I’ll be going to Boston a week from now to attend a Recruitment Event for major universities seeking graduate school applicants. There will be a good amount of schools looking for star students and the question for any potential applicant becomes: well, how exactly do I stand out in this sea of competition?
These are my top two pieces of advice that can make any individual stand out, regardless of what they’re trying to accomplish. I’ll call them the “sprinkles” on an ice cream cone that can give you that little “wow” factor:
- Your Introduction: By far, one of the my biggest pet peeves is when I see someone timidly introduce them-self. Knowing how to introduce yourself is a necessary skill to have, but is often underrated and overlooked. I think a strong candidate is someone who is confident about who they are, where they’re from, and what their purpose is, and can easily introduce all of the above without delay. The first words that come out of your mouth can make or break a deal. Delivery is important. Why be scared of who you are? This is you. That is your name. These are the experiences that have made you who you are. And this is what you want. Introduce yourself the way you want to be remembered. Granted, you may be teetering the line between egocentric and confident depending on your personality (type),it’s still nevertheless important to have a firm grasp of who you are and the image you’re trying to present. Also, don’t forget to work on your handshake — equally important.
What I always tell people I work with is to take time out of your day and practice introducing your name and something memorable about you (this can be regarding where you’re from, what you’re scared of, or how you’re feeling). Practice saying, “Hi, my name is (Eric Carnaje) and I’m a (Student Affairs Officer with the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles).” Confidence can be sexy, make you feel good, and it’s contagious. Once you take ownership of your identity, you can take ownership of every interaction you have. Practice it!
- Your Body Language: Do you ever feel like you’re having a slower, less productive day by the way back slowly droops over your shoulder, hunching over the keyboard, sitting on the bare edge of your seat? That’s because of your body language. Your body language says all, does all, and makes you feel all. You want to feel lazy? Relax your back and let your weigh down the rest of your day. Want to make it a more positive experience? Sit up tall, relax your shoulders, and be mindful of every angle, curve, muscle used in your body. Effectively knowing what your body looks like and what it says about you can make a difference in an interview or in something like a recruitment event. The way you move is the way you feel. Look good and you’ll start to feel good. Also, being conscious of what parts of your body are moving when you speak, when you listen, and how and where they’re placed. If someone is engaged with you and has an open body stance, reciprocate that image. Stay open, be engaged, and don’t cross your arms. There’s a social psychology study done on dating that results in individuals giving out their number more often to strangers who were engaged and mimicked their verbal cues/body language (sorry, I don’t have the link for this one, but here’s another good example)! It may be a little weird thinking about people copying you, but these subtle actions are rarely noticed, but they can be to your advantage if you use them correctly!
*Photo credit: Moo Creamery, Bakersfield, CA; Eric Carnaje, July 2013