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Oct 10, 201308:16 AMOpen for Business

with Jody Glynn Patrick

How to impress IB’s 40 Under 40 judges

(page 1 of 2)

Here’s a cheat sheet to help give you a quick little nudge up, if you’re considering putting your name in the hat for the 40 Under 40 competition this year — or if you want to be a pal and forward this to someone you think should apply. (Hurry, the deadline is Oct. 30.) If selected, you’ll be celebrated in print and on the Web and through other venues, including a party. You’ll even have your picture and favorite book on display at Barnes & Noble! There are many, many reasons to apply, and every year, the recognition grows.

The reason I’m weighing in with this advice is because the selection committee doesn’t actually pull the names from a hat; much more than luck is involved, and applicants who are a little rusty at test-taking — or are new to the awards game — might benefit from a little sideline coaching. I usually write the “sorry, but not this year” letters when it’s too late to influence fates, so I’m reaching out now — with the deadline to apply still looming. I like to think everyone has the best chance at getting the “congratulations!” email, so this year I’m your secret insider, with mixed metaphors to help you figure out how to best wow the judges.

  • First, make sure your 40th birthday falls after the deadline. Otherwise, do not pass “Go”; pass the dice and forward this email to a friend who might qualify.
  • Fill in the new survey completely and wisely, Grasshopper. The survey has been expanded to give you many more opportunities to separate yourself from the crowd this year, so use them! Instead of answering, for example, that your favorite color is red (if that were a question, which it is not), answer that it is “the color that stands for heart health awareness for women — red!” (if that’s a true passion of yours). Or answer that it is “blue — the color of my son’s eyes” if blue is your fave. Don’t pass up opportunities to reveal something about you or what is important to you! Authentic emotion and showing you care about every question give you an authentic leg up.
  • Keep in mind that the definition of an accomplishment is something you did. If you are a teacher, for example, your greatest professional accomplishment is not “seeing my students graduate” (that is their accomplishment!). A better answer would be: “Preparing young people for their best possible futures, and I am grateful to get to see tangible proof of this success when students — particularly those whom others did not expect to graduate — stand up to accept their diplomas.” See the difference? Don’t be passive! State your contributions to the world! Go even further: What makes you stand out from every other teacher? How can you express that?
  • Huge hint — again about the accomplishment questions on the form. Getting a job is not an accomplishment. If you went to college and law school, getting hired by a good firm is not an accomplishment so much as it is an expectation. The accomplishment is winning your first case or contributing to the pro bono handling of a difficult case. What did you do beyond the expected? State it for the record. Likewise, working with great people is not an accomplishment unless you raised those good people from childhood. Way too many very talented applicants fail to state their own accomplishments when given the chance. Keep that in mind; if you do, you’ll have a great advantage.
  • All of that said, don’t embellish or overstate. Goals like “saving the world” — well, that sounds great if you’re a pageant contestant, but it doesn’t impress people who have to make hard decisions about whom to select to represent practical community and business leadership. Take that macro-goal and state it in a form that makes it what a goal should be — SMART: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely or time-oriented. How can you explain wanting to reach for the stars? Start by identifying which star, stating how far away it is, and how and/or when you expect to reach it.
  • Take opportunities to show how connected you are to the community. When asked whom you most admire, be honest but don’t choose a parent or a boss — it comes across as pandering, or suggests that your contact list is pretty short. Most everyone admires Mom and Dad, sis and big brother. Most everyone thinks their boss is swell, judging from survey answers. But the judges roll their eyes at those answers. You may not like it, but look at 200 applications through their eyes and see what you think. You have an opportunity to explain how someone helped or inspired you; don’t say “my clients” or “the wonderful people.” You were asked to supply a name: one person by name. Impress the judges with why and how. When you think that way, I’m sure a name or two beyond your family and boss comes to mind.
  • Remember that some winners are selected on the basis of being truly interesting people, even if their professional title is less impressive than yours. They run marathons all over the world or are foodies who journey to foreign lands. Maybe you don’t do that, but when asked what your hobbies are, maybe you “reign in poker games”? Sounds more interesting than “golf,” right? What makes you interesting? If your hobby is reading, what do you read? Are you a military history buff? Now we’re getting somewhere. Use every opportunity to divulge interesting information and separate yourself from the crowd.


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