What if I told you your success has little to do with your degree? Picture this scenario: you just earned your degree and are searching for a solid job, but you come up empty-handed. Why is that? According to a study by the Carnegie Institute of Technology, 85 percent of success is due to human engineering. In other words, your soft skills are more important than your technical skills.
Melissa Stanz has over forty years of experience in her marketing career. She graduated from the University of Alabama with an undergrad and graduate degree in Advertising and Public Relations. In Melissa’s career, she has worked for two universities, AT&T, Dornier Medical Systems, and Biltmore. Melissa now owns her own business where she is a marketing consultant and freelance writer.
When asked what she credits her professional success to, Melissa responded, “Networking. Business is all about genuine relationships. Without my interpersonal skills, I would not have the opportunity to show off my technical skills.” Melissa continued on to say she often sees new professionals be over-confident in their technical skills and wind up not making it in the business world because they lacked people skills.
Networking events are a great opportunity to meet other business professionals. While being in a room full of equivalently qualified individuals may create a competitive and intimidating environment for some, Melissa does not see it this way. Melissa started off small-minded, viewing everyone in the same career as competition, but it was not effective. Melissa said, “I decided to try out a new perspective where I view everyone I meet as a partnership opportunity. I call this ‘co-opitition.’” She has been using this mindset for forty years, so it is obviously very effective.
Melissa has four “magic” questions that she uses when she is connecting with other professionals. She states that these four questions are what starts the process of forming authentic relationships. The four questions are:
1. Why are you here?
They will respond with what company they work for and what they do for them. You will be able to tell what their intentions are out of each connection they make that day.
2. Can you tell me more about what you do?
At this point, you will be able to tell if you have a personal connection. Sometimes you do not vibe well with a person, and that is okay.
3. Can you tell me more about that particular aspect?
Something personal should come out of the second question in which you should follow up on. This question will start the development of the authenticity of the relationship.
4. Can I have your business card?
Even if you do not have any intention of partnering with this individual in the future, still take their card. One of the best ways to make connections is by connecting with other people. Just because you may not need their services, someone you know may find this individual useful, and you can connect the two.
When asked what advice she can give to young and upcoming professionals, Melissa said, “I will have younger individuals approach me and immediately start telling me they are looking for a job.” This aggressiveness is unprofessional and intimidating. Melissa goes on to say, “The key to effective communication is listening. I advise all professionals to listen to what others have to say before they begin to talk about themselves and ask for a position.”