As Nell had me write a reflection after missing half a class to see my Dad, I’m going to cover my behind and justify missing all of Monday’s class. While on the plane home from NYC to Atlanta, I drafted out the ten things I learned while attending Business Today’s International Business Conference, a highly-selective program run out of Princeton University. I was supposedly surrounded by the game-changers of Generation Y. Many of them started non-profits as early as middle school, and just as many are already CEOs. To be upfront, I have done neither of these things. That’s probably a good thing, because attending the conference became a learning experience.
Without further ado, the top 10 things I learned at the Princeton Conference were:
- Stand out. Will Ethridge, the CEO of the North American division of Pearson, could not stress this enough. There is no way that somebody can climb to the top if s/he just blends in, even if s/he is doing phenomenal work.
- Networking isn’t just about who you know. It’s about who they know, how well you know them, and how far they are willing to go for you. Of the 150 attendees of this conference, I friended about 50 of them on Facebook. Of those 50, I intend to keep in touch or follow the careers of 20. These relationships are extremely valuable, and I don’t intend to lose them.
- Comedy has power. I asked a feminist question to SAP CEO Bill Mcdermott that I prompted with humor, and intended to follow up with a real question. My prompt was a joke about women changing their names when they got married (Mcdermott had just closed his keynote on personal branding). Though I was cut off from the rest of my question with an uproar of laughs from the smartest people in my generation (were they laughing with me or at me, I’ll never know…), many individuals sought me out afterwords to talk feminism. Had I alienated myself with my following question (how come SAP only has one woman on their executive board and how is SAP encouraging gender diversity), I don’t think I would have been as interesting to so many people.
- Be beautiful. Not only was everyone at this conference intelligent and accomplished, but they were beautiful too. Most of the men were tall and gorgeous, and the women were slender and well-polished. I don’t think that this was a coincidence. As much as I don’t want to believe it, personal appearance, in my experience, may have a direct correlation with success.
- Make passion into your business, not the other way around. There is no way to achieve happiness if you do not love your job; of your average week you spend 35% of total awake hours at work. I refuse to throw that time away! Also, of the CEOs that I talked to, a majority of them were more successful when focusing on their passions. If business becomes one’s passion, be prepared to lose friends, family time, and personal life.
- Invest, in yourself, in businesses, and in other people. Unlike many people in the business world, I view my goal in life to continue living a happy life, not getting rich. Invest in what makes you happy. However, in order to make these personal investments, it’s best to have some capital to do so. Venture capital, as I had known previously and as this conference has proven, is a phenomenal way to make money. Finally, invest in other people, which includes…
- Check In. Networking can only go so far. Checking in is a great way to maintain relationships and all the effort one puts into networking. Send holiday cards, write on people’s Facebook walls, do not let them forget you!
- Liberal arts doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. I found this to be a sad truth of the business world. Most of my successful colleagues were business and finance majors; even the economics majors had some troubles finding a job for next year. That being said, knowing how to think can help network and stand out.
- Brand Matters. Your personal brand that is. If people are naturally attracted to you, figure out why and capitalize on those traits. Go as far as picking out “your colors.” You want to do everything you can to convince people to have warm feelings towards you.
- You can talk to anyone. Without realizing it, I met people who make far more than $5 million a year, people from Ivy Leagues around the US and equivalents from around the world, and celebrities. It was no harder to talk to them than it was to talk to fellow Scotties. As of now, any inferiority complex that I may have had is now gone. People are people, not to be idolized, and not to be forgotten.