One of the most important aspects of my job, I believe, is to truly prepare students to be as ready as possible to enter their chosen industry. Do I have all of the answers? Of course not. But I have been where many of them want to go, and I do have a little knowledge that I feel is important for them to consider. And when I invite guest speakers into class, and they share the same opinions and advice, without my prompting, I do feel validated. Giddy even.
A guest speaker recently asked a group of my Sports Marketing students, "who has it?" It prompts the question, "What is IT?" And the follow up, "Can IT be taught?"
To me, IT is the combination of skills, knowledge and understanding that combine to make an individual stand out, and rise to the top of the candidate pool. It includes the understanding that extends well beyond what we read in a text, or talk about in class. It involves an understanding that there are thousands of candidates for every open position, especially at the entry level, and that you do not know everything. And that means having a sense of humility and sincerity combined with a hunger that really do make a difference!
Having "it" means not sitting quietly in the back of the class, or avoiding opportunities to engage and meet new people. This can be hard, but I also think it can be taught. IT means taking advantage of every opportunity to make the right impression, be it in class or out, and not hiding behind email as a means of communication. IT means asking for informational interviews, taking the time to learn about organizations and the people that work there, and not just asking everyone you meet if their company is hiring.
Push yourself. Go to networking events. Follow industry folks on social media, and engage in the conversation. Get yourself some basic business cards, because in this digital world, they still have a place and you never know who you will meet, and where. One of my first internship opportunities happened when I was sitting on an airplane while on a weekend break from college. A gentleman next to me asked about a book I was reading, and it sparked a conversation that ultimately helped me land a great industry opportunity. When the plane was about to land, I handed him a business card. It allowed me the chance to keep the conversation going, and he noticed the professionalism. To my surprise, he called me the next day to set up a meeting. And he mentioned again that he never had a college student hand him a business card. It made an impact and for me, it made a difference.
Business cards do not mean "I need a job." Resumes do. You don't go to a networking event with a pile of resumes, but without business cards, how do you leave people with a tangible reminder of your new connection? They still have a place, and college students that have them still impress me. And others. It's a small detail that says "I get it."
IT means understanding that even though you don't have years of experience in the industry, and you are only looking for an internship, you still have something of value to add and share.
And yes, all of this can be taught. And the pre-requisite for that is, how badly do you want IT?