Professional Guide to Actualizing Your Potential
I am thrilled to share our professional guide with you. I created this resource because I want to help can become the best version of yourself in the real world. Before I started Wish Dish, I was piling as many things as I could to my resume, just for the sake of it. This was my way of proving that I was good enough to the world — and to myself.
I learned a critical lesson early in life: Your job doesn’t define you. What you do is just a small piece of who you are. Once you discover your true self, it becomes much easier to align your values with a particular role and find fulfilling work.
Why do you think so many people are unhappy in the real world? T chase money, titles, and a big brand name until before they know it, they’re three years into their professional career and completely miserable. I’ve seen this firsthand with countless of my friends.
I created this guide to best practice processes I’ve learned. As a professional thought leadership tool, it will help you start taking the right steps to find fulfilling work. Once you find a meaningful path, the world will become a more inspiring place – I promise :)
Phase 1: Visually Understand Your Core Values
Recommended Resource: Watch this Ted Talk: Start With Why
Exercise 1: Self-Assessment
The first step you should take is to write out all of your strengths and weaknesses. Once you have this clearly defined, you’ll be better equipped to understand what constitutes your core values.
Ask yourself these questions:
Who are you?
How do you see the world?
What makes you the individual you are today?
All of my core values, represented in the inner circle of the graphic above, are what define me. No matter what I do, as represented in the outside circle, actions or accomplishments will never define who I am or represent myself.
So many people define themselves by their job title, salary, or place of employment. I disagree with this trend. I believe we should define ourselves by what we care about and want to represent.
The beauty in this lesson is that your core values (inner circle) will always be reflected in what you do (outer circle) if you’re in the right place. You will always have your core to rely on. It will shine through no matter your circumstances in life. I’ve found this to be true in both the personal and professional sphere.
Once you truly understand this dynamic, it becomes much easier to align yourself with a specific job and start to look to opportunities through a different lens:
Does this opportunity align with who I am and what I represent?
The answer will be much more valuable than contemplating “How recognizable is the name brand of this company?” or, “How much money will it pay me?”
When researching and discussing potential job opportunities, look beyond the title and company. Consider the following criteria:
Will be a good investment of time for you?
Will it help you keep progressing further in your career?
Phase 2: Establishing a Point of Contact Once You’ve Narrowed Your Search
Say you’ve found a company with an interesting job posting that seems like a good fit. Now comes the tricky part: how do you connect with a real person there?
Most people tend to apply for a job through the standard application process and then simply wait and hope the company eventually replies. Very few apply, and then make an effort to follow up. Do you just wait to hear back or are you proactive?
My best advice is to find a specific current employee at the company, reach out, and work to foster a relationship with them.
Food for thought:
Does a company need to have a job opening posted somewhere online for you to apply?
Based on my experience, absolutely not.
If you know your strengths and core values, you can create a niche for yourself anywhere. Depending on the industry, you might be able to identify gaps in their team.
Explaining in detail how and where you could apply your skills to help them grow will set you apart from the competition.
Recommended Resource: Read The Power of WHO!
The Power of WHO! was one of the most influential books I read during my professional search. Author Bob Beaudine discusses how to leverage people in your network who can help you. More importantly, it includes useful advice about how to get through to certain people.
In a nutshell, finding great opportunities requires great people to help you succeed once you have them. You probably already know someone who knows the exact person you need to get in front of. Once you identify this pattern, it becomes much easier to achieve your goals!!
The best way to engage second- or third-degree connections is to ask the person you know directly to make an introduction. Remember, by introducing you, they are putting their reputation and relationship on the line. You are responsible for presenting your best self not only to forward your career goals, but also to represent them well.
A 4-Step Action Plan to Find a Point of Contact
Step 1: Create a list of companies and contact names that you want to work with and keep track of them in a google excel sheet (see tracking sheet)
Step 2: Sign up for a LinkedIn account (if you don’t have one already) and set up your profile. Beyond the basic sections for education and past positions, fill out each part with details that align with your current interests and show you are qualified for the role you want. You can also feature notable accomplishments, skills, awards, and volunteer commitments.
Step 3: Once you identify a company you want to apply to, search for its page on LinkedIn and identify people who work on relevant teams. Use LinkedIn’s advanced search feature to filter results based on name, position, and department.
Alternative Method:Look on the company’s website to find specific employees. Usually, you’ll find a staff directory, often labeled something like “meet the team.” Reach out to the best-suited people on LinkedIn to connect with them from there.
Step 4: Once you identify someone you want to get in touch with, here are three ways to reach out:
A. Ask to connect with them on LinkedIn. When you connect with them, please write them a short intro message explaining why you want to connect. Personalize it.
