a job interview or when making a speech in front of an audience, the differentiating factor is the preparation. You must do your research, find out about the customer, as i have said in the past you are the product, a solution to their problem, and so how can you solve their issues if you do not know what it is. How would you react if you went to see a doctor, and he/she without asking you or knowing your problem or at least attempting to identify the problem the doctor just by sheer looking at you suddenly gives you a written prescription! Would you be doubtful of such act? Ofcourse you would.

Any interviewer is not going to be impressed and is going to have doubt in you if you have not done your research about them, if you do not have an idea about their business, their problem, their issues, what they do etc etc...You see, as we use to say a few years ago when i worked in the financial markets industry, my boss back then would say, stoploss, stoploss, stoploss as this was important for investors to take heed if they did not want to lose their shirts trading in the risky business of the stockmarket. And so, i will coin something similar, you may have heard this before, but success in an interview or any presentation is down to 3 things: research, research, research. Nothing more, nothing less.

I myself have noticed the difference in my presentations, in the early days when i made a speech to an audience i did not prepare as perhaps i should have done, and my performances in my opinion have not been up to what i would have liked. But since i have begun to put more work and preparation into my research and presentation i feel i have got more confident, amazing how this works, and there is another tip for you, confidence comes from preparation.

So when next you have to make a presentation of any kind, make sure you have done your research beforehand and you too will soon notice the marked improvements in your new found confidence.

Femi Yusoof

12 February 2007

How To Gain Lasting Recognition

I recently came across a story which goes to prove and confirm what i have said in previous articles. That is, in order to be successful in your workplace or indeed business you need to work on developing your soft skills, i.e. your interpersonal skills, which includes your communication and the ability to deal with people effectively and efficiently.

Your communication with people has lasting impact and is far more important, as ultimately it can determine whether you get hired for that dream job, or perhaps get that long awaited client.

You do not need to be No.1 to be recognised in your field once you have improved communication skills and a understanding of systems or networks. Having these skills will catapult you over and above your competition and put you in the driving seat.

If i was to ask you who invented the light bulb, most would rightly say Thomas Edison. But, what if i told you he was not the 1st! That's right, Thomas Edison was not the first person to come up with a working model of the electric light, he infact was the 23rd person! So how did he manage to be accredited with inventing the electric light system and become world famous.

Thomas Edison was born in 1847, between the ages of 12 and 15 he worked on the railroads selling candies and copies of his newspaper which he printed. From 15 to 22 he went on to work for the telegraph company where he worked on the electric light system which was to later act as the catalyst behind the setup of General Electric (GEC was once the worlds biggest company). In 1869, he receives his first patent before inventing the electric light in 1879.

At ages 12 to 15, Thomas Edison was working on his communication skills, he was a great salesman, he developed his salesmanship as a result during this crucial period. Later, between the ages of 15 and 22 he went to work on developing his electric system to power the light invention he had designed and made, this time he was working and acquiring his knowledge of systems and networks, just like you see today, there are lots of vast networks out there, for example, tv networks, radio networks, satellite networks, marketing networks and so on. So you see he was able leap over those that came before him (22 of them!) because of his developed soft skills and not necessarily his technical know-how.

In Robert Kiyosaki's book series, he describes the 5 essential elements of business, these being cashflow, communication, system, legal and product. Every successful business must have these parts if it is going to be successful. The communication and system part are almost inextricably linked and key for any business success. This is essentially why today Thomas Edison is known as the man who invented the electric light.

Therefore if you wish to be recognised in your field and move ahead of your competition, you must devote time and energy to working on your communication skills as well as your network.

These 2 elements are so important in the workplace, that in an interview situation you will give yourself an unfair advantage. Every business today needs people whether they be technical, administrative or indeed a sales person who can communicate, having a network just makes you even more powerful (I have first hand knowledge of this as i once lost a potentially good job just because i did not have a network of contacts!).

Femi Yusoof

09 February 2007

The Secrets of Instant Success

You may be thinking what does this have to do with jobseeking or finding my dream job. Well, i will tell you. I have always been of the opinion that into today's world or indeed if you are going to be successful in your career you you need to think like a business person. Gone are the days when every aspect of our lives were centralised, in the olden days our forefathers thought like business people. They went out to the farm and had to be independent, catering for themselves and their family.

