Category Archives: Life Skills for Students

How important is your handshake?

student-money-handshakeFrom the picture above, you can guess the answer. YOUR handshake will have a financial impact on YOU. Guaranteed. So it is very important. Do I have your attention? I hope so.

When I shake your hand, it’s neither too rugged, nor too tough; it’s solid. And even though I feel uncomfortable staring into a stranger’s eyes (it is a form of intimacy) I will look you in the eye as I shake your hand. My corporate clients, C-level people and managerial level decision makers who are involved in hiring and college recruiting tell me all the time, “The handshake tells me a lot.”

Everything starts with a handshake and you may be judged by your handshake in interviews, business meetings and day to day encounters, whether you like it our not and whether you know it or not! So, take heed, your handshake may define you.

Improve your handshake with these simple guidelines:

  1. Prepare to meet someone when possible by reflecting on who they are and what you know about them and their different roles (all of their roles like mother/father, son/daughter to an elderly parent, manager, executive, young recent grad representative of the company, etc.). Take a moment to consider their world, their day and their goals.
  2. Proactively reach out your hand to the person you are greeting.
  3. Look directly into the eyes of the person’s hand you are shaking – be bold, do not look away.
  4. Firmly grab the whole hand of the other person and squeeze firmly. Some people use the squeeze to make a statement and squeeze too hard. Squeezing too hard is WRONG and rude. But giving a limp handshake is uncomfortable (yuk!).
  5. Shake with firmness twice (it’s ok if the other person extends the shake).
  6. Smile if it is natural for you, but simultaneously nod or gesture with a clear and confident voice, i.e. “Good to meet you.” or “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” If you don’t have confidence or feel intimidated by the meeting, simply “fake it until you make it”.
  7. Keep eye contact until a mutual letting go.
  8. Always be sincere in showing your interest in the other person.

If you think your handshake does not matter, try bringing up the topic people in business. You might be surprised to discover how important or opinionated business leaders are about eye-contact and handshakes.

So how important is your handshake? A firm handshake coupled with solid eye-contact will have people warming up to you faster, while improving your professional career as it solidifies partnerships. According to David Hoare, an accounting systems and business consultant, “The number one tool for marketing is the handshake and a smile.  It costs zero to extend the hand and use a few facial muscles.  But the value it generates is priceless.  Pretty much all business relationships begin this way.  The handshake and smile is the most effective marketing tool available at all levels of business.”

MediaPlanet posted an article on the handshake where they stated, “A recent survey of more than 2,000 businessmen and women revealed that 47 percent of professionals believe they have lost a contract, client or job opportunity because they didn’t have enough face-to-face meetings.” This isn’t just true for the external hiring process, you’ll find this true when internal job opportunities become available too.

Forty-seven percent of professionals believe they have lost a contract, a client or job opportunity because they didn’t have enough face-to-face meetings.

When it comes to starting your career, being face-to-face lays the foundation for career growth. It’s where casual meeting, greeting and handing out business cards translate to hiring, building collaborative and supportive relationships and acquiring life-long mentors.

The digital world will continue to transform the ways we can stay connected, but those connections need more than a Wi-Fi signal and a webcam to come to life. If you are interviewing, and the company is trying to save costs by using webcam technology, volunteer to meet at their place of business if it is an extremely important opportunity. If the opportunity arises, simply say, “I was planning to be in [their city] that week anyway, I could easily extend my stay to meet in person if that works on your end.” The risk is that some jobs require the person to change their plans without much notice. The person may agree to meet in person and later find out they have to change their plans to accommodate the SVP or CEO’s schedule. The best way to view that risk is that the person you are planning to meet with will likely delegate the meeting to others so it isn’t likely to be a complete failure.

So shake those hands and be the master of meet and greet skills. Only your financial and career future are riding on it.

Carl Nielson is founder of Success Discoveries and creator of Career Coaching for Students™, a program for high schools, colleges, families and students. Carl is also managing principal of The Nielson Group, a national talent management consulting firm. View his LinkedIn profile here.

Student Well-Being: Two Reasons Schools Should Care

High School Studentsby Carl Nielson, Chief Discovery Officer, Success Discoveries, and creator of Career Coaching for Students, a program for high school students.

I work with high school students rather often considering I’m not a teacher or school administrator. What I’m sensing is that student well-being is important – for two key reasons. The first reason is the recognition that schooling should not just be about academic outcomes but about well-being of the ‘whole person’; the second is that students who have higher levels of well-being tend to have better cognitive outcomes at school (an important goal of most high schools).

I provide a program called Career Coaching for Students™ which is how I’ve come to work with so many high school students. This program has a key component – to focus on the whole student, to establish a sense of well-being on multiple levels while exploring self and possible futures. According to the Australian Centre for Education Statistics & Evaluation, in May 2015, they released their literature review into Student Well-Being. You can access the entire document here. It clearly and concisely lays out all the considerations important for addressing student well-being in schools. It also offers dozens of research papers to explore by way of referencing.

Defining well-being as:

A sustainable state of positive mood and attitude, resilience and satisfaction with self, relationships and experiences at school.

Assuming your school or organization is keen to address well-being in a meaningful way, the literature suggests you need to have 5 things in place.

1. Safety – Schools need to provide a safe environment

2. Connectedness – A sense of belonging to the school environment

3. Learning Engagement – Students can engage with a school at social, institutional and intellectual levels.

When people work with their strengths, they tend to learn more readily, perform at a higher level, are more motivated and confident and have a stronger sense of satisfaction, mastery and competence.

4. Social & Emotional LearningSocial emotional learning (SEL) is an educational process for learning life skills but many of the aspects can be found in other more reactive problem-focused educational programming such as character education, restorative justice, peer mediation, bullying prevention, anger management, drug/alcohol prevention, violence prevention, school climate, ethical-decision making, harassment prevention, positive behavior supports. SEL teaches mental skills that lead to understanding and managing emotion, setting positive and realistic goals, building long-lasting relationships, showing empathy for others, and constructive and ethical problem-solving skills.

5. Whole School Approach – a culture of high expectations for all students with teachers who emphasize continuously improving their own thinking, skills and tools.

Well-being must be integrated into the school learning environment, the curriculum and pedagogy, the policies and procedures at schools, and the partnerships inherent within and outside schools including teachers, students, parents, support staff and community groups.

I believe that engagement and well-being are at the crux of what highly successful schools focus on and if we get this right, outcomes will – largely – look after themselves (for staff as well as students).

Misguided outcome focus

  • Average student GPA
  • Percent of students going to a four-year college

More effective outcome focus

  • Number of students with an established career plan, path and vision for their future
  • Number of students using and displaying effective life skills throughout high school years

But still… too many schools, organizations and systems pursue the wrong outcomes at the expense of engagement and well-being, and then they struggle to understand why staff, students and the wider community are so disaffected.

Career Coaching for Students logo

So what do you want to do with your life?

Career Coaching for Students™ and Life Skills for Students™ is primed and ready for mass delivery in high schools. But in the meantime, if you are a parent wanting to provide your high school student (incoming 9th grade is a perfect time) with a kind of well-being that leads to higher engagement and success, visit the Home Study version of the Career Coaching for Students program (which includes the Life Skills for Students self-study curriculum).