B. Install a Google Chrome extension to find emails, such as:
· Hunter.io (my personal preference)
After it’s installed, the orange logo will appear at the top right of your browser. When you navigate to a company website and click the icon, the program will scrape all active email addresses from the page.
Now, you’re all set to contact the person of interest!
Phase 3: The Introductory Process: Send a (Short, Sweet) Opening Email
Once you’ve either found a mutual connection to broker an introduction or found an appropriate point of contact via research, it’s time to put your plan into action.
Exercise 2: Writing an Intro Email
If you’ve been fortunate enough to have a friend connect you, they will likely send the first email with both of you CC’ed. This option is the best-case scenario, as it will set the tone for your response. If you are essentially sending a cold email, however, it’s especially important to make it polished, professional, and straight to the point.
Every introduction email you send should resemble the following format:
Identify the correspondent, including their role and the company
Propose how your skills and experience could benefit them and their business
Explain why you are emailing them
End with a call to action (CTA)
Set up a phone call or ask them to meet in person
Email signature: Position, Current company (if relevant)
Important Reminder: Always use your personal email when reaching out about a new job opportunity! You never want to use your current company email; even if your HR department and boss can’t access your account, it is a glaring oversight. College emails, especially if you’ve been out of school for multiple years, both look slightly juvenile and have the added risk of expiring.
Example - Emailing Coca-Cola
Let’s imagine that I’m still in my junior year at UGA. As summer approaches, I need to find an internship or work experience for the summer before my senior year. Ideally, this could segue into a full-time position after I graduate.
Using the methods I’ve laid out so far, say I’ve managed to find the contact information for the Senior Vice President of Marketing at my number-one prospective company: Coca-Cola.
In this hypothetical scenario, this image shows the results Hunter would display when I searched the company website.
If his specific email isn’t accessible, I could try a few iterations based on the structure of company emails that show up in the search results:
For the sake of this exercise, let’s say that John@coca-colacompany.comis an active registered email address. Here is the finalized email I would send:
4 Tips and Tricks:
1. Start from the top by targeting the most senior teammates. Everyone assumes it’s the safest bet to reach out to the lowest-level person they can find at a company they’re interested in. In reality, junior staff have little say or authority. The people you want to communicate with are the company leaders —these are the decision makers—NOT just recruiters or your potential peers.
A senior member of the company passing you down to an HR professional will increase your likelihood of being selected for the job compared to vice-versa.
2. Start every conversion by asking: “How can I help you?” Since most people ask what the other person can do for them right off the bat, this tactic will set you apart from the competition. Early on, sometimes offering to work for free can be the most valuable opportunity for you.
Use pro-bono experience to establish trust and demonstrate that you can shine at the company you’re targeting. Getting assigned to a real-life project will also show you how they operate. If they like you, they’ll be much more likely to hire you — and you can make sure they’re the fit you’re looking for.
3. Tell the person you are reaching out to that you want to learn from them. Ask them about what they do. Never ask anyone to help you get a job off the bat. You wouldn’t ask a girl to get married after the first date, would you?
As the saying goes, “when you ask for money you get advice, but when you ask for advice, you get money.”
4. Keep your emails short and to the point. Stay cognizant of the fact that in the professional world, virtually everyone is strapped for time. At most, request 15-20 minutes for a meeting or phone call. You’ll probably end up talking for 30-45 minutes, but framing your request this way is both considerate and shows you’re busy too. If they see you’re in demand, they’re more likely to get on the phone with you.
Pro Tip: I highly recommend using Respondable. This AI-powered email tool will help you make the best first impression.
Phase 4: Interview Preparation & Research
After you’ve successfully scheduled a meeting with the person you’ve had in mind, prepare the questions you’ll ask — significantly ahead of time.
Here is my best advice for formulating thoughtful queries that show you’re prepared and informed. Remember, questions are the most important part of any interview.
When speaking with your contact, your goal should be to have them talk for 80% of the time. You should really only be speaking for the other 20% of the meeting.
Maintaining this ratio will indicate that you can keep the conversation going while being respectful of the time they’ve dedicated to offer insight based on their expertise. Plus, everyone likes talking about themselves. Your biggest chance to impress them won’t be with a resume or overview of your career- it will be by asking high-caliber, specifically tailored questions.
If you plan this right, it should only take you about 30-45 minutes of preparation before talking to each contact on your list.
The 3 Types of Research
1. Personal Research
Find out everything you can about the person before you meet. Where appropriate, this could include non-business-related topics from their publicly accessible pages. A quick Google search is fully sufficient. Anything further than that could come across as off-putting.
Knowing a bit about their interests, values, and what they love about life will help you connect on a more personal level. Don’t be disingenuous, though! Feigning interest in a sports team or hobby you know nothing about is unsustainable. If you become their coworker, you’ll have to keep up that charade indefinitely. Look for passions that organically align with your own.
