There’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering — Elon Musk

As Elon’s quote implies, a lack of failure isn’t success. It’s just optimizing the wrong thing. Rather than protect against failure, you should count on it and know what you will do to recover from it. Getting comfortable with failure is a key step in becoming a better risk–taker and successful leader. That is why we celebrate failure and persistence in the college. Today, we begin the 13th installment of our Failure Competition. Entering our competition is simple:

  • Write an account of a failure you have experienced in the past. Your failure story has to focus on a time you stepped out of your comfort zone to experience something new: the farther the better. Tell us why this was such a stretch for you, the failure that resulted and what you learned from the experience that would be of interest to others. It needs to be genuine; people can spot a fish story a mile way.
  • While the Failure Competition began with students in our capstone class, it is now open to any UCF student on campus: undergraduate, graduate or EMBA, business, education, engineering or whatever. The only requirement is that you currently be enrolled at UCF. About a year ago, we had a music student win the competition.
  • Need inspiration or guidance to tell your story? Search my blog. We have posted many stories about failure over the years.

Here are the ground rules, complete with important deadlines:

To enter, you must post your essay in response to this blog. If you are a capstone student this semester include your section number and name of your instructor. If you are not in this class, tell me your class standing ( e.g., freshman, senior, graduate student) and your field of study. You must complete this exercise by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 6. Don’t Worry If You Don’t See it Right Away. It’s a moderated board, I Have to Accept It before you will see it.

You have to get me your written entry by April 6 at 5 p.m.  I will notify you if you are a finalist by Monday, April 9 at 5 p.m.

The finalists will be asked to submit short videos based on their essays. Those videos must be sent to me by 5 p.m. on April 16.

I will then feature one video each day on my blog starting April 17 and a vote by everyone reading my blog will determine the winner Friday, April 20.  The vote will close at 5 p.m.

The winner will get a letter of recommendation from me along with a $500 prize. Second place will get $300, third place $200. These monies are awarded through our financial aid office.

Good Luck


An Alum’s take on Getting to the One

I got an email last week from an alum who regularly hires UCF College of Business students.  He was sorting through resumes and was a little frustrated when he wrote me the following. You might want to take heed…

….. GETTING TO THE ONE. I think about this concept a lot these days as I look at 100 resumes to get to 8 phone interviews to get to 3 face-to-face interviews to get to 1 person offered the job. Honestly, a new graduate can get to the “Top 20” by just getting the basics right and by flying under the red flag radar, but when it comes to the Final 8, it comes down to razor thin margins, and especially the Final 3.

I think in many cases it comes down to getting laser focused on the customer (in this case, your customer is your potential future boss!) Researching in-depth about the company, showing the right amount of enthusiasm/energy & finding the right balance of confidence so you don’t sound arrogant. BY THE WAY, if you’re just spraying your resume everywhere, it’s real hard to go “all in.” When someone shows up with a cookie cutter, it shows. No one likes to be a cookie, especially not the “customer.”

Yeah, I know it’s tough. Too enthusiastic and you seem desperate, and too much confidence and you sound brash. BALANCE being the operative word.

I really do feel for the kids who have to go through this gauntlet, which is why networking as a student is SO critical. My lord, one phone call from someone, and they vault to my Top 8. I think about how many students I’ve placed in jobs just by them making the right impression on me, so that I can put my name behind them. It’s the understanding that there is an opportunity everywhere they go at all times, so they better be PRESENT, interested & representing their personal brand even when it’s a less formal situation.

OK, I gotta get back to phone interviews but I thought a slightly impassioned e-mail at this moment might resonate since I’m thinking about how I can help convey this to the future graduates at UCF Business. The End.

It’s About Us

Last week was about searching for a leader. UCF was looking for its next president, and on a much lesser scale, we were looking for an academic leader for our Marketing Department. There are a lot of ways in which these searches differed, but one way they were the same: it wasn’t really about the people we interviewed. Rather it was about us.

When organizations search for talent at this level, all of the candidates are “qualified” in the sense that they have many accomplishments on their resumes, they have led people and they are insightful. So the key differentiator isn’t so much them as it is us. These type of searches are really about clarifying what we think we need, the values we want to project and the path we think lies ahead. We then choose among these highly talented people whom we think fits our needs best.

There is an important lesson here for aspiring leaders. Most young leaders think leading is about them — their skills, their experiences, their values and views. But these are just things you need to carefully craft in your professional career to get you to the point where you might be ready to lead. But who you lead, how you lead them and where you take them, depends on them, not you. If you are fortunate enough to be selected, it was because they judged you a good match for them. After you get the job, it would be wise to remember why they chose you and that, in many ways, they choose whether or not you continue to be their leader every day.

Don’t let the Immediate crowd out the Important

Eighty-two percent of students in our first professional development class say they want a professional job in-hand as they graduate with their undergraduate degree. This should surprise no one. Business school students are practical. They come to us because they believe a business school education will enhance their employability.

This is why we ask business people and community leaders to come visit us (see my post from two weeks ago). First we ask them to tell their personal stories and that of their companies in The Exchange. They do so in large numbers every week so that students can understand what skills and experiences they are looking for in new employees, how their companies compete and how varied career paths can be. We follow this up with chances to attend our Careerfest, where students can learn more about potential careers and get matched with a mentor who can help guide them. We do Careerfest every spring and fall. In fact, we have the spring 2018 edition tomorrow. And we close the loop by inviting them to interview and hire our students. We did this last Friday when more than 45 employers with internships and jobs were invited to meet 700 of our best prepared students at The Invitational at the Venue. For employers with especially large or unique needs, we even do entire days where we feature them in the College.

Yet despite all these opportunities to connect with companies and find your career before you leave us, the data tells me that only about half of our students will achieve this important goal. Why? There are many reasons. For one, too many students have unrealistic expectations about how easy it is to get a great job. But, I think another key factor for a lot of students is that they let the immediate crowd out the important… They are too preoccupied with their current classes, clubs, social experiences and work obligations. Too busy now to invest in their future. So they put it off. Before they know it, they are graduating without having done anything toward their goal. Be smart, not busy. Understand that you will never be in a better position to meet more employers and alumni who are willing to help you find your way and leave UCF with a great career in hand than right now. Make that a priority. You can be busy later.