What am I supposed to do now?

My advice to the incoming Class of 2020 at Bentley University

On August 24, 2016, Bentley University welcomed the Class of 2020 to campus during the Convocation ceremony. I was honored to present the keynote address to the students and their families.

Convocation is such an emotional event. There are always tears when the parents say goodbye to their college-aged children. As their parents leave campus and they settle into their dorm rooms or wander their campus, there is a feeling that hits these newly minted college freshmen. The feeling presents itself in a variety of ways: sadness, anxiety, excitement, joy. That feeling is driven by a sense of freedom and independence that these young men and women may have never felt before.


Bentley University, Convocation 2016, Keynote Address by Jim Pouliopoulos

And, one question is running through their minds: What am I supposed to do now? I gave the students some advice on how to handle that question.

It’s no longer a question of what they are supposed to do. They need to adopt a mindset where they seek self-discovery by asking a different kind of question. I also implored them to spend the next four years learning as much about themselves as they do learning about business and society. You can watch my Convocation address here.

One of the insights I didn’t share during my Convocation address was how to deconstruct a phrase that has caused a lot of debate regarding “doing what you love.”  The statement that seems to get tossed out a lot is: “Do what you love and the money will follow.

While I don’t disagree with the fundamental sentiment behind that phrase but it’s almost like a longer statement that had to be shortened to 140 characters so it could be shared on Twitter.  The statement is missing a lot of “fine print.”

In my opinion, the real message is:

Do what you love doing

       With people you enjoy …

               In an environment that protects your dream …

                       Learning things you want to learn …

                            Making an impact that you care about.

                                         Build a lifestyle based on all of this …

And enough money will follow.

My Convocation keynote address is here. You can watch the entire Convocation ceremony here.

How have you found happiness and career satisfaction?

My ABCs of selling

Always be connecting

Effective sales people know how to develop genuine relationships and serve as trusted advisors to their clients. Theses sales skills are also required for success in most professional roles today.  The best salespeople are like a trusted physicians: They develop genuine interest in their prospects’ situations, they diagnose carefully, and they prescribe a treatment that is tailored to each individual patient.

doctor diagnosis

I joined Carol Massar and Cory Johnson from Bloomberg Radio and Gloria Larson, President of Bentley University, to discuss the value of sales skills in the workplace. The ability to develop genuine interest and rapport, diagnosis unknown issues, and solve problems can be applied in a variety of roles at work and in life. You can listen to the entire interview below.

Make the most of your internship

There's great value for both students and employers in internship programs

In the past, the word “internship” was often code for “cheap labor” and interns were often given low value, tedious, tasks to do – busy work, in other words. That has changed dramatically in recent years.


Companies have invested heavily in strategic internship programs that help them recruit quality candidates by giving interns strategic projects to work on. The interns have the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and skills and natural abilities for the employer.

Bentley University President Gloria Larson and I were on Bloomberg Radio discussing the strategic aspects of internships for both students and employers.  You can listen to our conversation below:


Here are some of my thoughts on internships for college students.

How has Bentley University integrated internships into their curriculum and programs? Most of our degree programs include internships for credit which allow students to work in a professional setting, doing work related to their major for credit. In the case of the Professional Sales major, we made a sales internship a mandatory/required course. In that way, an employer knows that the student has real-world experience before being hired. Also, the student has a chance to “try out” a profession/career before committing to it after graduation.

What should a student look for when seeking an internship? I believe students should ask about the structure of the internship. In other words, will the internship allow the student to experience a variety of roles throughout the term of the internship – will they rotate through different departments or roles. I also think students should ask what sort of training is provided at the beginning and during the internship. Also, what is the conversion rate from internships to full-time employment.

What sort of elements make internships interesting and valuable? One example: Liberty Mutual has an annual sales competition for its summer sale internships. They bring dozens of sales interns to Boston for a few days during which they compete in simulated sales environments. LMI is obviously committed to developing world class interns – and also hoping these interns join the firm on a full time basis after graduation.