It was later on that we saw the advent of the social state where people became more dependent, and this in some ways has led to people not being able to look after themselves or their families, always looking out to someone else for a helping hand. There is nothing wrong in seeking help, but it has to be for the right reasons, and not to make you even more dependent. All good entrepreneurs have mentors but the focus is different, it is about helping business people to be better and not dependent.

If you want to have overnight or instant success you need to work with people, and understanding people is the beginning of attaining your dream goals. In life you will get criticised, told off and so on by your parents, boss or whoever maybe close to you at any particular time.

I like the story from Steven K Scott, American businessman who after graduating from University went on to lose or be fired from his next 7 jobs all while in his early 20s! He described an incident where he was working for a large $multi million dollar firm and while working in the marketing department, he had this dilema of going it alone to setup a business of his own or stay with the employer. The VP of the company turned to him after he put forward his idea, he said, "I don't believe you will be able to make a success of your business, the challenge and everything else you will face". He then thought how could he make such a statement, this VP cannot predict the future, and certainly could not predict his. Steven Scott highlights in his book 'mentored by a millionaire' that when people criticise you and give negative feedback, you need to qualify it, for example, Not Qualified (NQ) means they have no knowledge or experience to judge or pass on comment to you. Somewhat Experience (SE) means they have some experience. Very Qualified (VQ) means they have a lot of experience and knowledge in that subject.

In this situation, Steven felt his VP was very qualified as he was the vice president of a large marketing company, but Not Qualified (NQ) to predict his future, no man or woman on earth could ever do that, not unless he/she was God! And there is my point, you need to qualify those you get advise from and those that criticise, as this will help you in pursuit of your success. Beit in an interview, at work, qualify the comments and believe in yourself. By the way, Steven Scott has since gone on to setup a $Multi Billion dollar advertising/marketing business.

And for the secret of success? There is no secret no matter what you read about all the famous people, the celebrities and so on, besides sheer hard work, and belief in your power as a human being to achieve whatever you conceive.

See you soon.
Femi Yusoof

03 February 2007

How To Get the Edge Over Your Competition

Just like in business you need to establish your Unique Selling Point (USP), as this will give you an advantage over your competitors. Determining your USP is about identifying your benefits, values that you have to offer the client. There is a lot to be said about not having to re-invent the wheel, that maybe true and why should you, however what i am saying is that in your job, career search when attending an interview you have to know in your mind and be clear as crystal what it is that makes you unique.

Remember, in an interview situation, you are the product offering to solve the customer's issue or problem, so your solutuion needs to have easily identifiable benefits, something of value that can assist the company you intend to work with. So next when you are in an interview, don't just mention platitudes for example, i have drive and ambition and so on, instead state examples, use stories, use 3rd party referrals or speak in third persons, as people are more likely to believe what someone else said about you than what you say of yourself, strange but true.

Some examples from the business world:
"4 Books for a $dollar" – Copywriter Maxwell Sackheim created Book of Month club, now the largest in the world. Other book clubs and publishers have modelled their marketing on this concept

"Buy 1 get 1 free" – Very successful USP coined by Mary Carter Paint company in the 50s and 60s.

"Pizza delivered in 30 mins or it’s free" – Unique USP invented by Founder Tom Monaghan, changed the pizza business. Responsible for huge success of Domino’s Pizza business worldwide.

"Sunglasses which protect your eyes" – Affordable sunglasses at $50 per glass, sold millions.

"Audio Tapes which inspires" – Nightingale Conant is the world’s largest company selling motivational material, selling products for the likes of Anthony Robbins and so on..

Now, i am not saying you should develop some fancy catchphrase which you then read off to your interviewer, no, not if you wish to be taken seriously. These are meant to show you examples of how they have worked successfully in the business world, and so i am just showing you why it is important you too think of your benefits, what it is you have to offer to your prospective client or company. The company is more likely to respect what you inspect as oppose to what you expect from them.

So how do you determine your USP? Write down the benefits and values you as a product have to offer on a piece of paper and focus on your achievements. Also when making your notes, think of how they can benefit your client or company, put the focus on the company, when you do this you are working with human relations, as Les Giblin says.