You’re Hired!

decemberFive Things You Must Learn From the World’s Biggest Job Interview

So here we are, one month removed from one of the biggest events of our lifetimes and I must admit that I am still in awe of what happened. He won. He really won. It’s almost like I keep waiting for Ashton Kutcher to run out from behind a Chevy Aerostar to tell me that I’ve just been Punk’d. That could still happen before January 20, but for now let’s just focus on the accomplishment.

Running for president is the biggest job interview in the world. What’s crazy, though, is that the election season of the past two years played out like the public official version of “The Apprentice.” Think about it, we started off with two teams, and each team had its own name, color and mascot. The teams were then given instructions to compete in these challenges called “primaries” and based on their performance in those events, someone would be sent home.

Week after week, contestants were called into the boardroom and were sent packing until we were left with one person from each team to compete in the final challenge. To spice things up, the final challengers were allowed to bring back someone from earlier in the show to help them in the final task. Shockingly, one contestant temporarily forgot which show he was on and brought back a contestant from America’s Next Top Model instead.

Oh and remember when Donald Trump asked the first black winner, Randall Pinkett, seconds after he hired him, if he would also hire Rebecca? Does that remind you of the pressure being put on the Barack Obama to “hire” a certain female competitor as his running mate??? Talk about life imitating, uh, reality shows. Does NBC know something we don’t know? The similarities are kinda creepy

I really liked The Apprentice when it came out because I thought it was one of the smarter reality shows and it was fun to try to match wits with the contestants on the show. I know Randall Pinkett and as soon as I found out that he was on the show I knew that he would win because he is a brilliant thinker with great interpersonal skills; sound like anyone else you know? I also liked it because I learned things as I watched and I took notes. This “show” that was the presidential election was no different. I think we can learn a lot from the outcome of the election that can help us replicate that tremendous level of success.

Sense the Opportunity
Barack Obama burst onto the national stage after his tremendous speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Even though the Democrats lost the election that year, he saw that the perfect storm was brewing for his improbable candidacy. Voters were getting tired of the war and sick of the same old politics. The public seemed ready for something truly new and different.

Are you focused enough to sense an opportunity when it arises?

Challenge the Status Quo
Many times when an opportunity arises, you will have to do things differently that they have previously been done in order to take advantage of it. It takes a lot of money to run for President. Seemingly, the wife of a former President would have access to so many of the wealthy donors that there is no way that a first term Senator could even come close to matching her efforts dollar-for-dollar right? Wrong. The internet changed everything in this campaign, even fundraising, and Obama raised more money than any candidate in history, including the aforementioned well connected Clintons.

You must have the faith and foresight to do things differently in order to be successful.

Define Your Message
When you develop a marketing message that is so powerful that even your competitors try to steal it, you know you’ve got something…as long as they can’t tell the story better than you. When “CHANGE” became the official slogan of the Obama campaign, who could argue with that? How much more “Change” could you get than a first term Senator who only became widely known four years ago and who, oh by the way, is African American AND has an African American wife (just to put the icing on the cake)? Apparently you couldn’t. No matter how much the candidates tried to make their campaigns about change, the voters just didn’t buy it.

You must understand what value you bring to the table and be able to communicate it clearly to anyone who will listen.

Nope, You Can’t do it Alone
I was at a seminar and I remember hearing famous motivational speaker Les Brown say “If you are the smartest person in your group, you need to find a new group!” Obama put together a team of intelligent, seasoned professionals to ensure that his campaign ran like clockwork. He gets financial advice from Warren Buffett. He gets foreign policy advice from former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. His chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod, helped five African American men become Mayors of major cities. Sound like a good team?

You must surround yourself with people that are smarter than you if you want to take your game to the next level.

Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)
Ideas and talk are nothing without action. I can’t tell you how much I hate to hear people, year after year say, “I wanna do this…” or “We need to do that…” and then never follow up. It makes me want to give a swift open hand smack to the person the next time they start to say something like that.

Lots of people have great ideas, but very few people execute on them. Will you?

Rob Wilson is a financial advisor at a major national financial services company. Don’t worry, it’s one of the firms that hasn’t suffered a catastrophic bankruptcy in the last few months. He can be reached at with your financial questions and comments.