Find common connections to this person. Finding mutual friends or even acquaintances you both know can be a good conversation starter that will help you build credibility.
Use the first 5-8 minutes of each interview to get comfortable before diving right into the topic area you want to speak with them about. Make it easy to start the conversation by being friendly, pleasant, and sociable.
2. Company Research
Come prepared to your meeting by researching the company where they work. You should know about their mission, history, and recent activity or projects. Go the extra mile by being informed about where they want to go as a business, and how you can help them get there. It’s easier to ask broad questions first and then dive in from there than starting at the granular level
3. Focused, Role-Specific Research on the Position You Want
This will be your time to shine. Start thinking about the things you want to learn, new skills you intend to develop, and the team or department where you see yourself fit. Asking detail-oriented questions will help you learn specific insights about what goes on in the day-to-day of the role you’re after.
Remember: You are interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you
Phase 5: Use your Research to Write Sample Questions and Responses
Even though you won’t be reading off of a piece of paper, writing a script will make you feel confident and prepared. No need to stick to your prepared questions or responses verbatim, but they could be your saving grace if your mind draws a blank or you feel overwhelmed by nerves mid-meeting.
Exercise 3: Writing A Mock Script
I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. I’ve been looking forward to this call. Shall we get started?
Icebreaker Questions (1-2)
1 .I was reading your personal profile on LinkedIn and it said you like the outdoors? I’m big into nature, too!
Would you mind telling me a bit more about where you go to explore?
What was your most epic adventure?
2. My friend Alice from college told me you were family friends growing up. How did that whole relationship happen?
Questions Based on Company-Related Research (3-5)
3. I was looking into Coca-Cola’s marketing division and am interested in learning about the digital space. Can you tell me more about Coca-Cola’s strategy when it comes to marketing online?
How does Coke use the variety of their social media accounts?
Which platform have you found most effective for reaching millennials?
4. Since Coke has so many different brands, how do you specifically market each product?
Is it challenging to differentiate Coke Zero from Diet Coke and Real Coke?
Do you use separate strategies for products from all your other brands products, like the water company you own?
Which product has been the most successful the last 15 years
Can you tell me the common demographics that consume each product?
5. In your experience, what is the process like of launching a new brand?
Which brand has been the most challenging to launch, and why?
Which brand had the most successful launch, and why?
Personal and Role-Oriented Questions (6-8)
6. What is your specific role within the marketing department?
How does this role relate to the rest of the company?
7. How have you used this role to grow your professional skillset?
Was there a favorite project you were especially proud of?
8. What has allowed you to get to where you are today?
How did your background and education apply to your current position?
What would you recommend for a college student in my shoes who wants to work with an impactful company one day?
8. Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
Why do you want to do grow in this way?
What will this allow you to do once you get there?
Wrap-Up Questions and Closing (9-10)
9: This summer I want to work in X field/ find Y type of internship/ accomplish Z. Do you have any suggestions for where to start my search?
10. Do you have any questions for me? Thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to speak/meet with me today!
Planning is essential before you speak to anyone for the first time. You can build a much better plan or framework for a successful meeting when properly prepared.
Keep your questions open-ended to give the contact more time to elaborate. Avoid asking closed or yes or no questions, which tend to make the conversation feel awkward.
Always have 2-3 follow up questions prepared for each main point ready to help extend the initial question and encourage them to dive in deeper.
Never hesitate to go off script. Bring in your personal experience or curiosity to extend responses.
Opportunities like informational interviews serve as a relationship builder. Don’t feel pressured to score a job, or even a formal interview, on day one.
Roundup: Professional Tools to Make Your Life Easier
WunderList: A personal to-do list, this extremely simple and user-friendly app keeps you organized and on track.
Respondable: This Chrome extension for Gmail helps you write efficient emails and calculates the probability of someone replying.
Hunter.io: Use this tool to automatically scrape emails from websites and personal profiles to get in contact with someone more easily.
Mix Max: Track, automate, and enhance your emails with this truly amazing extension.
Grammarly: This AI-enabled extension for any browser proofs for grammar, spelling, and even nuanced aspects like tone and style so you can avoid making even any small mistakes when writing emails.
Taking the First Step in Your Own Professional Journey
Once you learn what questions to ask and how to ask them, you can apply the same replicable process every time you need.
Establishing a version that works for you can unlock virtually any door you want to open. Once it’s in place, you can use this same process for taking on the next challenge, from sales and recruiting to finding investors.
Remember — No Facebook ad can identify and engage the right contacts. It’s ultimately up to you to find the right people to forge new connections with as you build meaningful relationships and expand your professional network.
As you start to build your own community, I hope this document serves you well! Use it to advance yourself personally and professionally.