Why are internships so important? Internships pull the covers back on a career path – there is no better way to understand if you will fit into a career path until you actually take it for a test drive. This is why one of the top indicators of career success and satisfaction is whether or not the person had a college internship in the selected industry/market/career.

What should a student do if they don’t get their “dream” internship? I think there is too much emphasis on the word “internship” – Every student should seek high quality summer or part-time employment that will give them experience in their chosen career path and allow them to contribute real-world results to a company or organization.  There are many companies with world class internship programs: Liberty Mutual, EMC, TJMaxx to name a few. However, there are a finite number of slots in each program. So, students need to get good at networking and find a role at a firm that is strategic to their career path – regardless of the internship title.

How can a student maximize their internship experience? Be very observant during the time you are working as an intern. In my recent TED Talk (TEDxBentleyU) I lay out four elements which add up to career satisfaction and students should be cognizant of these things while working as interns: (1) the People you work with, (2) the Environment you work in, (3) the types of (3) Knowledge you gain while on the job, and (4) how your Natural Skills  are appreciated – or not – in the internship role by the  firm.

Watermelon Seeds and Career Satisfaction

Retake control of your happiness by dealing with external forces that impact your most important decisions

Watermelon seeds have taken a bit of abuse over the past decades. Have your dreams, aspirations and career goals suffered the same fate? In my 2016 TEDx Talk, I explained how the two are connected and what to do about it.

One of my fondest childhood memories is of eating unending slices of watermelon, in the backyard on lazy summer nights. My family had picnic dinners almost every evening. My brother and I would reach for the watermelon as soon as we could and were always warned, jokingly I think, not to eat the seeds — or a watermelon might grow in our stomachs. We did everything we could to get rid of the seeds, either spitting them out all over the place, or tightly gripping them between our fingers and catapulting them into the night sky.

Year after year, we would play this watermelon game and at some point, it occurred to me to wonder why our backyard wasn’t overflowing with growing watermelons. Not even one took root in all those years. I couldn’t figure it out. Where were all the watermelons?

Years later, those playfully-abused watermelon seeds made me think about kids growing up today, and the pressures they’re under…       Read the rest here.

I had the privilege of giving a second TED Talk in April 2016 as part of TEDxBentleyU. This year, I focused on the subject of the external forces that exert powerful influence on our major decisions often resulting in our lives being propelled into careers, relationships, and situations where we are frustrated, stagnant and unhappy. By pausing and consciously changing our behavior we can take control of our life’s direction and find genuine happiness and true success.

You can read my blog entry about this TED Talk on Bentley University’s PreparedU website



I joined Carol Massar, Bloomberg Radio, and Gloria Larson, President of Bentley University, to discuss the value of sales skills in the workplace. The ability to develop genuine interest and rapport, diagnosis unknown issues, and solve problems can be applied in a variety of roles at work and in life. You can listen to the interview here.

Appearance: The Bloomberg Advantage: New Sales Mantra Always Be Connecting
Outlet: The Bloomberg Advantage (Bloomberg Radio)
Format: Radio

Are you a CEO or a CeO?

In my work with business leaders, one of the first questions I ask them is: What kind of CEO are you – a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or a Chief everything Officer (CeO)?

Business owners who thrive act like CEOs by focusing on the direction, strategy, structure, systems, people, and goals of the business. They view the business as an entity that is separate from themselves and an asset that needs to be managed for growth and for value.

hourglass and book

Starting a new business and growing a business are two completely different experiences. In the start-up mode, you will likely do a lot of the work yourself. This makes sense; you are too small to have a team of employees to do the daily work for you. However, as your business succeeds and grows, you will have to adopt a mindset that allows you to leverage employees and external resources so that you focus on running the business and not running around doing tasks that are not worth the time and effort of the CEO.

Here’s a few steps to get you started done the path of becoming the CEO of your business: