I was doing some work around the house over the weekend when my neighbor came over to tell me he recently co-founded a diversified business in the services industry. After we talked for a few minutes about his new business, I asked him for a card. About an hour later he came back, card in hand. Multi-job Company: specializing in lawn maintenance, pet sitting, auto detailing, and beverages/snacks. Oh, I forgot to tell you the first draft of his card was in pencil, and my neighbor is 9. I was amazed. I don’t remember what I was doing at his age, but I know I wasn’t launching a business. And here he is, with a budding business complete with his very own cards. Someone call Donny Deutsch, because this guy is going to have “The Big Idea.” Since our first encounter, I’ve had daily conversations with him and I leave every conversation more impressed than I was the day before. And that led me to think about what makes this kid rock.
He has “it.” Simple enough. Defining what “it” is can be trickier. In this case, for those of you looking to attract quality job candidates, I’ve boiled it down into the following buckets:
• Commanding stage presence. When he speaks to you, there’s something about his energy that commands your attention. He’s got a cool confidence; a swagger that doesn’t come across as cocky. To be a future leader of a company, one has to be able to gain willing followers. Look for stage presence.
• Artistic vision. The other day, I asked him if he was going to sell chips with the lemonade and he said “Of course. The more chips people eat, the more they’ll want to buy lemonade.” Most adults wouldn’t think about that and here he is waxing philosophical about the physiology and psychology of consumer behavior. But he didn’t stop there. I told him I was going to cut down some trees in my front yard and he suggested I chop them up and sell the wood. Always looking for a new business opportunity. Don’t overlook the capacity for vision and innovation.
• Style. Meatloaf, Janis Joplin, and Van Halen. All rock stars. All completely different with a unique style. That’s part of what helped them stand out. They looked the part. My neighbor looks the part. Nicely dressed. If someone shows up to a job interview in a short-sleeve dress shirt and Looney Tunes tie, that person is probably not a rock star.
• Drive. I gave him a few suggestions on his business card design. 15 minutes later he was back at my doorstep with a revised card. He could have ignored my suggestions or come back a few days later, but he didn’t. Those who have “it” don’t wait until the last minute to get things done. They strive for continuous improvement and they keep you in the loop on their progress.
• Self-promotion. Every great band needs a little promotion. Something that will let people know who they are without coming across as “in your face” or too salesy. My neighbor doesn’t have an agent (yet) but he’s always looking for opportunities to promote his business. Look for candidates who can articulate their contributions to previous employers.
A band isn’t a band if all you have is lead singers. When I refer to rock stars, I’m talking about each member of the band: lead singer, bass player, guitar player, drummer, etc. All have different roles, all have different skills. And when they are the right players, they make awesome music. My neighbor is a budding rock star. If you want him to join your company, you better get in line now.
Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com).