Read Élan Advising Owner and President Eda Chen's open letter to a local high school student who made a lasting impression.
Dear Davis DaVinci High Student,
I met you briefly at your high school's "Internship Showcase" the other night, where I was invited to "speed coach" four tables for 10 minutes each on the topic of writing professional emails.
Your table was my first table for the evening. I was nervous and excited—maybe I had trouble telling the difference. So many new faces, so many eyes on this 28-year-old rookie business owner, trying to prove herself. Before we began, I tried to sustain a lukewarm conversation with a young man in a suit (he wasn't a student, just a visitor), and as he rebuffed my efforts to make nice and calm myself, you made eye contact, joked about your equally dapper outfit underneath your jacket, and smiled.
I cannot thank you enough for your show of kindness and support to me, a stranger whom you've never met prior to that evening. While I stumbled at various points explaining the "importance of an email's subject line functioning as a preview to the email's contents"—people were exiting and entering the door right near us, it was so distracting—you maintained eye contact and you kept on smiling. You were genuinely attentive while a few others, very noticeably to me, looked away with blank expressions. That man in the suit with whom I had first attempted to make conversation even brought out his phone. In the midst of a 10-minute long presentation.
Without the encouragement of your warmth and respect, I would have fled that first table a lot faster. Instead, I went on to the remaining three tables, increasingly energized at each one, and finished my last presentation to—a round of applause! I ended the night on a high, and I thank you for that.
Talk to any employer, and you will likely discover that their wish list in college graduate hires includes technical proficiencies and soft skills—skills that allow someone to be able to communicate clearly (and empathetically, I would argue), collaborate with others and resolve conflicts with poise.
According to this WSJ article, "[In a survey] of nearly 900 executives last year, 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89% said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes."
So I want to tell you that you've got it, my friend. I know that whatever you choose to pursue in college and career, you're going to be ahead of your peers. The truth is that a professional, perfectly executed email is not what will you carry you far—it is your character and how you make others feel.