Are You Smiling from the Eyes?

One September, I was the Director of Association Relations for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions based in Virginia, USA.

Then in November, I stood smiling in front of a post-communist management team of a chicken and egg processing facility in Moravia (then Czechoslovakia) and explained through an interpreter that my employer had hired me to privatize the factory and convert it into a state of the art mayonnaise manufacturing and marketing company.

I can still remember the blank stares that accompanied my presentation.

The team had probably never seen such a presentation, let alone an overhead projector. And they were probably used to having party functionaries occasionally stop by and tell them dubious stories. So, it was not surprising that they were non-committal in their reactions.

Five years later, we had built a business with a sales trend of $50 million per year and a 60% value market share in the Czech and Slovak mayonnaise business.

We had recruited and built a sales force in a country that had no history of sales. Doctors, dentists, and mechanics applied to learn about sales—and some of them succeeded. They tirelessly visited retailers and proposed our products, gaining market share centimeter by centimeter. We, among many, reintroduced capitalism to Prague and Bratislava (that had had a higher standard of living than Paris in the early 20th century).

Now this all happened some years ago (1991-1996) and if it sounds like I did this on my own, nothing could be further from the truth. The company provided resources. My colleagues did the work. Still, someone had to be the engine pulling the train, and that was I.

What in the world was my qualification for such a task?

“None,” you might say, and you would be right… at least as far as my work history was concerned. But on the other hand, I had discovered a principle that the Barrett Group uses every day and that is the ability to take experience in one field or industry or geography and to make it transferable and relevant later in any career. As I’ve explained elsewhere in this blog, I compiled a dossier of my achievements at the amusement park association and rendered these as charted statistics—increases in revenue, expansion of membership, growth in profit—and I shared this with the mother company who just happened to be looking for someone with certain language skills and a willingness to engage in roll-up-your-sleeves business development in Central Europe.

I was “Johnny on the spot”—pure luck some would say.

And yet, this illustrates another principle that we at the Barrett Group use every day: the unpublished market is full of opportunity. If you can deliver impactful credentials to the right person at the right time and represent a solution for the hiring manager, companies will often create a position custom-tailored to your credentials, as CPC did for me back in 1991.

In fact, though, there was one other characteristic that affected my success during that phase of my career. Imagine how many people I had to influence and convince along the way… from scientists to politicians to engineers and marketeers… Yes, the ability to influence and perhaps lead others was also a key asset. At the time, no doubt, I thought it was simply because my arguments made logical sense. My statements stacked up. I was honest and forthright.

But in retrospect, I now realize that, while these attributes were all helpful, they were not the reason that people came along on the journey. The reason was an emotional one: they believed in my sincerity.

They saw me smiling from the eyes.

This is also a principle that we practice and teach at the Barrett Group. We cannot make our clients be sincere. The client needs to achieve this on his or her own. But we can help them send sincere signals during a telephone conversation, a video or face-to-face interview, and even in the resumes and LinkedIn profiles they utilize to tell their stories.

Clearly, we all can recognize when someone is being insincere. Their words and their actions do not add up. There are discrepancies that we might only detect viscerally, but we detect them, nonetheless. Overpromising. Lack of details. No supporting facts. Awkward pauses. Empty, placeholder words. Changing the subject. Underwhelming enthusiasm. These are some of the signs. There are many others.

How sincere do you sound during an interview with a prospective employer? Are you smiling from the eyes?

We help clients communicate their innate sincerity and authenticity to support their transferable skills and experience and discover opportunities in the unpublished (and other) market(s).

In the last eleven weeks forty-one clients have signed contracts and/or fielded attractive offers—in the middle of a pandemic!

Our methods work. We are effective and sincere. We are smiling from the eyes. Explore how the Barrett Group can help you, too. Give us a call.

Peter Irish
The Barrett Group

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