When I was 20 years old, I went to work at Citigroup for a summer internship. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing, but I went to the office every day and worked on a basic scenario analysis project. I knew I could spend my summer just showing up or really, actually try to learn something.
I chose the latter. I went to all the speaker events, every lunch meeting, and all of those happy hours. I had lunch with different co-workers and senior leaders every day. I emailed and followed up with everyone I met.
All that persistence paid off — by summer’s end, I had one-on-one meetings with the CFO of Citigroup, the Chief Diversity Officer of Citigroup and more than 10 Managing Directors. Me! A 20-year-old intern! Some decade-long employees at Citigroup said they’d never talked to that many senior leaders.
At the end of the summer, my Managing Director, Jaidev Iyer, announced “Erica, somehow you’ve been able to get noticed everywhere you go.”
I didn’t realize this was a gift until much later in life. When I was 27 and on stage at the World Economic Forum at Davos 2012, activist Desmond Tutu told our group of 70 Millennial leaders that we can lead a revolution in the world. That’s when it clicked for me.
But this blog post isn’t about me. Its about YOU. It’s about the fact that I’m not the only suburban-born, Indian-American girl who can get noticed. The truth is getting noticed isn’t much about me either. It’s about how I translate my gifts to others.
When we share ourselves in a genuine way, we build real relationships and create ways for others to help us grow.
Here are my top six tips on how to get noticed, get hired, or get just about anything you want:
- Every time you meet someone, focus on how you can support them first. Give, give, get is a mantra that has helped me build deeper connections with others.
- Be self-aware. Don’t ask for too much of someone at the beginning. Build the relationship and understand where they’re coming from.
- Honor yourself and speak with confidence. Be honest about what you are hoping to get out of a conversation, no matter who you’re talking to — whether it’s a C-level exec, a leading expert or a budding entrepreneur. Everyone is busy and wants to have conversations that matter.
- Don’t shy away from emailing anybody for a meeting. The CFO of Citigroup said yes to a 20-year-old intern (me!). I’m sure if you write a succinct email and politely ask for what you want, you can talk to just about any anyone. Believe me, I’ve talked to everyone from Sheryl Sandberg to Bill Gates this year — all because I asked!
- Have fun with it. When you do get that meeting, ask informed, thoughtful questions and they will remember you. Make sure to do your research so you know what to say. And don’t forget to have fun with it. People want to be around those who are doing fun stuff.
- Start with your story. Every time I have a meeting with a new person, I start by sharing my personal story. Rather than discussing what I want from someone else or how I’m going to do it, I first share why I’m talking to them and what led me to this point. My story evokes my values and creates a connection with others that builds a real relationship.
Erica Dhawan is a globally recognized leadership expert, Gen Y keynote speaker, consultant and researcher at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. Her work with Gen-Y change agents and future-thinking companies changes the world. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.