Daniel Roberts gives enriching lessons at leadership lecture

By Tyler Strong |
Contributor

 

Daniel C. Roberts shares the stage with Dr. David Bulla during his leadership lecture on Thursday, Feb. 1. (photo by Kesler Berry)

“Be bold.”

These two words were a chorus during Daniel Roberts’ talk at Augusta University’s Leadership Lecture Thursday night. While this statement was part three of Roberts’ winning formula that he broke down at the end of the talk, they kept coming up during every segment prior. Much of Roberts’ talk revolved around the idea of narrative, and how to develop your own personal narrative to make progress toward your dream job.

Roberts kicked things off by sharing the most personal narrative of all, a brief introduction of himself and a tour of his career from college to the present. It all started at the University of Mississippi, where Roberts was involved in “everything you could think of.” During his junior year, he applied for an internship at the White House and was rewarded with a position in the Social Office, working directly under Michelle Obama.

“Working for a president I believed in, a president that cared about the same things as me, a president that looked like me… it made this experience one of the most valuable in my career,” Roberts said of his time at the White House. Roberts’ assignment to the Social Office meant that he and his coworkers handled any and all events going on at the White House, which included high profile visits from celebrities of all kinds. This was where Roberts first acquired a penchant for celebrity engagement, which would come into play a few years later while working at Edelman, a top public relations firm in New York City, and later at Viacom International.

As Roberts neared the end of his story, it became clear that this was as polished and confident an orator as they come. A quick look around at the crowd of 50 or so students, professors, and adults revealed a fully engaged audience who were hanging on Roberts’ every word. Accomplishing so much at such young age demands attention.

When this portion of the talk was complete, Roberts moved into explaining some of the important lessons and methods that have aided him on his meteoric rise from college student to White House intern, to full-time White House employee, to his current position at Viacom. Roberts emphasized the importance of three key points: mastering your narrative, knowing your advocates, and being bold.

To best explain the first key, Roberts asked for a volunteer from the audience to offer up a few pieces of their background information, college experience, and extracurricular passions in order for him to develop a narrative on the spot. Erin Johnson, a communication major with a minor in art, spoke up and shared with the audience her passion for graphic design, her experience working as a designer and public relations specialist for her church, and her desire to work as a marketing brand manager. Roberts instantly turned around and eloquently spoke on Johnson’s behalf, synthesizing a cohesive and passionate argument for why she would be a valuable resource for any company looking for someone with her skill set.

“Think about how you would sell yourself to the CEO of the company if you were only with them in the elevator for 30 seconds,” Roberts said about having that narrative ready to deploy at any time. “And no matter what, even if you have great skills, being able to communicate them at a moment’s notice is crucial.”

The second key Roberts emphasized was knowing your advocates. For Roberts, one of these advocates was Congressman Elijah Cumming, who Roberts worked closely with during his time at the White House. Later, while Roberts was working for Edelman, he heard about an opening at Viacom. He phoned a friend that used to work there, and within days, Roberts had aced the interview and landed the job, which had him once again working in celebrity engagement, one of Roberts’ great passions.

Roberts implored the audience to stay in communication with those that can help to springboard them to that next promotion: that next job, that next level. “Find out who’s in your corner,” Roberts said of keeping these advocates close by. In speaking with Roberts afterward, he reiterated how challenging it can be to get that foot in the door for the first interview. Knowing someone that has a high opinion of you and your work ethic can prove to be invaluable.

This is where “be bold” came back into play. Roberts’ story and the lessons he imparted are great, but they simply don’t mean much if one doesn’t have the boldness to go forth and take action. Rejection happens, but even that won’t come until the first step is made.

“The worst thing they can tell you is no,” Roberts said. “My mom taught me that a long time ago, and she’s absolutely right!”

In a brief Q&A session following the talk, Roberts offered his contact information to anyone that wanted it. “Once a week I find myself on the phone with a young person, and they’re talking with me, and before they even know it, I’m crafting and developing their narrative in my head.”

Roberts was as genuine as they come, which could come as a bit of a surprise from someone who has already accomplished so much before the age of 30. From beginning to end, Roberts imparted enriching and inspiring lessons to everyone that took the time out to attend.

 

Contact Tyler Strong at rstrong@augusta.edu

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