Ken Kragen knows what it’s like to accomplish the impossible. He’s done it time and time, again. This time every California College Campus and Student is his beneficiary with his Hands Across California campaign on April 17th, 2011.
By Merry Elkins, LuxEco Editorial Assistant
Merry Elkins for LuxEco Living: What would you like to say to the young people who will be holding hands along your route about accomplishing the impossible?
Ken Kragen: The thing I try to teach in my university classes is that an individual can make a meaningful difference. People say, “Oh, I don’t have the connections; oh, I don’t have the knowledge; oh, I don’t have the experience.” But everybody has. You start looking around and you find out that you do have connections or you know somebody who does. You can make some kind of difference, even in a small way. If you can affect 2 to 3 people, you’ve made a difference.
I’ve gone to food banks and fed people, or to People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) and served meals. There are so many different ways you can have an impact, politically, socially, or in a humanitarian sense if you just want to do it.
The same thing applies when you want to make a difference in the world. You find those moments in time when it’s exactly the right thing to do and you pull it together and you make it happen. If you don’t, and this is what happened to Obama, then that moment goes. The other side gains momentum and then everything you’re trying to do becomes a difficult process. When Obama had the world’s attention, certainly the attention of everybody in America, he could have made a huge amount of progress in a short period of time.
ME: And what about luck. Does that play into it?
KK: In my classes at UCLA, I give lottery tickets out to everyone. I also do it at corporations when I’m speaking. I’ve given out maybe 10,000 of them. I have everybody scratch them off. Nobody has won more than $75. Occasionally, people win $5, $10 or once in a while, $25. Nobody wins the lottery. I do that to make this point: You can’t wait around to win the lottery. Luck is taking advantage of opportunity. See the opportunities that exist everywhere, capitalize on them quickly, and take some kind of firm action to make something happen. That’s what luck is.
ME: What would you say to a room of young people who are trying to get work and people out-of-work who haven’t been able to get a job?
KK: I teach a 6-week career course. I teach my students how to make themselves unique. I teach them to really examine what’s unique about them: What they can bring and what liabilities they have to work on. What areas do they need to shore up that are keeping them back in any way from getting the shot or from being the one who gets hired.
It’s a process that they can utilize to stand out. They first have to figure out what it is about them that is special, because everybody is special in some way. Then they have to find the way to use that to get the kind of jobs they want. It starts by figuring out what gives you the most pleasure and the most enjoyment. Make a list of things: What are your likes and dislikes. Do it in descending order, with #1 being the thing you most enjoy.
Maybe the thing you enjoy most is being outdoors and the thing you least enjoy is sitting at a computer. Once you figure out what you most enjoy doing, you can plan your career course. You’ll turn out to be a lot better at the things you enjoy, you’ll work harder at them and you’ll find a way in to a career that gives you enjoyment because that’s something that motivates you.
I talk about “The Magic of Threes.” This is how to get anyone’s attention or sell anybody anything. You have to have at least 3 impressions in a very short period of time to get anyone to take action, to buy your product, your service, or you, yourself.
For example, if you’re going in for a job interview, get somebody to call first before you ever get there and say, “I know you’re seeing other candidates for this job, I just hope you give this person adequate time. She is a special person with a whole list of specific skills. I know you’re going to pick the person who is right for you, but I want to be sure that she gets a real shot at this. I know she wants it real bad and cares about it a lot. Find someone to make that call. That’s only step one.
Then you find out a lot about who’s going to interview you and take something in to give them that reminds them of you. A good example of this is my daughter Emma’s book. If I find out that this person has an 8 year-old son or daughter or a niece or nephew, I take a copy of Emma’s “12 Dogs of Christmas” book or the DVD. I say to them, “by the way, I know you have kids.” This has an association with him, and an association with me, and it also shows I did my homework because I know who this person is.
I also tell my students to do their homework about the company and then instead of doing all the talking about themselves, ask questions about what the employer is looking for. After you leave, email or write a personal note in which you say, “I appreciated your time and by the way, you told me you wanted somebody with high level computer skills. I have this training and experience. I am a self motivator.” Reemphasize and reinforce what’s on your resume that fits what their needs are. You have the call from somebody, you have something you’ve left behind with them that will keep your name in front of them, and the third thing is that you follow up right away. Now, you have the best chance of anyone to get the job.
KK: I love that shirt and I love that picture. “My Life is Based on a True Story.” That’s actually the title of the book I’m writing right now. With all the reality shows on TV, I want remind people that what they’re living is real and that they can have a real impact and they can accomplish real things if they just work at it, and work through the issues. Nothing goes smoothly, but you find ways. It’s a question of laying out the objective and knowing you’re going to make it one way or another.